Blended learning has been a cornerstone of education programs for the better part of 5 years now, and for good reason. Combining traditional in-person learning strategies with online interactions, blended learning can be implemented for a variety of learning and development needs. With the steady development of better eLearning tools over the last couple of years thanks in large part to virtual work, there is no better time to consider investing in blended learning programs. Furthermore, given the recent emergence of virtual learning and development, a strategy that leverages blended learning can be the best way to maximize ROI in virtual environments.
Blended learning varies from other instructional methods in the way that online resources are leveraged for learner outcomes. Contrary to hybrid eLearning, blended learning isn’t just focused on creating learning experiences that can be accessed both virtually and in-person; its main goal is to leverage digital technologies in unique ways to improve learning outcomes. Below are some great examples of how blended learning can benefit learners:
- Learning is flexible and convenient.
- Learners obtain a better understanding of course content.
- Improved learner retention rates.
- Social learning is encouraged.
Companies’ learning and development programs are in a variety of different situations in 2021, and this can impact the way in which your organization uses blended learning. Here are a few ways in which organizations are leveraging blended learning in 2021:
Many organizations are leveraging webinars as an agile solution that engages learners and is both scalable and cost-effective. In 2021, webinars are a great use of blended virtual learning because they allow learners to engage both in-person and online and can be used for a variety of different training needs. Furthermore, webinars allow learning and development to scale within your organization. There is no limit to the amount of people that can watch a pre-recorded webinar, and most synchronous webinars still allow for up to 500 participants. There should be no issues creating a webinar experience that works for all your learners.
Supplemental Learning Programs
Blended virtual learning can also be used for small, supplemental learning programs. If there are general areas of your employees’’ knowledge you would like to develop, consider using blended virtual learning.
Digital performance support is one of the most effective areas of blended learning. Using a blended approach to support learners after in-person education programs is highly effective for many reasons. First, it creates resources that are available to learners in their time of need, meaning they can access them how they want to when they need to. Furthermore, digital performance support allows employees to have a central repository of knowledge across departments and teams, meaning there is a strong support system in place for all your employees. Finally, storing and editing virtual performance support materials is efficient and effective, especially if you have processes and data that is frequently changing.
Pairing a blended learning approach with social learning is another “best of both worlds” approach. Social learning is a great way for learners to develop themselves and those around them and is also one of the best ways to stay engaged in virtual environments. Using a combination of social learning in virtual environments and supplemented blended eLearning approaches will maximize learning for your employees. A great example of a blended social learning program would be a workshop that places participants in groups or pairs with the goal of solving problems or answering questions collaboratively.
Because many companies have had experience with the in-person side of blended learning, let’s focus some more on virtual blended learning applications and best practices. The first step in assessing the effectiveness of any L&D program is by understanding the needs of your learners. If your workforce has experience with virtual learning programs, one of the best ways you can improve engagement is through blended approaches. Here are some more common blended learning applications:
- Process improvement. Using virtual learning to supplement in-person development programs focused on process improvement is effective for a couple of reasons. First, digital resources allow learners to get hands-on access to software and technology processes. Secondly, you can use virtual environments to save resources and how-to guides on process technology.
- Policy and compliance training. Historically, compliance and policy learning solutions can cover some pretty taboo subjects. Simply putting learners in a virtual classroom setting may not be enough to get them to think critically about compliance subject matter. If you’re looking to bolster engagement from your employees in these critical learning programs, creating an in-person experience supplemented by digital resources and aides can be a great way to go.
- Technology transformation and adoption. Technology is actually surprisingly good at helping employees learn about technology. Your organization can use virtual blended learning solutions alongside instructor-led training (ILT) to maximize learner familiarity and comfort with new tech. For example, a learning program could start with an ILT program that gives learners an overview of new tech, followed by an interactive virtual walkthrough.
As organizations continue to transfer into virtual environments, its important that the power and effectives of a blended learning approach isn’t lost. A balanced approach is often most effective, and knowing the best ways in which you can leverage virtual education techniques will be critical in implementing an effective learning program. When building your next learning and development program, focus on not only the needs of your organization, but the needs of your learners. Providing employees with resources that are accessible and interactive can eliminate the need for more expensive retraining programs and are foundational in creating a work environment in which learning is integrated with work. Leveraging the virtual side of blended learning will continue to be an integral part of learning and development for organizations large and small, so consider this approach when building your next education program.