What is Blended Learning? The Guide to Everything You Need to Know

blended learning

You’ve likely heard of a lot of buzzing in the corporate world about Blended Learning and aren’t quite sure how or where to start with this concept. A vast majority of the research done with Blending Learning pertains to the K-12 educational space. In the past decade, lower education has led the trend, which is only recently catching on in the corporate space as more millennials enter the workforce. What we’ve done is reframed Blended Learning in a corporate context and basically given you a link-rich document with everything you need to know about Blended Learning.

The Blended Learning Definition and Debunking Some Common Misconceptions

Blended Learning is the method of effectively combining online teaching with traditional offline, face-to-face instruction in order to provide the learner with a deeper, more meaningful learning experience. This sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly complex. To harness the power of Blended Learning, we have to challenge all of our assumptions about the educational environment and re-architect it in a novel way for the modern learner.

Supporters of Blended Learning believe that Blended Learning helps learners go deeper into the material, and gives them a more meaningful and transformative learning experience. Blended Learning lends true transparency to the learning process by opening up communication between the learner and instructor. Rather than crudely sticking two different methodologies together, the entire system has to be picked apart and blended together homogeneously into something novel.

Those against Blended Learning think learning should be extreme: devoid of technological distractions or absent of face-to-face interactions. For them, technology is a distraction and isolates learners or conversely, face-to-face learning is boring and redundant. Common misconceptions about Blended Learning are based on a failed understanding of just how flexible and new it really is. One right media for eLearning doesn’t exist (more on that below). By offering a wide range of options on the online learning side and having full engagement on the offline learning side, where instructor and learner alike are interacting with the technology, Blended Learning becomes a powerful tool.

Why Blended Learning Has Everyone Talking: Top 3 Benefits of Blended Learning

In the past decade, teachers at higher and lower educational institutes have organically adopted Blended Learning as a meaningful learning tool in and out of the classroom, really modeling what is just now catching on at the enterprise level. Blended Learning’s success is owed to three main benefits:

  1. Accounting for Everyone

Blended Learning doesn’t leave any kind of learner out—whether you prefer the familiar traditional classroom or would rather do things online or both—everyone has a chance to benefit from this all-encompassing style. Not only that, but Blended Learning utilizes so many methodologies that the content can be customized to the learner and optimized for the subject matter.

  1. Learning Trends and Feedback

Blended Learning, by making use of online and offline technologies in tandem, is nimbler than traditional lesson planning. The latest learning trends and modalities can be quickly adopted into the curriculum. Instructors can make use of the built-in reporting features in most LMS software programs for deeper, data driven insights. Blended Learning creates a transparent, communicative process between student and teacher.

  1. Fun and Engagement

Blended Learning is an interactive experience in every sense of the word, which makes it fun. Learners engage with the offline lessons by practicing online through a variety of different content media, each geared to suit a certain learning style. Learners can choose which type of content they wish to interact with, practice what they learn and communicate with instructors and other learners anytime and on any device. The community experience keeps learners engaged and informs teachers as to their progress and areas needing more attention.

Not All Blended Learning Is the Same: 6 Trendy Blended Learning Models

What’s in the Blended Learning toolbox? The answer is, everything. Below are some of the most commonly using Blended Learning Models.

  1. Face-to-Face

Traditional instructor-led learning sessions, supplemented with technology. Benefits are role-play, mentoring, hands-on practice, feedback. Online instruction is used as a supplement for struggling learners or advanced learners who want to move ahead of the group.

  1. Rotation

This can be done in the training or out. It’s like circuit training at a gym, where students can go from activity to activity, either in a more structured training session directed by a trainer, or online in a self-directed manner. Examples include learning stations, labs, and the flipped classroom where learners practice the lesson before attending the face-to-face training.

  1. Flex

Flex learning is a term which can be used interchangeably with personalized learning. It happens online, but while in a training session, with the learners creating their own learning paths among different modules, usually through a Learning Management System (LMS.) The student is the leader, choosing what they wish to learn. The instructor is usually present to answer questions.

  1. Online Lab

This modality is done entirely online with little or no instructor interaction and takes place either before, during or after a training. Learners can access content on mobile phones (mLearning), laptops or tablets. This modality engages and solidifies learning.

  1. Self-Blend

Self-Blend is supplemental content, either in the form of webinars, white papers, industry blogs, or video tutorials, that help self-motivated learners go deeper than employee training. A robust LMS can combine diverse content sources under one system to encourage curiosity and growth.

  1. Online Driver

This modality is done entirely online and self-directed. Learners can engage with an instructor through chat, email or message board. It provides a flexible schedule and personalized learning, but lacks the face-to-face interaction of other types of blended learning.

Now the Tricky Part: Implementation and Creating Your Blended Classroom

  1. Think about what your goals are—what do you want employees to learn? If it’s how to interact with difficult customers, consider an Online Lab where employees take self-assessments to determine their individual communication styles. Then follow that up with role-play in small group Rotations, where they practice resolving an issue or delivering a pitch with other employees who have different styles.
  2. How much time do you have? This determines whether your blended learning is mostly online or offline.
  3. What kind of learners are you working with? Are they self-motivated? Try the Self-Blend technique and register them in webinars or sign them up for training Apps.
  4. What’s your budget? Learning Management Systems, while costing money upfront, can save money and time in the long run. If you want to plan for the long term, consider one of the many options available to help you design a program that works for your company.

Want even more information? Even more resources below.