Before the Internet forever changed civilization, the only way to complete a course or receive training was in the classroom—also known as traditional learning.
Over the years, the landscape of learning has dramatically evolved, with technology enabling us to learn anytime, anywhere from a computer or a mobile device. As a result, blended learning programs were born, allowing us to create meaningful, real-world learning processes for all types of learners.
If you’re an educator, or a training professional, you may have already heard the term blended learning. It’s a buzzword in the training world that’s gained traction over the last decade, used to describe the way e-learning (Web-based training) is being joined with traditional classroom methods and self-study. Many of us have been following blended learning practices all of our lives. Training sessions, college courses and on-the-job training often includes pre-work, use of technology, and independent study. This represents a much greater shift in the method than simply adding computers to the equation; it signifies a fundamental change in the way teachers and students approach the learning experience. So, naturally, as a training and performance professional, I can’t help but wonder: how has blended learning shaped the evolution of the classroom and training?
Blended learning has increased the creative ability with a variety of delivery techniques. Designing a blended program can be relatively simple, once you’ve identified what your goal is. Key factors to consider are:
Accessibility of participants and instructors
Self-study and/or Web-based courses must have expected completion dates, participants and instructors must establish contact procedures to ensure both are accessible, and training must be completed in a conducive learning environment. Training methods should be delivered based on the participant’s resources. For example, you wouldn’t assign Web-based courses if participants don’t have access to a computer. In cases like this, printed materials, self-study and/or traditional classroom training should be ideal.
Perhaps one of the most valuable benefits, blended learning allows learners to work at their own pace. Determining whether a blended program is possible will depend on the duration of the learning process and training resources available. Training initiatives that require use of software programs and soft skills are best delivered in a classroom environment, because participants will learn more effectively with a hands on approach, and in role play scenarios. Courses can also be divided into smaller segments, versus half or full day sessions, with follow up and refresher training delivered via Web or by live classroom. In these cases, factors such as performance and retention are evaluated.
Teachers, Facilitators, and Instructors
Whether you teach in academia, facilitate in the corporate world, or perhaps you identify as an instructor— ultimately you teach, train, or inform. An interesting effect of blended learning is the redefining of traditional roles. Particularly in the training world, the word facilitator has gradually replaced the word teacher. In today’s world, the facilitator places an importance on empowering students with the skills and knowledge required to maximize the online material and independent study time, with the goal of guiding students toward the most meaningful experience.
There are a variety of factors that impact how training is delivered. For instance, when it comes to new hires starting a new job, they no longer attend training or start jobs at the same time, maybe because instructors and participants are not at the same location to attend training. Blended learning programs allow for more flexibility and connectivity for the training or orientation process. Overall, this provides an exciting outlook on learning and training, extending beyond a traditional setting.
Benefits for Your Organization
As you can see, having a blended learning program is valuable for everyone involved, including the organization. SWBC offers an engaging, dynamic, and comprehensive blended program for our clients. With our nationwide training commitment, having a blended program is essential to delivering the best type of learning for each individual. First and foremost, participants are assigned pre-work and/or Web-based courses to become familiar with topics. This allows preparation of questions for the instructor that can be submitted before or during live class.
We also provide “live” online training. With this method, participants have visual aids, printed materials, and can speak with the instructor. This form of training is best for small to medium groups, quick training bites, and follow-ups. It can also serve as a refresher or a platform for trainees to ask questions, provide important feedback and share experiences. Having a blended program not only streamlines classroom training, it can reduce prep time and increase rapport between the instructor and the participants. Participants will better understand expectations, can bring pre-work materials to class, and have already interacted with the instructor before the training even begins.
There are numerous creative processes to make a blended program successful, making it a customized approach that benefits everyone involved. If you’re interested in utilizing a blended learning program, knowing your training resources and goals will start you in the right direction.
Has blended learning impacted the way you learn? Comment below and tell us how.