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Training trends in blended learning


More than half of organisations use blended learning, according to recent research. Tim Drewitt of Balance Learning looks at the implications of the findings and draws out some key trends for 2004.

Our survey Blended Learning: The Here And Now showed that 55% of organisations use blended learning.

Furthermore, 15% plan to spend 25-49% of their budgets on blended learning in 2004 (up from 12% in 2003).

Blended learning involves a combination of learning methods chosen to suit the learning outcomes, appeal to a variety of learning styles and reflect the audience profile and characteristics.

The design should be a true ‘blend’ rather than a ‘mixture’ and it should provide tools for assessment and results measurement.

Nearly 80% of respondents to our survey said they combined existing resources to create blended programmes.

The need to get more out of existing resources, developed for other purposes, was cited by 59% of those already running blended learning programmes and 50% of those yet to start.

The trend, however, is to have resources and programmes developed by third party providers; 73% of respondents said they intended to use external development for all or part of their programmes, while 31% said they would continue to combine existing resources or develop materials in-house.

The results indicate that the full potential of blended learning is not yet being realised. As we learn more about how it can be used, so it will become established as a proven method of training delivery, not just as a passing fad.

When asked what skills they needed to acquire to make blended learning programmes a success, trainers said they needed to better understand how to blend the components (76%), the influence of learning styles (75%) and how to better diagnose individual learning needs (74%).

Current trends
The current trend is to use blended learning to deliver business-specific training (73%), management skills (58%) and IT/Technical skills (54%).

Target audiences are primarily drawn from the management ranks: middle management (67%), junior management (64%) and team leaders/supervisors (62%).

This reflects the more modular nature of blended learning programmes and their appropriateness for long-term development, rather than short, sharp events for more junior audiences.

The survey showed that in 2004, 16% of organisations (up from 14% in 2003) planned to deliver more than three-quarters to their total training provision using blended learning.

The majority - 80% - of users said the main reason for moving towards blended learning methods is because it suited the needs of people with different learning styles.

In the survey 71% said they used blended learning to deliver more tailored learning programmes and a further 62% were trying to improve the impact of learning through better transfer of learning rates.

The failure of traditional methods was only cited as a reason by 19% and the lack of classroom training time was a factor for 57% of those organisations using blended learning.

The survey showed that for 68% of organisations using blended learning, the cost of development was the most significant challenge. Those about to develop their first blended solution also found cost an obstacle that they would have to overcome (70%).

But once developed, the ongoing costs of running the programme fall away. Just 15% of those using blended learning said they were challenged by ongoing costs.

One interesting finding from the survey is that only 27% of those using blended learning solutions undertake any form of financial evaluation of the training. But reassuringly, 38% will be looking to analyse this in the future.

Of those that plan to spend 50-75% of their budgets on blended learning solutions, half proposed to evaluate the financial impact of their programmes. Of those that planned to use external support to develop their programmes, 38% said they would include financial evaluation in the project.

Trends for 2004
It appears that, over the coming year, blended learning will continue to grow.

There will be a move away from using existing resources as part of blended learning programmes to creating purpose-developed resources.

Greater use will be made of online synchronous events and asynchronous discussion forums.

There will be a greater tendency to seek out and use externally sourced, generic e-learning within blended learning programmes.

Management skills, customer service and personal effectiveness training will be the most popular subject areas for blended learning programmes.

* A report on the findings of Blended Learning: The Here And Now is available from Balance Learning, e-mail mailto:[email protected]


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