Blended Learning as a Gateway to eLearning and Training Efficiency

By October 31, 2013eLearning Solutions

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Here’s a problem faced by many who run or provide a training function: eLearning is not a question: it is a given.  There are hundreds of hours (in a year, month, in some cases in a week) spent on training new hires.  Even more time is spent on refresher training for remedial or regular maintenance of skills, new product training, promotion training, soft skills training, and project management.

Alternatively, you are a growing company that provides customer or partner training. As the company grows, you need to expand your training to meet the needs of those partners and customers.

The list goes on. Given all these training needs, all the people who require training, and the need to update or refresh content, eLearning is an effective way to deliver training.  The question is how?

There are so many options that you can be paralyzed by choice.

So, there is a need. There is training (albeit in a different form). You want to get yourself to eLearning but:
1: You don’t want to go too far too soon
2: You want to avoid any “blind alleys”, which will cost time, effort and money (read: cash flow, budget and money)
3: You want to get up and running (and functional) as soon as possible

Add to this a common issue that many trainers believe some amount of their content (the specific amount differs, but the idea does not) is just better delivered in person. This may be how they respond to specific interpersonal situations, or their ability to critically appraise a situation and decide what needs to be done next.

Why Start with Blended?

You can begin at blended learning. This is not a popular option. For some reason, blended learning is considered an “advancement” from eLearning – something you progress onto. Once you’ve made the mistakes and learned your own lessons.

This need not be the case. You can re-engineer existing content for online delivery, and do it so that it complements the existing training. If the instructor-led session has been developed in a methodical way, this may not be difficult to do: simply take one section and redevelop it.

How to Start with Blended Learning?

Step back. You need to consider what it is your training is providing: what are the outcomes? What must your learners be able to do afterwards? You will probably know this already, having developed instructor-led sessions. Using the experience of those instructor-led sessions (and with the assistance of the instructors), you need to ask yourself: Where are the problems?

Nearly every trainer I know will tell you there are aspects of their programs that are difficult – both for the instructor and those attending the training. This is often dry, factual information (e.g. technical specifications, the purpose of more in-depth systems, any complicated series of steps taken that may require practice to master). This is your crack in the door: what you want to take out of the instructor-led sessions and develop as eLearning, so learners can take (and practice, if necessary) this content away from the classroom.  Contemporary instructional design approaches have developed some really interesting and engaging ways of developing and assessing such information, making eLearning and instructor led content excellent complements to each other.

A benefit of this approach is that the instructor-led sessions can also improve. Instructors can concentrate more on the application of knowledge, including difficult cases, or more complicated tasks where different knowledge is used.  The eLearning can provide the “know-what”, while the instructor-led content can focus on the application of knowledge.

Use a system that can track both offline and online training interventions. A learning management system that incorporates Tin Can (Experience) API can help you with this. A system that uses this specification can be set up to take reports from instructor-led and online learning events equally. You can develop a “report card” for each employee and track their learning interventions.

How to Proceed with Blended Learning?

Get as much feedback as possible – let your instructors, instructional designers and (most importantly) learners to tell you what is working for them. Don’t forget any line managers or others who may judge the learners performance. Then, you can tweak your content and/or approach as required to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

This approach will give you control over your development, and even help to get instructors onside (this is the subject for another day, but trainers can often be barriers to developing effective eLearning, as they may feel their jobs are being “replaced”. Using a development process such as this demonstrates that their input is required). In time, eLearning can take on some of the skills development content, allowing instructors to concentrate on more and more complex skills development.

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