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Blended Learning and the L&D Professional

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Blended learning has emerged as a response to many imperatives. Here are a few examples where blended learning on a fairly modest scale has helped companies deliver on their learning objectives:

  • A company needs to deliver its new company mission to all 7,500 staff based at 10 sites over Europe within the next week so they hold a web conference to avoid employing a fleet of free lance trainers and paying their on-costs
  • Managers have less time to spend in the 'classroom' but still need to cover the same management development programme. To cut down the face-to-face element of the programme, pre course preparation, mid course review and post course follow up is delivered by an online training tool to which individuals add their comments by identifying their learning to date.
  • You have a sales force on the road for the majority of its time but the sales reps need to be trained as new products continually come on stream. Delivering a 30 minute webinar is a more efficient use of time and promotes increased sales, than recalling them each week to head office for product updates
  • Your organisation believes in self fulfillment and promoting individual development opportunities but cannot afford for people to be off work taking courses unconnected with the business. You pay for the tools but ask the person to study in their own time by a distance learning method using tailor made self-study material.

The drivers of blended learning

The above examples, cite organisational imperatives which dictate the learning method chosen. But are the needs of the employer the deciding factors when a choice needs to be made between traditional and blended methods of providing learning interventions? In other words, who drives the choice of the blend? Is it the employer, the trainer, the learner, the Board...

For the L& D professional, it can be challenging to steer your way between what can be, at times, conflicting needs. How the blend is put together so that it forms a structured and coherent path to learning is not always in your hands as the other influences hold sway.

Learning objectives

At least this is within your jurisdiction! Defining and writing learning objectives is part and parcel of the learning and development professional's bread and butter, or should be, and this process will remain the same whether you follow it up with 'traditional' or other methods of training intervention.

The objectives will come out of training needs assessments, business imperatives, managers' requests and so on, just as usual. It is what you do next that makes the difference.

This is where you can begin to be more creative now you have the opportunities of blended learning at your fingertips!

For example, you need to inform employees of some new legislation which will affect their work, and make sure they take the implications on board. With only traditional classroom methods on offer this was a challenge as delivering on legal or policy issues where the material is dry, technical but nevertheless important does not present the most motivating, participative opportunities for a training group (do you remember trying to make health and safety and pre-retirement courses exciting?). Now, with blended learning, a myriad of possibilities open up through which you can meet this need in a more appealing and appropriate way.

Top tip

Start small; do not think in terms of changing your whole training culture. One well run and well evaluated blended learning programme will sell others!

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