One of the goals of an organizational learning program is to empower employees to improve their job performance, which in turn will drive results that support business objectives. Today, there is a need to train more employees more often due to rapidly changing systems and policies. All this must occur with training budgets that are constrained. One solution is blended learning.
In 2015, a Training Magazine learning survey reported that 31.9 percent of all training was delivered in a blended format. This was based on defining blended learning differently than it has been in the past. The definition has changed in recent years from a blend of classroom training and eLearning to more complex learning solutions that include synchronous and asynchronous modalities.
What are some of the new modalities? They include eLearning as well as coaching, mentoring, job aids, simulations, web-based courseware, online references, games, Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS), and other forms of e-based information sharing. This approach also supports informal on-the-job training where 70 to 90 percent of workplace learning occurs.
There are some blended learning best practices that aid organizations in implementing programs to boost employee performance and inject some excitement about learning technology. Examples include:
- Focus on the objective first and learning technology tools second. The technology should fit into the training plan and provide interactive scenarios, simulations, gaming, and exercises that enhance the experience. Never use technology merely for the sake of demonstrating modern advancements in learning technology.
- Set goals and expectations in advance. Learners must know why the technology is there and how they can benefit from it.
- Develop effective online assessments that help learners test their understanding.
- Research employee needs and preferences. Use surveys and interviews to find out what they need to get out of a training experience.
The challenge of blended learning is to strike a balance between the instructional advantages to the learner and the learning objective. Advantages of blended learning include allowing learners to pick and choose how they want to learn plus offering greater flexibility and convenience on when they want to learn. For the organization the benefits include:
- Reduction in training costs in the form of less facilitator fees, less classroom expenses, and no travel and accommodation expenses
- Enhanced employee engagement as employees gain control over their training with the ability to use mobile devices or laptops when and where it is convenient
- Enhanced corporate training effectiveness with the addition of new elements in the learning process
- More effective and efficient training feedback by allowing collection of valuable data through online quizzes, tests, and monitoring of activity
- Learning can occur over a longer period of time
When compared to their lower-performing counterparts, high-performing organizations (HiPOs) do a much better job of delivering blended experiences for their employees. HiPOs repeatedly demonstrate annual increases in key performance indicators such as revenue, customer satisfaction, and market penetration.
Here are some things that HiPOs do to create positive learning environments in their blended programs:
- HiPOs are 43 percent more likely to initiate coaching and mentoring programs.
- Subject matter experts are easy to find within the organization.
- Special projects are available to learners on specific development paths.
- No-consequence scenarios and simulations are created to allow employees to learn a process or skill.
- Content is easily shared between learners.
There have been several studies and reports over the last 15 years that concluded a blend of learning methods is better than any single learning delivery modality on its own, regardless of content. One study, the Thomson NETg Job Impact Study showed that blending of any type increases mastery of skills:
“Regardless of the specific instructional components used, a well-defined learning solution designed around scenario-based exercises heightens overall on-the-job performance (speed and accuracy) over non-blended learning.”
Though important to carry out a blended learning program, technology infrastructure alone cannot make blended learning effective. However, having a Learning Management System (LMS) available to track the completion of each component of the learning solution is very important. With Experience API (xAPI), the successor to SCORM, every aspect of the blended learning solution can be tracked in the Learning Record Store (LRS). The LRS does not replace the LMS since the LMS manages other things like users, enrollments, class sessions, facilitator assignments, documents, and discussion groups in addition to running reports. The LRS is usually embedded in the LMS or alongside it.
In conclusion, it is important to understand that an effective organizational training program rarely involves an all-or-nothing approach. In order to meet learning objectives, certain training is better suited for a classroom setting. To meet other learning objectives, some subjects are best delivered through an online environment. Blended learning merges both classroom and online plus many other modalities. To be successful, it is important to design a program that considers the full spectrum of learning modalities.
How is your organization using blended learning to improve workplace performance? Please share below.
 Training Magazine, https://trainingmag.com/trgmag-article/2015-training-industry-report.
 Training Magazine, https://trainingmag.com/learning-strategy-2016-more-intense-focus-blended-learning-and-driving-performance
 Thomson NETg Job Impact Study, 2003, http://mdavidmerrill.com/Papers/ThompsonJobImpact.pdf
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).