An introduction to blended learning and its benefits
It’s surprising to find out that although it takes around 30 cumulative hours to summit Everest, most expeditions take over a month to complete. Some of them up to two. Climbers have to adjust to the altitude; they need to acclimatise. And that takes time. There is less resistance – especially with the body – when things change gradually.
Similarly, the mind requires time to adjust effectively to change if resistance is to be minimised. If there is one thing that hampers learning, it’s resistance.
The rapid progression of technology has increased the popularity of digital learning proportionately and is bound to continue to the point where all education follows suit. Preparing for the inevitable shift can be daunting, so tackling it with incremental changes by taking a ‘best of both’ approach is an obvious answer: blended learning.
Blended learning explained
Finding a descriptive definition is tough, but The Online Learning Consortium defines blended learning as courses or programmes that have between 30% and 79% of their material online.
Technically, blended learning has been around for a while. Simple digital tools used in education could be regarded as blended learning – but ever so loosely.
The benefits are vast
Blended learning is more than a technique in the move to digital learning, the benefits and advantages are many. Blended learning allows organisations to leverage the best of both facilitated and digital learning to achieve their training and development goals.
Cost and time saving
Blended learning is a great way to save resources. It can be used to minimise the time employees are out of the office or not being productive, saving on missed opportunities and sold hours. It can also be used to save on expenses associated with training. Things like the venue, travel, or even the facilitator’s time.
Then there are printing costs. Although setting up digital programmes may cost more initially, it saves in the long run. The modern world is dynamic, and updating course material costs. There is also a case for digital material being kinder to the environment.
Technology can also be used for preparation. A facilitator can plan to concentrate on the more complex or important parts of the training in the classroom where guidance can be given, while letting the learners teach themselves the easier bits.
In a world where data is king, digital components of training can really shine. Assessing learners efficiently can provide critical feedback to companies and facilitators in order to tailor future lessons more effectively. This results in more time for facilitators to focus on more complex material, or simply saving hours if training is outsourced.
For businesses, measurability is imperative. Being able to show the impact training on behaviour means smarter use of resources in general.
Not every learner is the same. Gathering data about each learner means that content can be tailored to their strengths and weaknesses. At best, this improves the efficiency and effectiveness of training. At worst, it’s intel into who is improving and who is wasting the organisation’s resources.
Building a library of knowledge that is available as an employee needs it provides a path to a more productive workforce. It can also be used in the classroom, allowing stronger learners to move ahead without disrupting the class.
Blended learning is a fantastic way to tighten employee bonds within your organisation. Sure, a course that is exclusively digital is powerful, but simply getting team members from other parts of the business in the same room can often lead to more cohesion. Collaborative exercises have been shown to improve relatability and interaction between team members. Sometimes, familiarity is reason enough. In a global community, classroom training is a rare opportunity to meet colleagues from other departments and regions.
Using digital tools is useful for the facilitators themselves as well. Casting material to individual devices, rather than a centralised point, can improve participation, for example.
Virtual and Augmented Reality can create scenarios that would never be experienced otherwise. For the Health and Safety – or any high-risk industry – immersive technologies are particularly valuable.
Technology creates virtually endless dimensions to learning.
Technology can go hand in hand with traditional, classroom learning – it doesn’t have to replace it. Microlearning for example, is often used for reinforcement training. Learners attend a facilitator-led class, then are sent bite-sized pieces of content in the form of questions for an extended period of time after the class concludes. These usually only take 5 – 10 minutes to complete.
Not only does this methodology combat diminishing attention spans, it also dramatically increases retention rates.
Blended learning is a powerful way to reap the rewards of traditional and modern training methodologies. Considering the cost saving aspects as well as the platforms for knowledge retention, blended learning is a ‘no-brainer’ for learners and organisations alike.
Author: Kyle Hauptfleisch