We are starting to see the digital revolution changing nearly every aspect of business, from who companies compete with (hello Amazon, what are you doing in my industry?), to how they run their business, to how they find and recruit employees. With the rise of the LMS, e-learning, and web conferencing tools, the same is true for how employees learn within the organization. The days of having 20 employees sit in a classroom, listening to a live instructor and going home with an impressive binder of handouts, is over. Or is it?

Should we cancel the workshops with the strengths finders people, upgrade to the Zoom enterprise account, and turn our training facilities to employee lounges? Not so fast–let’s not forget that the majority of employees still work in offices, in physical proximity to each other, and this clearly has benefits. So we should acknowledge that many things are probably done better in-person, and that should extend to learning contexts as well. It is this, in part, which might help explain the growing popularity of blended learning.

blended paint

Blended learning, in the corporate environment, is often described as having a learning program with a self-paced online component along with a live component, that can be an in-person training session, or in some cases, a live webinar. These different modalities are “blended” together to take advantage of the benefits of each channel: online for information dissemination, and in-person/live for the social engagement and interaction with instructors and peers.

While many are familiar with this concept, those designing or conceiving these programs are faced with more detailed questions: what activities should be conducted in each modality? How much of the program can be blended? Which types of programs should I focus on blending? It is hard to find much guidance here. Let’s focus on the answer to one such question: which elements of my learning program should I keep live or in-person?

To answer this question, we have to articulate what it is about in-person interaction that is valuable in a learning environment. I would propose the following three areas:

  • Social Interaction: participants are engaging with each other as they are learning, seeing how others are grappling with the concepts, and hearing examples of how those concepts might be applied.
  • A Focus on Application: participants are applying the concepts, either in dialog with the instructor, in small groups, or through worksheets and examples.
  • Expert Feedback: participants are getting feedback on their questions, on their efforts at applying the concepts, and are also being exposed to feedback from their peers.

If you agree with these three areas, then you have to ask yourself, “How can we utilize this to determine what learning activities we want to keep in person?” Here are a few quick steps:

STEP #1: Assess how much your training program requires aspects of these three dimensions. You can look at the dimensions below, and judge what you need in your learning program along these three dimensions. Where you lie on these dimensions are illustrated below with blue dots:

dimensions

STEP #2: Find out what your current learning technologies can provide. This is the crucial step, because STEP #1 will not provide an absolute answer; you have to know what the gaps are between what you need and what can be provided online. So in this step, you draw additional dots representing what can be provided by learning technologies you could utilize. You might add these as additional dots of another color on the scale:

blended learning

STEP #3: Now you can look at the deltas between the colored dots and see where your gaps are. It is these gaps that you then design your in-person elements around.

Of course there is more to this. For example, you need to know how to select different blended elements and how to sequence them. But this is a good start.

 

If you want to learn more about how to design a blended learning program, sign up for my free webinar. You will see some great examples of how others have used the NovoEd platform to help design effective blended learning programs.