When I meet with clients to discuss training options, they usually assume they only have two options: eLearning or in-person classes. This misconception is common simply because most companies have historically only been presented with these two options. But I quickly tell them that there is a third option: blended learning. Blended learning is not an entirely new concept, but one that has not been fully discussed or implemented until recently. Blended learning is the combination of e-learning and face-to-face teaching. Blended learning is often as simple as an eLearning course taking place instead of a classroom session; but in other cases it is much more complicated and effective.
A fully effective blended learning experience is more than an online course or simulation that replaces classroom presentation. E-learning is often a prerequisite for face-to-face training. There may be some aspects of face-to-face teaching that lend themselves more to an online course. For example, a company story might take a few hours in the classroom and only thirty or forty minutes in an online course. The online course not only takes less time but can even be more effective. Videos and employee testimonials can easily be integrated into an eLearning course. These videos can do wonders for new hires, often putting them in a positive frame of mind before stepping foot in a classroom. A blended learning approach is not only a positive experience for new hires, but also saves classroom time; this time can be used to focus on more important learning criteria.
Another case where prerequisite online courses can be effective is in systems simulations. Learning a new type of software is always associated with uneasiness. When a new employee walks into a classroom and is introduced to new software for the first time, panic can set in and learning can be stifled. This can be avoided by using software simulations that the learner performs before entering the classroom. This allows the new hire to become familiar with the new software and explore it in a constrained and guided environment.
The simulation can be as simple as a guided tour or as in-depth as a “demo and try it” opportunity where the learner actually performs simple steps using the software. Regardless of how the simulations are used, they can be effective learning tools and time savers. The facilitators can rest assured that new hires have already been introduced to the software, and in turn can focus on more detailed parts of the software.
Another benefit of blended learning is the ability to track learner progress before it even reaches the classroom; This can be an invaluable tool in completing the curriculum. If learners complete an assessment after completing a prerequisite module and everyone seems to have trouble with a particular question or section, facilitators can adjust their presentation to address the problem areas, thereby improving the effectiveness of the training.
In summary, there are always different ways to approach training. Sometimes eLearning can work on its own and sometimes face-to-face training can be the most effective way to reach a learner. But blended learning is also a viable option that should be continuously researched and implemented. We owe it to our employees and our organizations.
Thanks to John Araiza