When It Comes to L&D, Blended Learning Rules the School

The symptoms are clear – high turnover, stagnant sales, unengaged staff. It’s time to reevaluate your corporate training program. The curriculum is flat and outdated, and you aren’t seeing any sign of life or retention from staff. So how do you build a modern, effective training program? For decades, theorists have advocated for a “blending learning” model, but in practice, it’s always been very difficult to achieve–until now. With the dual catalysts of mobile devices and Millennials, it’s finally possible to see use the blended learning model to improve your training programs. 

What exactly is blended learning?

Simply put, blended learning models combine multiple content formats (online and off) with in-person instruction so that the end user has more opportunities to absorb the content before, during, and after a formal training session. Studies are demonstrating increasingly promising results in retention, engagement and overall acumen for students participating in blended learning programs.

While instructor-led programs can be effective, technology has opened the door for interactive, multimedia experiences that can enrich L&D content, and take it into the digital age. Consider this research, as reported in elearningindustry.com: Ernst & Young was able to reduce training costs by 35% by transforming its 2,900 hours of classroom training into a blended format comprised of 700 hours of web-based instruction, 100 hours of distance learning, and just 500 hours of classroom training.

Even major organizations like Red Cross have revamped their training by combining online classes with classroom-based learning to teach hands-on skills.

Who Benefits from Blended Learning?

As of last graduation season, Millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. This is the generation that grew up with, progressively, the camcorder, the internet, the cell phone, the mobile device and social media. Your Millennial workforce is accustomed to interacting with technology and learning through doing, and an old-school, three-ring binder corporate training program won’t sit well with them. College coursework has made an overwhelming shift to the blended learning approach, and as more and more graduates enter the workforce, the more they will come to expect training to be structured the same way. If your L&D program isn’t adapting to evolved learning styles and expectations, then it is likely failing.

The blended learning trend has demonstrated clear results in education and is already taking hold in the corporate world. According to a survey from Bersin by Deloitte, 44% of corporate trainers say they’re experimenting with MOOCs (Massive, open, online courses) provided by companies like edX, Udemy Inc. and Coursera. And even more companies are heading into blended learning territory by restructuring their own content.

Is your workplace ready for blended learning?

Even before Millennials joined the workforce, today’s always-connected, modern professional was used to performing work tasks on the go, using a variety of mobile devices (remember the BlackBerry?). As such, they are accustomed to having instant access to resources that can help them do their jobs more effectively, whether it’s a podcast they can listen to during their commute, a video tutorial they can watch on their tablet, or an interactive training session they can complete on their mobile phone.

In other words, if your L&D program is still paper- or PDF-based, you’re already behind the times. This is especially true if your staff is on the younger side and is used to having resources and information at their fingertips (their motto: “just Google it”). Adding an online component to your L&D program gives you more delivery options and can help reinvigorate stale content into digestible nuggets of information.

In addition, going the blended learning route will give remote workers the same access to professional development resources and tools as in-office staff. Because of the social and collaborative nature of blended learning, they’ll still feel connected to their peers, with access to both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (any time) components, online discussion boards, opportunities for feedback and commentary, and more.

How can you get started with blended learning?

Taking your L&D mobile is easier than you might think and can be done at your own pace. Blended learning is totally customizable so that you can decide which parts of your program can be done virtually, and which ones are better suited for in-person instruction. Over time, you will see that the different types of training actually complement each other. An online segment might prepare your team for a more productive in-person discussion, for instance, while another one can serve as a refresher for previous training sessions.

With the right blended learning technology partner, you will be able to track your team’s engagement levels so that you can make updates and enhancements when you figure out what is resonating most. Consistently deliver content that is fresh and relevant, and give your talented professionals the tools they need to thrive.