What Is Blended Learning? (+Types, Benefits, Examples)
As technology continues to evolve and impacts all aspects of our daily lives, learning and education of these new technologies cannot be overlooked. It’s important to remember that “evolving” refers to moving ahead to the next level without decimating the old, i.e. taking advantage of both the worlds – the positives of old with the advantages of new.
In the case of education, this is known as blended learning.
The concept of blended learning has gained great popularity over the last few years, with its advantages being lauded by learning professionals. Blended learning combines the benefits of traditional classroom teaching with emerging technology to make learning more real-time, contextual, and engaging.
Let’s delve deeper into what blended learning is, and highlight different models and benefits it offers.
What Is Blended Learning?
Blended learning combines the best of two training environments – traditional face-to-face learning and eLearning – to meet the evolving needs of new-age learners. Blended learning takes learning outside the walls of the classroom, making it possible to access resources both online and offline. This helps engage all types of learners – both those who learn better in a traditional classroom environment as well as those who work best with semi-autonomous, computer-based training. While classroom learning offers an opportunity for immediate face-to-face interaction, online learning offers self-paced personalized learning with interactive media such as games, videos, tutorials, quizzes, etc. all accessible from the learner’s home page in a learning management system (LMS).
5 Types of Blended Learning Models
Here are the five most common types of blended learning frameworks:
1. Flipped Model
In a flipped classroom blended learning model, the original learning framework gets inverted. Instead of learners attending a face-to-face training session followed by some online self-paced learning, this model puts the focus on online learning. Learners consume the prescribed content on their own time – either at home or before the class – and in-class time is devoted to active learning and applying your newly learned skills. This can be done in the form of discussions, case studies, or group projects.
2. Face-to-Face Driver Model
The face-to-face driver blended learning model is the closest to traditional classroom training, as most of the training takes place in a classroom setting under the guidance of an instructor. This approach offers individual, personalized support to learners who are struggling to grab the new concepts or are falling behind the training curriculum.
3. Rotational Model
In the rotational blended learning model, learners are expected to follow a fixed schedule and rotate through both self-paced online learning and face-to-face interaction. The schedules are fixed but flexible.
Including different training methods allows learners to practice what they have learned, filling any learning gaps. This makes tracking training progress easier, since learners are following a fixed schedule.
4. Flex Model
The flex blended learning model gives learners a flexible and personalized learning experience that is specifically tailored to their needs. This model allows online learning to take the lead as the core transmitter of the material in the overall learning experience while instructors provide needed support in small-group settings. Flex models allow students to customize the paths and the schedules followed throughout the learning process.
5. Enriched Virtual Model
The enriched virtual blended learning model is very similar to the flex model with online training as its major component. This model has become increasingly popular in this era of remote work. However, unlike the flex model, learners must go through a scheduled Instructor-led classroom session, either in physical or virtual classrooms. This model enriches the remote learning experience by enabling learner-instructor interaction through online platforms.
7 Benefits of Blended Learning
While there are many student and learner benefits of implementing a blended learning model, here are 7 of the most impactful benefits.
1. Benefits of Both In-Person & Virtual Learning Strategies
A mixture of both offline and online training approaches give you the best of both strategies. Blended learning is quite flexible and adaptable as compared to a single-method approach. It takes every type of learner into account, whether they prefer the traditional classroom, online sessions, or a mixture of both, meaning no student is left behind.
The right blended learning model helps you break the monotony of corporate training, and achieve higher employee engagement levels through a plethora of training modes including multimedia, presentations, instructor-led training, classroom workshops, real-life projects, etc.
2. Cuts Costs & Improves ROI
Blended learning helps you reduce your training costs as fewer trainers for less time, means fewer expenses for travel and accommodation. Furthermore, it helps to reduce the number of man-hours spent on traveling, resulting in a significant increase in productivity.
Of course, online training is not free of charge as it requires multiple resources and skilled professionals to develop high-quality training content. However, you can keep its cost at low levels by opting for many free educational technologies available today.
All in all, the blended learning approach can significantly increase your corporate training’s ROI by reducing traditional training costs and improving employee productivity.
3. Facilitates corporate training feedback
Feedback from employees is used as an indication of their performance levels. But the traditional training methods make it challenging for organizations to collect employee feedback regularly. The self-reporting surveys (download template below) are unreliable most of the time, which might affect the quality of employees’ performance within an organization.
An effective blended learning platform lets employees track their performance via periodic online quizzes and tests and saves you valuable time spent in collecting training feedback in a physical environment. Online blended learning platforms can help track the time taken by an employee to complete a task, the number of times they take a lesson, and the efficacy of blended learning.
Furthermore, the collaboration of multiple learning modules makes it easier for organizations to monitor and measure the effectiveness of their blended training program. The division in modules will help you collect employee feedback in small chunks that are frictionless and not intrusive.
4. Allows employees to learn at their own pace
A successful training plan is one that can work with every individual’s schedule. The training program should be available whenever an employee is ready to learn.
