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Jan 13, 2014 Jennifer Hofmann

Blended Learning: Not a Passing Fad

I am a product of Public Television. As a child, my hours of daytime television were limited to the line-Why Blended Learning?up on local Channel 13. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood taught me how to interact with others and “play nice.” Sesame Street introduced counting, the alphabet, and how to identify commonality among objects. (“One of these things is not like the other…”) The Electric Company opened up the world of multiplication tables and grammar. Whenever I think of the silent letter E, I recall that words are indeed more powerful than a locomotive.

On Saturday mornings I was fixated not on the cartoons depicting super-heroes and talking animals but on the enchanting series Schoolhouse Rock! Those wonderful five-minute videos explained the U.S. Constitution, the line-up of the planets in the solar system, and the difference between verbs and adjectives.

As a result, I could read just about anything by the age of five. What was missing was reading comprehension. The meaning of the words eluded me. To master that advanced skill, I needed to be exposed to those more expert than I: parents, teachers, and older children. Aha! My first (successful) blended learning experience.

Is it any wonder that I embrace the concept of alternative learning technologies and edtech? I instinctively knew the value before I was even a teenager. As an adult, however, the results have been far less satisfying.

Those of us who have been in the training profession for any length of time know there are always trends and fads. We’ve been introduced to learning organizations, life-long learning, matrixed teams, learning communities, and a myriad of other concepts. Although these practices all have true merit, it takes quite a bit of effort to implement the requisite changes. Worse still, such ideas are often just introduced at the conceptual level and forgotten about after the next reorganization or management change.

So why is blended learning a true shift in our profession instead of a passing fad? In part, it makes significant economic sense that even the bean counters can see immediately. Blended learning also makes sense due to the emergence of geographically dispersed work environments in which staffing levels are constantly being changed. For instance, while one part of an organization is being downsized, requiring fewer people to accomplish more work, another part of the organization is growing and hiring.

Gone are the days when we could start all new employees at the same time and conduct two-day orientation programs. Flying instructors and participants around to attend training classes is not economical and is often disruptive to business and personal relationships. Unlike old training models and expectations, we need our training now! Not a month ago, when we didn’t have the need for it; not in two weeks, after we have been struggling and making up ways of getting our work done. Now! In today’s highly competitive and constantly changing business environment, there is a true need for just-in-time training.

Traditional classroom approaches are not very flexible, and they are expensive. We often wait until we can fill a class before we teach it and hope that the need for the classroom coincides with one being available. The blended learning experience, incorporating synchronous (or live and online) classrooms, makes it cost-effective to train small groups or even provide one-on-one coaching. And these blended classes can be offered more frequently without incurring a lot of extra costs, so a participant who cannot attend a training session on Tuesday or is called away because of an emergency, can simply enroll in the next offering.

Since blended learning can have a positive effect on the bottom line and can theoretically increase the skills and knowledge of the entire organization, management tends to support, and more importantly, persist in supporting this shift to nontraditional delivery methods.

We developed our new course, Blended Learning Design Certificate, to answer these questions and more. As more organizations look for instructional design techniques to create blended programs that meet or exceed results achieved in more traditional settings, it’s even more important to answer these questions so your blended learning programs can be successful and not just a “flash in the pan.”

Interested in learning more about blended learning and earning your Blended Learning Design Badge? Check out our Blended Learning Design team workshop by clicking on the graphic below.

Blended Learning instructional design workshop badge


Published by Jennifer Hofmann January 13, 2014
Jennifer Hofmann