Here’s why blended learning is the way forward for L&D

When eLearning first became a thing a number of years ago, it was meant to spell the end for classroom learning. As it turns out, it was a wildly inaccurate prediction. Classroom training is still going strong today. There are some things that you just cannot teach online, particularly with very complicated subjects or where practical hands-on skills are required. An experienced training facilitator in the room with learners makes an enormous difference to the outcome.

ELearning has evolved into a highly effective means of providing learning to people though, often at scale, at a lower cost than if those people were trained in the classroom. This is particularly the case where people are spread across the country or across many countries. The issue with eLearning though is that in a lot of cases it has become the de facto method of learning because of the lower cost, where courses are hastily thrown together and uploaded to the LMS without a thought for the learner. ELearning when done well is transformational, however, when it’s simply an online version of the raw offline content, it becomes as enjoyable to sit through as a trip to a clumsy dentist.

Vast lumbering corporate LMSs have become learning graveyards, piled high with awful content that people can’t find and only access when they are told to go to specific courses to fulfil another box ticking exercise. This has in turn given rise to learning experience platforms (LXPs) which aim to create learning paths from content wherever it sits. Nice idea but we’re still not solving the issue of bad learning content.

Just because learning is now drawn from multiple sources and presented in one interface, it doesn’t mean it’s good learning. We predict that LXPs will become slightly easier to use versions of the corporate LMS, packed with poor quality, cheap learning content that neither inspires nor helps people to learn. Make it stop!

Hang on, wasn’t this article about blended learning?

Ok we may have got carried away there, but the burning passion we have for good learning experiences is the driver behind our outrage. We find it really sad that learners are subjected to bad learning content when it doesn’t have to be like this. Here’s where we see blended learning coming in to play.

There’s a great article you should read, after you’ve finished this one of course, called The Evolution of Blended Learning. The research was put together by the Brandon Hall Group and published in Training Magazine. The basis of the article is that blended learning is more effective for knowledge retention. We wholeheartedly agree because we’ve seen this in action in our work with clients. Blended learning spreads the learning experience over a longer period of time, offers more learning interventions and more time for learners to reflect on what they have learned. In short, blended learning makes sense.

Achieving the perfect blend

This isn’t about coffee, although for the record we are big fans at Lawford Knight. This is about thinking in advance about the different elements that will make up your blended learning experience. For example, if you’ve got a classroom course for sales skills, one option would be to look at the content that could be delivered online before the face to face training. There are always theories, background information or other similar elements contained within face to face courses. Some of these can be nicely packaged into a virtual classroom introductory module that could be delivered a week before the classroom session. This allows people to meet each other, meet the trainer and get some initial knowledge about what they’ll learn on the day.

They can also do some self-reflection before the day which is always of great value. This frees up the classroom time for more practical ‘workshop’ activities where people are putting skills to use in a more experiential way. To follow up, another online session or a call can be arranged where the learners reconvene to talk about their experiences of implementing their new knowledge. This serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it refreshes the memory, secondly it motivates people to actually use the techniques and thirdly it allows the trainer to spot people who might need one to one coaching. Overall, it’s a much more robust approach than simply running a classroom session and then sending people out into the world without another thought. It also makes it much more likely to realise a return on investment for the learning. So much money is wasted on one-off learning interventions with no follow up.

How to start

It can be difficult to get buy-in for taking a different approach but it’s worth making the effort. To start the process, have a look at your current portfolio of training courses and identify one that could benefit from a blended approach. Ideally this would be one where you can benchmark behaviour now in order to track it later down the line after you’ve made the changes. If you want to be adventurous, you could run a control group at the same time. Put one group through the training as it is now and another group through the blended approach.

Once you have a course in mind, work with your internal team or an external supplier. We’d be delighted to help with this! Pinpoint some of the course material that you might label ‘introductory’ or background information. This can now be delivered either by eLearning or virtual classroom before the classroom session takes place. Make it a pre-requisite for the overall course, so that people have to do it before attending the face to face element. The face to face classroom session can now focus on the hands-on content, which will make it more valuable and the most effective use of the learners’ time. A follow up session or a series of them can be used to impart more knowledge if needed, but certainly to check progress and identify people who need extra help.

You may get some push back from management or the learners themselves about the extra time spent on initial and follow up sessions, however, the learners will benefit greatly from a blended approach as will the organisation when the learning objectives are more wholly achieved. We believe that every course in your portfolio can benefit from some type of blended approach. Take the first step today, you’ll be glad you did.

About Lawford Knight

Lawford Knight is a training company with expertise in eLearning, classroom and blended learning. We understand how to design, develop and deliver training programmes that achieve real behavioural change. If you’re ready to work with a company that really understands how training works, please get in contact to discuss your next training requirement.

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