An effective blended learning platform leaves no employee behind as it allows every employee to move through the online portion of the program at their own pace and ask queries in person during live meetings. It’s a win-win for balancing busy schedules, employee preferences, and pace of learning.
Training via a blended learning approach makes your employees more active and helps them develop critical thinking because of face-to-face and technology-enhanced approaches.
5. Blended learning can be customized
Combining instructor-led training with online courses offers a unique opportunity to customize training to meet employees exactly where they are in terms of skills and knowledge.
Blended learning allows organizations to set up multiple channels that cater to every employee’s learning style and demands. Information in customized training programs can be presented in different formats, based on an employee’s learning preferences and goals.
The tailor-made learning program enables employees to find information through online resources, webinars, ebooks, etc. With such an approach, learners can experience the advantages of a traditional classroom, along with the flexibility of e-learning.
6. Provides ultimate flexibility
Is the online lecture moving too fast? Hit pause. Having trouble understanding a particular concept? Discuss in the face-to-face session. Whatever your employees’ needs are, blended learning is flexible enough to meet them.
As discussed in the previous point, blended learning gives learners the freedom to learn at their own pace, in the comfort of their own space offering them great flexibility in learning. Also, blended learning adds the much-needed warmth of human interaction that enables learners to interact with a subject expert to clarify their doubts before they could affect their progress.
7. Increased knowledge retention
A blended learning approach helps ensure that you reach all of your employees, whether they are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. It only makes sense that reinforcing training by activating more senses helps retain information longer than in a traditional approach.
3 Examples of Corporate Blended Learning
Here are three examples of how enterprise companies are using blended learning to improve their employee training and development programs.
Intel prides itself on its record of minimal product defects and utilizes thousands of manufacturing technicians to operate its factories. These technicians are responsible for operating, performing preventative maintenance, and troubleshooting equipment. This requires Intel to focus on hiring technicians with some core technical competencies. But these competencies of technicians vary by site and geographic location.
This required the company to implement a training solution that could connect across locations and experience levels with minimal time investment. Hence, they implemented a performer-centric blended learning approach that combined digital simulations, scenarios, and interactive exercises to achieve higher retention rates amongst the employees. This approach enabled workers to quickly learn new skills using a combination of experiential learning and self-paced learning, supported by collaborative and instructor-led models. The training was conducted over two weeks resulting in a 157% ROI with a benefits-to-cost ratio of 2.27.
Source – CGS Blog
2. Contract Research Organization
A contract research organization that offers clinical trial services for pharmaceutical companies had a mission to be involved in groundbreaking research to develop new and innovative medicines and make them available to patients quickly.
Their training department structured the Instructor-led onboarding training to introduce the new hires to different functional departments in the organization and then train them on how to access and navigate the corporate LMS. Also, online training had to be provided to Clinical Data Management professionals on writing effective queries and using software tools for status tracking and discrepancy management.
One of the main challenges faced by the company in training delivery was meeting timelines. Because their client had a training schedule ready for the onboarding program, the training material of 14+ hours had to be ready for rollout in a span of 6 to 7 weeks.
The company leveraged a blended learning strategy to make use of classroom training, eLearning, videos, job-aids, and worksheets. While ILT sessions ensured new hires got to interact with their peers, e-learning delivered role-specific training on tools required to be used by Clinical Data Management professionals.
The blended learning strategy helped them by drastically cutting down the time new hires spent in classroom training, addressing diverse learning styles, leveraging technology for rapid upskilling of new hires.
Source – CommLab
3. The Boeing Company
The Boeing Company wanted to improve its capture team leader (CTL) training to reflect the work that the business development role performs in the organization. In addition to better preparing participants for the CTL role, they wanted to reduce the classroom time and also the dependency on experienced CTLs.
The company opted for a blended learning solution that included small, web-based training lessons. This curriculum allowed employees to gain a foundational knowledge of the CTL role, its responsibilities, and the tools they needed. It also enabled them to practice the skills of a CTL before attending the live session and this preparation came in handy when the participants came to the classroom session. Throughout the classroom-based learning, participants were walked through the phases of a real capture effort using the knowledge and assignments they completed in the pre-classroom online learning.
The outcome was that 82.5% of the respondents felt they could immediately use the course content on the job, and 100% responded that they would recommend the course to a colleague.
Source – Training industry
Blended learning for corporate training is not only cost-effective but also a more natural way to learn. If you need just one word to describe using blended learning for corporate training, it is “flexibility”.
Incorporating elements of blended learning can help corporate training programs increase the effectiveness of training while decreasing the cost. Supplementing in-person training with digital content helps employees retain and apply the skills they need to be successful. It also allows them to have complete control over how, when, and where they want to learn and develop their skillset.
A blended learning program can be developed by leveraging activities, assignments, and technology to revolutionize your corporate training and stimulate the interest of your employees while increasing their engagement and productivity levels.
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