For all of the buzzwords that surround the eLearning and training industries, there are some terms which are useful, here to stay and have much more purpose than simply providing bloggers and vendors with some new fodder. While not a new concept, blended learning has become super important and significant over the last few years, gaining real acceptance within the learning field and being put into practice left, right and center by leading organizations all over the world.
What is blended learning?
Where an organization may have historically favored face-to-face or eLearning to train staff, blended learning is a new, broader approach. Blended learning is a combination of both online learning and face-to-face training, so that combined, they give the best bits of both the offline and online learning.
Blended learning aligns flexibility, variety and independence while increasing engagement, motivating staff to learn and making learning a lot more interesting.
While eLearning and face-to-face training can imply one-off events, a blended learning approach usually means more of an ongoing learning environment. This is often known as a culture of continuous learning.
Why blended learning today?
Advances in mobile technologies today allow us to work far more flexibly than we have been able to in the past.
Mobile learning, mobile working and using the cloud to support work while on the move are all very real and common possibilities today, something the workplace is still fully adjusting to. This gives us loads more options for blended learning and learning in general, as we have far more opportunities to reach students and learners than ever before.
Increased connectivity means we can stream videos, play games and share our informal learning experiences via internal and external social channels at the drop of a hat.
In the past, eLearning has been confined to the speeds of dial-up Internet and clunky desktop computers, so it’s no wonder that the idea of blended learning is only becoming a reality during recent times.
Informal learning (and learning in your own time) is pushed forward by the rise of mobile devices in the workplace.
Whether a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is in place or not, it’s fair to say that offices today are filled with smartphones and tablets, offering plenty of learning opportunities in their own right.
Advances in multi-device authoring tools and tracking standards, namely xAPI, mean that all aspects of the learning experience can be tracked in great detail. The former not only allows multi-device content to be built cheaply, but xAPI tracking tells you exactly what devices are being used for learning, what informal learning activities are taking place and so much more.
This allows you to paint a picture of how your people like to learn, informing future blended learning interventions.
Making blended learning a reality – today!
Blended learning, with its relative position to strategy, learning infrastructure, eLearning content creation and more, is often seen as something that is not only expensive, but needs the input of an eLearning vendor.
While blended learning at scale does often involve stakeholders and alignment with overall company or L&D vision, there’s no reason why you can’t begin to create your own blended learning aspects to support face-to-face or eLearning interventions.
HTML5 authoring tools today allow content to work across all devices, allowing users to pick your courses up when it suits them on their mobile, tablet or desktop. This begins to support the idea of blended learning, but there’s no reason why you can’t continue to encourage informal learning and performance support via the multi-device output of an authoring tool without explicitly making a full eLearning course.
Making small, digital resources to sit alongside an eLearning course or face-to-face training session could be the first, simple steps you can take towards adding blended elements to your learning.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t going to be a full blend, but taking aspects out of a course and making them small tasks and resources in their own right could transform how learners in your organization approach courses, taking in videos, PDFs, quizzes and more in bite-size chunks as and when it suits.
To blend or not to blend
Because we’re looking at things at such a granular level, there’s no need to carry out the lengthy analysis that is typically required when creating blended learning, although there are still a number of factors to consider. Things like…
- The nature of the training requirement
- The needs and requirement of the target audience being trained
- The technology available and delivery (platform, authoring tool)
It’s nice to have blended on the brain, but for certain topics and needs of your audience, it’s just not going to be something that you need to do. HTML5 authoring tools today allow you to create content to service all devices at once, or even to deliver to individual devices, allowing you to follow up an e-learning course with a mobile-ready one page resource or quiz.
Blended learning is really big picture stuff
But with the millions of devices in the workplace being used for informal and formal learning more and more, it’s time you began to think of your authoring tool as something that creates more than just standard eLearning.
Think of your authoring tool as a vehicle to create multi-device (or mobile) resources, helpbooks, refreshers, quizzes and much, much more. It’s a great way of varying your output while drip-feeding the learning support available to your workforce.
Want to know more? Check out this great ebook from our colleagues at LEO Learning.
If you’d like to include our award-winning authoring tool in your next blend, get in touch.