For years one of our clients delivered a one-and-done instructor-led classroom training seminar that prepared learners to pass an exam and achieve a professional certification. The client’s accreditation body refused to certify the curriculum unless it was delivered in-person, which, they insisted, was the silver bullet, and best way for people to learn.
ILT can be a good way for people to learn - that is, when it is interactive and provides a forum for learners to ask questions, get answers, receive immediate feedback, and so on.
But even when executed brilliantly, ILT is not necessarily the best solution for a specific training need. What makes a solution the “best” depends on the problem you are trying to solve.
The client asked us to help bring their curriculum into the 21st century, given the following criteria:
- It had to meet international standards and accreditation requirements.
- It had to appeal to a growing number of tech-savvy, Millennial and Gen Z learners.
- It had to ensure learners passed the certification exam.
- And it absolutely needed to be cost-effective AND easy for their salesforce to sell.
Based on these criteria, the client’s one-and-done classroom training was no longer the best solution.
We knew a better solution existed for them, and that it would incorporate blended learning and the flipped classroom. But before getting to that solution, we had to help our client convince stakeholders that instructor-led-training was neither the best nor their only option.
The Case Against One-and-Done ILT
Most professionals attend multi-day face-to-face classroom training sessions at some point in their careers. Many have to take a 2- or 3-day course to earn a professional certification, which has a big test at the end. If learners pass, they get certified.
A great example of this a qualifying exam administered by FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. Passing an exam proves the candidate has a minimum level of understanding and expertise in a particular securities business, which is required before doing any of that business.
Candidates attend classroom training the week before - and sometimes even the day before - each exam. The great news was, with classroom training, over 80% of candidates pass the exam. The bad news was within a month, most candidates barely recalled what they learned in class.
The reason is clear. The exam’s purpose was to ensure candidates acquired understanding and expertise. The ILT’s purpose was different; it was to ensure candidates passed the exam.
Even a skillfully facilitated, one-and-done ILT cannot ensure learners retain understanding and expertise because that mode of ILT cannot reinforce the learning.
A 2007 study by the Association for Psychological Science proved just that. Their researchers found that cramming learning content into a one-and-done session actually decreases long-term retention. Instead, learners should space out the learning so they can intermittently return to it.[i]
The Upside of Blended Learning
Because blended learning solutions augment instructor led training with a variety of online modalities, learners have unlimited access to the content.
Think of the last instructional video you watched. You got to hear instructions and see a demonstration. Maybe you pressed pause, backtracked and re-watched a clip.
Many blended learning modalities let you keep pressing replay until you master the content. Before an exam, you can revisit the content to reinforce the topics. Weeks or months later, you can return to the content to refresh what you learned.
That said, it makes sense that learners perform better after taking a course in a blended learning format than those who attend training delivered in a single format.
Another study by the American Physiological Society found that online content accompanied by weekly class meetings actually improves performance. The data show that around 80% of students earned a C-minus or higher in the ILT-only or online-only formats. In the blended learning format, 95% of students earned C-minus or higher. [ii] Two-way communication between trainer and learners, as well as the interaction among learners that enabled peer-to-peer learning, contributed to this result.
Blended learning can make room for more effective modes of ILT. Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland wanted to find out how much more effective one particular mode of ILT would be in a study with medical students.
This study looked at one of the blended learning models referred to as a flipped classroom. This strategy delivers training content outside of the classroom (and often online), and it moves activities (think practice or projects) to the classroom. [iii] The researchers found that medical students learning how to write medical certificates in a flipped classroom format had an 85% probability to score higher than those who learned via in-person lecture format.[iv]
The flipped classroom approach improves learner comprehension and creates more classroom time for activities - that is, application and practice. Instructors at Penn State College of Engineering learned this first hand when they put classroom lectures on videos that students watched prior to attending class. Hearing the lecture at home and doing the homework in class led resulted in more effective education, which provided greater opportunity for peer-to-peer learning. [v] Another exciting metric - the blended learning format resulted in reduced office hours for the instructors.
In addition to better long-term retention and improved performance, blended learning formats lead to higher customer satisfaction rates than offering instructor-led training alone, leading to great training ROI.
Learning more and performing better is great, but so is learning when and how you want. Instructors at Texas Tech University discovered this when they put lectures on video, prescribed a study schedule and facilitated sessions for learners to apply what they learned. While learners’ exam performance stayed the same or improved, over three-quarters of students stated on course evaluations that they preferred the flipped classroom format for the flexibility and independence it provided.[vi]
Our client’s accreditors eventually came around to allowing for a portion of the curriculum to be delivered asynchronously and online. (They still had to deliver a significant portion in the classroom for instructors to evaluate and provide feedback on performance.)
We designed our client a blended learning solution comprised of synchronous and asynchronous online and in-person modalities and leveraged the flipped classroom approach. We also supplied talking points to illustrate that instructor-led training alone decreases long-term retention, while blended learning results in higher retention, better performance and increased satisfaction.
Our client’s stakeholders agreed this 21st century design would satisfy their accreditation body and appeal to their tech-savvy learners while preparing them to pass certification exams. Our design would increase sale-ability and decrease travel costs, and this delighted them.
Do You Want to Blend Your Learning, Too?
Let us know if you’re considering transitioning your instructor-led training to a blended learning format. Or maybe you’re ready to give the flipped classroom a try. Tell us in the comments what you have in mind. We would love to help you get the biggest bang for your training investment.
Learn more about the benefits of blended learning here.
[i] Association for Psychological Science. "Back to School: Cramming Doesn't Work in The Long Term." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2007. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829122934.htm
[ii] American Physiological Society. "A mix of in-person and online learning may boost student performance, reduce anxiety." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180620174609.htm
[iv] University of Eastern Finland. "Flipped classroom enhances learning outcomes in medical certificate education." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181108105937.htm
[v] Penn State College of Engineering. "Flipped classrooms turning STEM education upside down." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160607151512.htm
[vi] American Physiological Society. "Flexible content delivery, student-faculty interaction frees time without hurting grades." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180619230857.htm