What is
Blended Learning?

Blended Learning is becoming more popular and in its basic form is a route to delivering quality learning by using a number of different training approaches.

What is Blended Learning?

Everyone has jigsaw

Good question.

The simplest way to picture a Blended Learning Programme is to imagine a wall made of brightly coloured bricks. Blended Learning is made up of a number of components which all contribute to successful learning transfer, like bricks in a wall.

For this reason, design is highly important when it comes to structuring a Blended Learning Programme. While there are no hard and fast rules as to how this should be done, giving it careful consideration is crucial to a successful outcome.

Design approaches differ and organisations will choose a structured end-to-end approach where their learners all experience the same journey together.

Alternatively, there are also ways of allowing learners to choose their own journey through the content; accessing the learning as and when they need it. Others complete a learning diagnostic prior to a programme to help learners determine which elements they need most. It all comes down to professional preference in ways of creating the right learning transfer.

Keeping the key purpose in mind while designing is a must. Defining the required outcome first and then building the learning components to support it is essential. Your desired outcome is the foundation upon which you build your wall of learning components.

What are the benefits of choosing a Blended Learning Programme?

A man reading book

It cannot be denied that offering learning in this way provides a host of benefits, ranging from its increased inclusivity to improved efficiency.

Here are a few of the benefits associated with running a Blended Learning Programme.

  1. Lasting Learning

    With any learning intervention, the end goal is to create learning transfer and ultimately cultivate a change in behaviour or mindset. By using a Blended Learning Programme, learners are layering their knowledge, allowing them to develop deeper and longer-lasting learning.

  2. Access to Experts

    By using the Blended Learning approach, learners are able to consume content such as videos or webinars hosted by other experts, giving them virtual access to a wider range of ideas and experiences.

  3. It’s Inclusive

    The nature of a well-designed Blended Learning Programme is that learners are able to access their learning from almost anywhere, with the bulk of the learning happening remotely.

  4. Flexibility

    This is a major benefit to all; a programme can be designed so that some of the learning can be done at a time that best suits the learner. Aspects such as assignments, mini projects, reading and watching videos can be done at a time that is convenient to the learner.

  5. Embraced Learning Styles

    We all learn differently and a Blended Learning Programme can cater to this very well, through providing a wide variety of different learning opportunities to choose from.

  6. Cost Saving

    Without a doubt, Blended Learning Programmes can offer a whole wealth of learning at an often much reduced cost to that of similar F2F training. With much free content and resources available online, you can easily build a rich programme at low investment.

  7. Carbon Saving

    In a similar vein, with travel being minimised it means the carbon impact of a Blended Learning Programme is reduced dramatically. With travel minimised, so too is the cost to our environment.

  8. Embraces Learning on the Job

    Blended Learning programmes allow learners to absorb a new skill, quickly apply it in their job, gain valuable feedback and continuously improve. It allows for an ongoing, positive cycle of application of skills gained, so learners can evolve through their ongoing everyday work.

    You can read about these benefits in more detail by heading over to our blog on 'The Benefits of Blended Learning.'

What are the components of Blended Learning?

Businesswoman hand placing questions mark ( ? ) word with wooden cube

This is a big question.

Essentially, each of the bricks in our blended wall represents a single component.

It can be tempting to look at the options as a bit of a pick’n’mix or tasty array of goodies to meld into the programme yet it is essential to focus on your purpose.

Ask yourself; is this useful and relevant to your learners? Does it move the programme towards the desired outcome? If not, it doesn’t make the cut - be ruthless!

Here are just a few examples of components that you could choose from;-

  • Face to face workshops
  • Virtual workshops
  • Webinars
  • Flipped workshops
  • "On the Go" learning apps
  • Virtual experts
  • Forums
  • Formal qualifications/certifications
  • eLearning
  • Coaching
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Reading
  • Tasks/mini projects
  • Manager intervention

A Blended Learning Programme provides a varied choice of building blocks that creates a fulfilling and stable learning transfer. As long as you avoid the temptation not to go overboard with your pick’n’mix and keep your objective firmly in mind, then there is a wonderfully effective set of options available.

If you would like to read about the above components in more detail, we published a blog explaining a little bit about each one.

You can find it - here.

What are some tips to make my Blended Learning Programme a success?

Business people celebrating success

Naturally, if you haven’t previously used a Blended Learning approach you might have some challenges about getting going, so here are the Virtual Training Team’s top tips for making it a success.

You can read the full breakdown of these tips in our blog – here.

  1. Purpose, purpose, purpose

    Be clear, before you even start designing - what you are setting out to achieve? What do you want your participants to be thinking, feeling and doing by the end of the programme and how does that compare to where they are now?

