Employee training is changing. The shift to online learning is reducing face-to-face training, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, you might be in an industry that always requires some amount face-to-face training. If that’s the case, why not have the best of both worlds with blended learning?
Broadly defined, blended learning is face-to-face teaching combined with online learning. In education, blended learning encompasses a wide variety of teaching strategies and course setups. For business training, we can narrow the options down to two.
Both of these blended learning models are well suited to corporate training. They take into account the limited amount of time generally available for in-person training, and supplement face-to-face training with online training and exercises that reinforce learning and help cement knowledge in long term memory.
1. The online driver model
In this type of blended learning environment, online learning is the primary driver of instruction. Employees take courses online along with relevant reinforcement exercises. Employees then go into the face-to-face training session with a fundamental understanding of the material.
This creates a whole world of possibilities for the face-to-face training sessions. Depending on the subject matter, learners may engage in projects or group collaboration exercises that reinforce and contextualize what they studied online. Trainers are available during the face-to-face sessions to answer questions and provide oversight, or guide hands-on demonstrations of processes or products where relevant.
This blended learning model takes previously passive, lecture style face-to-face training days and turns them into dynamic active learning sessions. These active learning sessions increase learner engagement and provide a great opportunity for team building through cooperative exercises.
2. The face-to-face driver model
This blended learning model relies on the more traditional style of face-to-face training where material is presented in a lecture format. If your company is deeply invested in face-to-face training, this may be the most logical starting point. Online learning happens after face-to-face training and gives learners additional time with training materials to improve understanding and retention.
Online follow up instruction increases training success in two ways. First, because learners know the training materials are also available online, they can focus on key concepts presented in the face-to-face training sessions without getting bogged down in minute details of processes or products. By relieving the pressure to learn everything in one training session, trainers can ensure that the most important and relevant information is presented and reinforced during the face-to-face sessions. Learners then circle back to the material through a series of additional exercises presented online. At this point, supplementary knowledge is supplied to further develop the key concepts taught during face-to-face sessions.
Second, these online follow-up exercises improve results by utilizing spaced learning. Spaced learning involves calling back to previously learned information through timed-release practice exercises. This helps learners consolidate information into long term memory, ensuring that they have it when they need it in the course of their work.
How to make sure blended learning is working
With the online driver model of blended learning, issues can arise if learners don’t come to the face-to-face sessions prepared. When learners don’t complete the online coursework, the face-to-face projects won’t help them. Fortunately, good online learning systems provide learner progress data for instructors, so this potential problem can be dealt with ahead of time. Trainers can monitor employee progress leading up to face-to-face sessions and reach out to learners if they aren’t keeping up with the material.
The same problem is possible with the face-to-face driver model. If learners don’t do the follow-up exercises, the effectiveness of the training is diminished. Again, learner progress data helps trainers keep track of employee progress to ensure everyone is following up properly. Moreover, a wide variety of interactive reinforcement exercises during the online phase helps keep learners engaged. And with short follow up exercises, employees are able to learn material in the course of their daily work schedules, especially if you are using a microlearning program.