What “Blended Learning” Means
Blended learning can mean a lot of things, depending on who is using the term. Here are a few common definitions:
Synonym to “Hybrid Training”
Sometimes, “blended learning” is used as a synonym to “hybrid training.” This refers to delivering training to a population of both in-person and remote learners, usually at the same time. The classic example of blended learning in this case is a class of 50 learners. 20 of them are in the conference room with the trainer, while the other 30 call in on video from their various remote locations.
Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Training
Another definition of “blended learning” refers to offering content on the same topic in various delivery methods. Usually, this refers to blending synchronous training (or training delivered by an instructor at a specific time to a specific group of people) and asynchronous training (which is training delivered via pre-recorded content to the learner at the time of their choice). One classic example of this type of blended learning is a new-hire training that features a day of in-person training in a classroom followed by elearning modules that each learner has to complete on their own time by a specific deadline.
Combining Content Types
Finally, sometimes “blended learning” is used to refer to a mix of content media types. In this type of blended learning, no matter how the training is delivered, you are blending the way you deliver the supplemental content like workbooks, manuals, and job aids. For example, you may provide printed training manuals while including how-to videos in a digital content library.
For more context on what blended learning can look like across all these variations, check out our Trainer’s Blended Content Cookbook. You’ll see ideas from Richardson, InSync Training, State Street Global Advisors, and more.
Why the Blended Learning Model Is Powerful
However you define or deploy blended learning, it is a powerful model to train a diverse workforce. Here are some of the ways blended learning makes you more flexible:
Remote vs In-Person Learners
Especially in today’s world, it is unreasonable to expect that 100% of your learners will be able to attend an in-person class. By using the blended learning model to design your training, you set yourself up for success, whether you have 10% or 90% remote learners.
Time-Rich vs Time-Strapped Learners
Across your learner population, some people might have bandwidth for training while others may need to cancel meetings in order to make time for your workshops. Blended learning allows more flexibility so every learner can access your content in the rhythm that fits their work schedule.
Technologically Savvy vs Technologically Uncomfortable Learners
Some learners are highly digitally literate and can learn a new tool in ten seconds. Others still have trouble finding the internet browser on their desktop computer. Offering a blend of content formats like print, PDF, and video makes sure that your learner can access key information no matter their comfort level with technology.
Preferred Learning Styles
While the myth of learning styles has been busted, learners still have preferred ways to learn. Some like to dedicate a whole day to a lecture, take copious notes, and then be done with the topic. Others like to set the pace themselves. Some prefer recorded videos while others would take an in-depth textbook over a workshop. By deploying a blended learning model, you cover all these bases so each learner can interact with the content in their preferred format.
How to Plan for Blended Learning
While blended learning is clearly a powerful training model, it is more complex to design than preparing a typical one-day instructor-led workshop. Here are a few tips for planning your blended learning courses:
Map Learning Objectives to Each Step
Begin by making sure your key learning objectives are mapped to each and every step of the blended learning journey. While it may be useful to chunk content – for example, offering a comprehensive lecture accompanied by a short video that addresses only a small piece of that learning objective – each part of the blended learning experience should address some part of your learning objective.
Think About When, How, and Why for Each Learning Experience
Next, make sure you can answer for each piece of your blended learning journey when it is being delivered, how it is being delivered, and why it is being delivered in that particular way. If it is an asynchronous elearning module, why? If it is a one-day in-person workshop, why? If you are emailing a PDF, why? By always answering these questions, you will make sure your blended learning journey covers your learning objectives and does so in a way that makes sense.
Invest in Blended Learning Technology
Finally, blended learning is near to impossible to accomplish on your own. Make sure to build your learning tech stack to support your new learning module. That includes investing in content creation tools, digital content delivery tech, learner tracking systems, video conferencing, learner participation software, and print and shipping providers for your physical materials.