  2. Mix it up

    Getting a balance of different types of learning bricks is key to keeping things interesting and fresh for your participants. If there is too much eLearning, too much reading, too much travel etc, then a programme can start to feel like it is dragging. It becomes formulaic and predictable. It may inhibit learning stimulation.

  3. Optimise time spent together

    Many Blended Learning Programmes have some measure of self-directed learning in them, so time spent with colleagues and learning together becomes ever more important. Remember that time spent together doesn’t have to mean sitting in a conference room, in a F2F setting; we recommend virtual workshops or video calls through platforms such as Zoom.

  4. Be clear on what is optional and what is not

    In many cases there will likely be some activities which are essential to your Blended Learning Programme, for example, the content needed for a Flipped Workshop.

    When this is provided, ensure participants know that it needs to be done by everyone or the possibility is that the outcome will be less focussed.

  5. Get social

    Whatsapp, Yammer, Slack or Microsoft Teams make great platforms for support, questions and advice while on a learning journey.

    This creates a real feeling of being “in it together” and sharing the journey and individual successes with one another on the learning journey.

How to implement Blended Learning into your company

Discussing blended learning

While there are no absolute rules of how to implement a Blended Learning Programme into your organisation, there are still some best practices to consider.

  1. Focus on your objectives as a priority and the technology tools second

    In other words, your learning technology tools should serve your training goals, rather than the goals being modified to fit the tools. Ideally, the learning technology should fit seamlessly into your training plan, to enhance the experience.

  2. Set goals and expectations in advance

    Similar to our Purpose, Purpose, Purpose tip above, you should have a full and clear idea of what learning technologies you are going to use and in what way you will be using them. You need to have clearly defined performance goals and expectations in place before you go on to roll out your Blended Learning Programme.

  3. Create a flexible implementation strategy

    A successful corporate Blended Learning Programme will be fluid. It needs the ability to be flexible with ever-changing needs of organisations and those of your learners. Encourage them to voice their opinions and concerns in order for you to fine tune your strategy and build an effective feedback system.

  4. Research employee needs and preferences

    While the performance goals and objectives of your organisation should be among your key concerns, the needs and personal requirements of your learners should also be a top priority. Reach out to your learners through surveys and interviews to find out what they need to get out of your Blended Learning experience.

  5. Cultivate a Blended Learning community

    As we have mentioned before, it is important that learners feel as though they are part of a larger community that supports one another in this programme. Set up a platform where they can receive frequent updates and share their thoughts with one another.

How to build a Blended Learning programme

Business coworkers discussing new ideas

Designing and building a Blended Learning Programme can be both exciting and daunting at the same time! It is a great opportunity to create a learning solution that delivers behavioural change and successful outcomes for both the learners and their organisation. With this in mind, it’s important to get it right!

So where do you start?

You can find the full process in much more detail in our blog – How to Build a Blended Learning Programme.

  1. Purpose, purpose, purpose

    We’ve said it before, we will say it again (and again). You must start with the end in mind; know where you want to get to, what you want to achieve, before you start to build your programme.

  2. Ask – "Who are my learners?"

    Establishing this early on will help to inform some of the choices you make in the learning approaches you build into your programme. Know your learner audience.

  3. Decide on your content.

    Focus on what topics and areas of learning that are required, what models, knowledge and processes are needed in order to meet the desired outcome that you defined in step 1?

  4. Building

    It’s time to build your Blended Learning Programme. Combine a mix of approaches that will complement your learners’ working styles and ultimately deliver your required outcome.

  5. Communicating and engaging your learners.

    It’s time to get your learners up to speed. It’s essential that you get your communications right, so give them as much detail as you need to, to get them as invested and excited about the programme as you are

  6. Maintaining your momentum.

    You have to keep the energy that is felt at the beginning of the programme alive. This is where you create your forum; WhatsApp, Yammer, Discord etc, to keep your learners engaged and motivated.

  7. End with a bang!

    Consider how to conclude your Blended Learning Programme on a high. Depending on the size and length of a programme, there are a number of ways you can celebrate the completion of the learning journey, recognising the determination and success of your learners.

Conclusion

Blended Learning is a great way to create a training programme specifically tailored to your learners and their needs.

It is important to remember there are key points to success; always start at the end, have the required outcome at the front of your mind throughout and keep your learners feeling supported and relevant until the end of your programme.

And if you need any help getting started, or at any point during your Blended Learning Programme, set up or duration, please do get in contact with us.

We would love to help you make your own Blended Learning Programme a massive success.