5 Steps to a Successful Blended Learning Strategy

Blended Learning Strategy

This Blended Learning post was originally written for DominKnow.com

Since the beginning of time, companies have relied on instructor-led format for training their employees. However, as time has marched on, organizations face certain problems using this delivery method, such as logistic issues, high cost of loss productivity, inability to connect learning back in the workplace, the inability to provide learning reinforcement and the list continues. 

As learning professionals, it’s time to adapt learning delivery methods to incorporate a blended learning strategy. The advent of the digital age has provided us with a wealth of resources to support and update our methodology to focus more on blended learning opportunities.

Blended Learning Defined

In short, blended learning is any formal training/development program in which a person learns in part using technology, with some element of control over time, place, path, and/or pace. 

To understand blended learnings potential, it’s important to comprehend that blended learning is a hybrid approach of applying learning strategies that utilize both live and web-based learning methodologies. Keeping in mind that while training departments are using computers to support online training, they haven’t generally made full use of the available technology to provide their workforce with a true “blend” of instruction that gives people some element of control over their learning.

However, be warned: A blended solution is not achieved simply because you have thrown multiple technical approaches into the curriculum. People tend to think they created a blended solution because participants are completing pre/post work online or reading an online article or watching a YouTube video. That’s not a blend, it’s a technical hodgepodge.

With this in mind, let’s discuss the 5 Steps to designing your successful blended learning strategy

Blended Design Delivery Methods

Step 1: Define Your Blended Learning Strategy

There are many things to consider when transforming from a 100% instructor-led environment to a blended solution. First and foremost, the learning function must be viewed as a business partner that understands what the organization is trying to accomplish. Does the strategy demonstrate a connection between business goals/KPI’s and learning outcomes?

There are other factors to consider when implementing a blended learning strategy:

  1. Peer and management support for self-directed learning
  2. Budgetary conditions
  3. Will your blended learning adopt a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach?
  4. Technology gap between participants
  5. Is new technology or software needed and how will that technology be used and maintained?
  6. How to support momentum and keep self-motivation high
  7. The expansion of key training roles such as technology management and revised facilitator roles

Step 2: Clarify Appropriate Delivery

Once the learning outcomes has been aligned with business goals, it’s time to consider the appropriate delivery method. Here are four different types of blended learning delivery methods you can use.

But first, a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Will the program be synchronous or asynchronous in delivery?
  2. Will the participants travel through the learning journey in groups or individually?
  3. Where will discussions, feedback and lessons be hosted?
  4. Who will manage the program’s progress and updates?

Keep in mind your delivery method may not be just one, but a combination of the methods below.

  1. Blended Rotation: Participants rotate through different modes of learning (in both synchronous and asynchronous fashion). At least one of them is digital in nature, supported by resources to achieve a learning outcome. This may include incorporating a flipped classroom.
  2. Project-Based: Teams of participants, can meet in person and/or virtually, at a time and place convenient to them to complete their assigned project. The project goals align with curriculum learning outcomes.
  3. Self-Directed: Participants complete their learning entirely online with an online instructor, moving asynchronously through program curriculum.
  4. Enriched Virtual: Students receive one-on-one (or one with few) sessions with their instructor. They are then free to complete the rest of the curriculum online independently. The sessions are held entirely in real-time but can (and should) be recorded for future use.

Step 3: Determine Learning Modalities

Once you have determined the best delivery method to support the curriculum, you must now consider the variety of methods you can use to bring your blend to life. Be creative to encourage engagement and ensure chosen modalities help move learning lessons forward. Using these tools, you can take participant engagement and learning to new levels.

Here are just a few examples:

  1. Knowledge Sharing Tools: Wiki builders, project management tools (Trello, Asana, Milanote etc)
  2. Collaboration Tools: Areas to have continuous conversations and share information (i.e. Slack, MS Teams, OneNote, Evernote, etc.)
  3. Polling or Survey Tools: Use for projects to gather information, create challenge games or quick knowledge checks
  4. Assessment Tools: Develop knowledge checks and self-study tools
  5. Document Collaboration Tools: Allow project teams, or facilitator/participant collaboration (i.e. Google docs, evernote, DropBox Notes, OneNote etc.)
  6. Virtual Conferencing Tools: Allow participants to communication in groups, or to host virtual online sessions (web-ex, Zoom, Adobe Connect)

Step 4: Building Engagement

Many blended training initiatives are focused on “delivering the course” to its participants, as opposed to engaging participants during the learning journey.

As a result:

  • Participants do not proactively review or study online materials until they meet in person with the trainer or with peer groups.
  • Participants get bored and do the minimum required without connecting with the lessons with outcomes.
  • Many programs fail to provide the “personal touch” and are impersonal with no or little opportunity offered to engage with peer groups, resulting in disengagement.

The issue at hand is most asynchronous courses (and even synchronous ones) include only limited facilitator interaction. This results in people getting impatient or losing focus while participating in lessons – especially when facing text-heavy content or watching a series of explainer videos.

Step 5: Plan for Live Virtual Connections

A good blended learning program can be designed to deliver training entirely through distance learning approaches. However, to provide much-needed engagement between participant and facilitator, a component of live virtual training should be considered.

Unfortunately, facilitators sometimes forget that adult learning principles still need to be the backbone of their sessions. Just because people are participating at a distance, they still need to be involved in the learning and with each other.

What you can do to create an engaging virtual session:

  1. Plan pre-session engagement: For people who tune in early, have exercises, polls, and word puzzles programmed on a loop. These will help then prepare for the content to follow.
  2. Involve participants from the beginning: Involve the participants early and often. The host is competing for attention with everything else going on around the participants and on their screen.  Simple techniques help the engagement: Use the chat feature, break-out rooms, Share whiteboards, polls, challenge games.
  3. Make participation in such sessions mandatory: Use session for “Ask Me Anything” purposes. Ensure the content isn’t just about a new lesson, but about group feedback and peer review exercises.

Offering the Best of Both Worlds:

The biggest benefit of implementing a blended learning strategy for your organization is allowing people to learn at their own pace and have the support they need when required. Choosing the right delivery model and modalities will help shake up the status-quo of training monotony.

Face-to-face interactions (virtual or live) coupled with online study, optimize the unique benefits of a blended learning approach; the partnership of the real and digital world allows your people to plan their learning and develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Creating a blended learning experience will activate your creative problem-solving brain cells. Once you embrace this, it’ll open many new and even fun unique training solutions. Creating a win-win for the people and the organization.

Let Learning Rebels help you determine if your current content can reimaged into a blended delivery. Contact us NOW to sign up for our one of kind VIP day to complete your curriculum audit.

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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