Not all that long ago, employees received nearly all of their training in a classroom, listening to lectures delivered by an experienced manager or subject matter expert. While some companies still rely exclusively on this traditional model, most organizations have implemented blended learning. (Skillsoft, March 2010).
A blended learning environment includes multiple learning methods, such as an assignment before class, independent online learning, team projects, or job shadowing. The learning may be accomplished synchronously (same time) with or asynchronously (different time) from other learners; at the workplace or outside of it; with peers, with a mentor, or independently.
Blended learning often mixes formal instructional time with immediately applicable, on-the-job activities. Organizations may also choose to deliver training focused on actual workplace issues or scenarios, rather than prepared content (www.ispi.org, The Present and Future State of Blended Learning in Workplace, Kim/Bonk/Oh, 2008).
Because of its flexibility, blended learning thrives on employee initiative, and treats learning as an ongoing process, rather than a unique event. “Blended learning expands the traditional role of training beyond the usual scope of formal training by providing a robust set of tools that allow employees to obtain the information and instruction they independently and uniquely need, all within the daily flow of work.” (Skillsoft, August 2010)
Since 70% of workplace learning occurs through informal activities such as interaction with peers and trial and error, informal learning is an area in which blended learning may flourish (Skillsoft, August 2010). In addition, there are specific stages of the learning process where blended learning can be especially beneficial. This instructional approach can be used by learners to Prepare, Practice, and Polish.
Prepare: Students may complete an assignment before starting classroom training. This saves time in the classroom and assures that all learners begin the class with a similar foundation of knowledge. Students may prepare in a variety of ways, including reading a document ahead of time and answering questions about it. Instructional designers have also developed innovative methods for learners to “prepare,” such as a “treasure hunt” in which students seek glossary term definitions or locate information in a software program, helping them learn to navigate it.
Practice: The learners take the time to practice between class sessions or on the job. The learners may use a checklist, questions, or job aid as support. Regular practice helps assure the ongoing transfer of learning to the job.
Polish: The most effective program needs to support long-term learning, incorporated into an employee’s workday. This can be done through webinars or “brown bag” lunch meetings. It can also be accomplished via a social media forum, where employees can post questions and answer queries from other employees (with moderator support).
EnVision has leveraged blended learning to help clients meet a variety of needs. For example, EnVision recently developed a learning solution for a client’s performance management curriculum, including an online course that introduced the components of performance reviews and demonstrated the computer application steps; workshops that provided the learners an opportunity to practice delivering performance reviews; and job aids to support the employees when they prepared to conduct actual performance reviews.
Tell us about a creative blended learning solution you recently implemented at your company. How did different learning modalities augment the success of employee learning?