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A successful approach to blended learning


Blended learning is a cost-effective learning approach that enables more individuals within your organisation to learn. Virtual Ashridge's Maddie Brooks tells us more.

The term blended learning was only created in the late 90s, despite the concept being present since the commencement of instructional design. The growing accessibility of digital learning and the continued need for a human component to learning has led to the development of a blended learning approach within all learning environments including schools, universities and organisations. Blended learning is a phrase currently being used to describe the way digital learning is being amalgamated with traditional classroom approaches with the inclusion of independent learning.

As the blended learning approach has become more popular, there has been an impact on faculty members but this article will focus on the impact blended learning has on an organisation and its learners.

The blended learning approach enables organisations to leverage the best aspects of both face-to-face learning and digital learning. Programmes are made more effective through participants contributing to online pre-reading and then bringing discussion points and questions to the face-to-face sessions. This ensures that the participants are making the most out of the human capital engagement rather than just being taught by way of one-way communication. Additionally, as part of a face-to-face programme, having digital activities, quizzes and discussions subsequent to the programme enables the learning to continue past the classroom and aims to really engage learners. Thus there is an increase in the application of participants' learning to their role in their respective organisation.

Additionally, participants are able to take part in online evaluations and testing prior to and post attending their programme. This enables participants to evaluate themselves as well as the teachers being aware of individual needs and development areas.

"The key advantages of a blended learning approach for organisations are that their learners have increased accessibility and therefore are able to access learning materials anywhere, anytime."

Since the popularity of blended learning has increased there have been many gains, however, some challenges still remain. For example, a lack of IT knowledge and literacy can be a barrier to learners if technical support is not readily available. This has reduced over the past few years, but noticeably webinars remain a content format where learners in organisations can struggle to interact effectively.

The implementation of blended learning within an organisation can be complex as there are many parts that must be considered. For instance, technology and media, budget, processes within the business, content development and management of the approach for each programme cohort. There are of course large issues that will vary by organisation but the key challenges are the people, the culture and the technology. When implementing a blended learning approach, these aspects must all be considered alongside a high level of collaboration between trainers, learners and HR to meet the needs of the business and ensure a positive impact is obtained.

Critically, people within an organisation are the most important components and should be the focal point. It is essential to understand your people in order to think about the right activities, technology, and approach to blended learning to ensure the initial uptake and consequent application of learning to the workplace is high. When thinking about your audience and to make certain that the blended learning approach you adopt is custom to your organisation, be sure to evaluate their current skillset, future skillset requirements, their background, the industry and jobs, the lifestyles your people are likely to lead and lastly how technology savvy they are.

The key advantages of a blended learning approach for organisations are that their learners have increased accessibility and therefore are able to access learning materials anywhere, anytime. Additionally, the ability to collaborate with other learners within the organisation and the faculty members or trainers can increase the level and frequency of engagement and have a positive impact on the learning in the classroom, online and the application of the learning to reality. Another advantage for learners is the ability to receive feedback on assignments or testing immediately. This can help individuals really understand where their skills have already improved and give them confidence to implement them in the workplace environment sooner.

Blended learning also has advantages for the organisation in terms of the increase in cost effectiveness, access to learning and development for more individuals, increasing flexibility around busy work schedules and enabling a global organisation audience to learn concurrently.

When devising a blended learning approach for your organisation, an ideal situation would involve learners having the opportunity to select how their learning experience progresses. Though this can be difficult in large organisations and consequently a focus on the organisations culture and general preferences should be taken into account.

In conclusion, a well-devised and thought-out blended learning approach will focus on the arrangement of content, the relevant support materials needed, and activities via both asynchronous and synchronous learning. The variations of learning delivery ranges from a classroom to interactive webinars, and live discussions. It is critical for all parties to communicate both effectively and often, to guarantee the level of collaboration is optimised. The individual will take a greater responsibility for their own learning which can enhance the significance of the learning and the impact it has within their current and future job role.

Maddie Brooks is marketing manager at Virtual Ashridge

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