Blended learning is no longer a buzzword. It was for over decade, after the American Society for Training and Development identified it as one of the top 10 trends to emerge in the knowledge-delivery industry back in 2003.
Today, blended learning has become the prevalent approach used in corporate training worldwide. This trend is driven by the growing need to provide training to an ever-increasing number of employees while keeping to a limited budget.
The definition of blended learning has also evolved from a simple mix-and-match of classroom training and eLearning courses to more complex programs, but the goal is still the same: to motivate and empower the learner to acquire new knowledge, improve his or her performance at work, and ultimately boost business results.
Does blended learning really deliver on its promise to create effective training in a digital age? And should you use this approach in your corporate training strategy? In this article, we will help you answer these critical answers by examining the benefits of blended learning when applied in the right way.
But first, let’s explore what blended learning really is.
What Is Blended Learning
In its most fundamental form, the blended learning approach is about using technology as an enabler to improve the learning experience for both the learner and the instructor.
This approach is applied by mixing face-to-face instruction with eLearning tools in order to create engaging and effective learning experiences.
As an example, the trainer could send reading material to the employees over the company’s learning management system (if available), or over open source web applications like Google Drive. This allows the employees to learn the material at their own time and request support as needed. After that, face-to-face training becomes more effective since not only does it provide reinforcement of the online learning, but it also uses precious time to tackle more complex scenarios now that the employees have already learned the basic information online.
Benefits of Blended Learning
1. Flexible Learning Design
The mixing of offline and online instruction in blended learning allows the instructor to take full advantage of the best that both strategies can offer. This exercise of mix-and-match also offers the required flexibility to fine tune the course based on the learners’ needs.
The company should give careful thought into which technology it will make available. If the training facilitators and the employees do not know how to use the eLearning tools provided, then the company will not see the results it is hoping for.
Hence, it is important to choose the right mix of tools and techniques and not opt for the easier or cheaper option. True, the initial cost of setting up the technology might be high, but keep in mind that this short-term expense will be eventually covered up with the boosted business performance that the effective training will generate.
2. Reduced Training Costs
The benefit that makes many corporations seriously consider blended learning is the reduced training costs. Travel expenses, training space, instructor fees, and material costs are all significantly reduced when blended learning is applied without compromising the quality of the training itself. Actually, when implemented properly, this approach can make companies benefit from improved and efficient employee performance, which will be eventually reflected in the company’s bottom line.
One example is provided by Ernst & Young, one of the world’s biggest audit and professional service firms. By using eLearning, the company reduced its training costs by 35% while improving consistency and scalability.
British Airways also announced that shifting parts of its training online reduced its overall training costs by £1.1m over 3 years. In fact, a 2011 study by Towards Maturity shows that organizations reported cost savings of 26% on average through the use of eLearning.
3. Greater Knowledge Retention
Blended learning for corporate training can profoundly impact the company’s business results. With its combination of rich media formats, well-thought instructional designs, face-to-face interaction, and timely feedback, blended learning provides trainees with a very rich learning experience that can increase their knowledge retention, and thus refine their skills and improve their performance on the job.
4. Training that Doesn’t Affect Busy Schedules
Employees have busy schedules. They need to meet the ever-increasing expectation levels of upper management, reach high business targets, and still find time to improve their skills.
With blended learning—and eLearning in general—employees are in control of their learning. They can learn at their own pace and still do their work properly.
5. Personalized Training Experience
Having the training material readily available online allows employees to identify which skills they want to develop and pick the relevant eLearning training material. This can be followed by a face-to-face interaction with the training facilitator, who can provide personalized feedback.
So, instead of spending hours in a training session listening to issues raised by other colleagues that are not relevant to the other participants, the employee can go online and find the relevant information that will help improve his or her performance.
6. Easy and Practical Tracking of Employee Performance and Progress
Using blended learning for training provides corporations with multiple channels to easily and conveniently collect valuable data about their employees’ performance.
Online assessments is one popular way to gain insight on employees’ skill development. Other options include using the company’s learning management system, if available, which itself can generate automated reports.
Being able to collect and analyze these data can help organizations better evaluate their training programs, identify which methods are most effective, which activities generate highest employee engagement, and which parts of the training need to be modified to meet the learning objectives.