Technology in education can trace its roots as far back as radio, when students in remote areas without a dedicated school house used to tune in to receive lessons. Since then, records, video cassettes, DVDs and now, the cloud, have been used to deliver education and training. This long history of technology in the classroom has led to a number of adaptations in education, the most recent embodiment being the blended learning movement.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning definitions can vary as well as include terms like "hybrid learning" and the "flipped classroom", but essentially blended learning combines in-person teaching with online learning. In this approach, online learning does not replace face-to-face learning; instead it simply reduces the amount of time spent in a traditional classroom environment.
Taking a blended approach to learning combines the strengths of each approach. For example, in-person training typically requires everyone to be in one place, at one time, and to all learn at the same pace, whereas online training provides more flexibility for students to take courses at their own pace. Combining online training with the occasional in-person classe accounts for different schedules, while still encouraging interaction and holding students accountable for their online lessons. This combination of the small and the large setting increases the likelihood of student success, as learners thrive in different environments. Blended learning research at the University of Central Florida found the approach resulted in a 3% increase in students achieving an "excellent" evaluation rating over those taking only online or face-to-face classes.
Additionally, online learning can provide a wealth of data on student comprehension in real-time, such as quiz scores and time to complete lesson. Using blended learning best practices, instructors can use the data from online learning to see where students are getting held up at an individual level or as a class, then adjust in-person instruction to better meet student needs.
Blended learning solutions take the best of both worlds—face-to-face and online—addressing both the instructor’s and student’s needs at once.
Blended Learning in the Workplace
Increasingly we’re seeing companies embrace the online training trend and implement similar solutions in the workplace. Online training is ideal for large companies spread out over many cities, states or even countries. The courses can be accessed from anywhere, provide consistent material, and feed data back to supervisors and managers to evaluate. Implementing a blended learning solution in your office can help maximize your online training investment by providing real world experience and discussion.
Let’s explore “just-in-time” training—the idea that employees need access to specific information immediately in order to complete a task. Online training is great for meeting these needs, as employees can take courses on the topics they need right away. Bringing that knowledge back to a larger group setting for discussion, follow-up and feedback will increase value of the knowledge and the impact of the training. For example, a quick online course on handling an angry customer is great for an immediate need that can then be brought back to a group setting to role-play and receive real-time feedback with the whole customer service team.
Blended learning seeks to address the challenges of a large company with dispersed staff by combining the benefits of both face-to-face and online learning. When planning to apply blended learning in your workplace, here are some key points to consider:
- Online learning shouldn't replace face-to-face interaction, merely reduce the time required in the classroom.
- Face-to-face training is useful for role play, feedback and discussion on lessons.
- Online training offers timely delivery, flexibility in time and method of delivery, and allows administrators to gather data on employee participation and comprehension.
- Before implementing blended learning, consider your goals for your training initiative, budget and employee needs. These factors all will help you determine the right ratio of face-to-face and online learning for your business.