Even though blended learning has garnered the focus of many peer-reviewed studies only recently, it has been around for quite some time. Originally, it was used to describe a mixture of classroom education with independent study, but in the last 20 years it has been associated with a combination of classroom training with technology-based instruction. Though most of the studies conducted have been on higher education, the origins of the term, blended learning, are thought to have come from the corporate world. The term was linked to an Atlanta-based computer training business in 1999 when it announced that there would be a series of online courses for adults blended with live instruction. The technology-based instruction can be self-study online learning or synchronous online learning.
The results of recent studies have consistently shown a marked improvement in student retention and graduation rates as typified by the Evergreen Education Group/Clayton Christensen’s six-year study of the Spokane, Washington Public School System. Graduation rates increased from 60% in 2007 to 83% in 2014 after the implementation of a blended approach in middle and high schools. According to a U.S. Department of Education study published in 2010, the blended approach proved to be modestly better than face-to-face classes in settings other than K-12 such as medical training and higher education.
With analytics supporting blended instruction as the better choice for education delivery regardless of the audience, it is safe to conclude that blended learning would also be a positive delivery approach for organizational learning. A mixture of instructor-led and online learning can lead to more productive learning environments and better outcomes for those in a work setting.
Let’s look at four blended learning models and four sub-modules that could work well in any organizational setting.
1. The Rotation Learning Model
This model combines face-to-face instruction and online study time on a fixed schedule or at the instructor’s discretion. A way to integrate this model could be to create e-learning scenarios that provide an opportunity to explore a subject online and then design face-to-face activities that delve deeper into the subject. The face-to-face time can also be used for instructors to assess learners’ knowledge acquisition and retention. With this model, most learning activities occur in a classroom setting.
- Station Rotation- Training takes place solely in a physical classroom or group of classrooms. A learner rotates through all of the stations.
- Individual Rotation-The learner has an algorithm or instructor designed customized list of stations that he or she may experience, which may or may not involve all of the stations, or the order in which the learner visits the stations may differ.
- Lab Rotation-Learners rotate to a computer lab for the online portion of their training. They can participate in online scenarios, simulations, and assessments that augment their training.
- Flipped Classroom-Learners complete group projects, or assessments online, and then come in for periodic face-to-face instruction. This is often ideal for complex subject matters that can be explored more effectively through in-person demonstrations or discussions.
2. The Flex Model
This model primarily focuses on online instruction, and only small groups or specific learners have access to face-to-face instruction. The instructor can offer face-to-face support/structure for learners who may need support, or regularly schedule group sessions with learners who require additional assistance.
3. The A La Carte Model
This model involves only online instruction or may supplement instruction that learners receive in a classroom environment. The instructor may record videos or audio lectures, and offer online support to learners via forums, email, or instant messages. This reduces costs since the instructor does not need to be physically present.
4. The Enriched Virtual Learning Model
This model is centered on face-to-face instruction and supplemented by online tools and resources after the instructor-led sessions are completed. The instructor may offer online material to the learners such as links to informative videos or sites they might find useful. Learners can use these resources to learn more about the topic on their own.
So, if you want to offer the best to your learners, consider blending classroom and online learning. There is a model to meet the needs of any corporate setting.
What blended learning options are offered in your organization, and how have they been received by learners? Please share your stories below.
 Friesen, N. 2012 “Defining Blended Learning.”Learning Spaces, August. http://learningspaces.org/papers/Defining_Blended_Learning_NF.pdf
 Proof Points: Blended Learning Success in School Districts Spokane Public Schools, http://www.christenseninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Spokane-Public-Schools.pdf
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