12 min read

Blended Learning vs. Hybrid Learning. It's Complicated. (Transcript)

Blended Learning vs. Hybrid Learning. It's Complicated. (Transcript)

Transcript: A Conversation with Jennifer Hofmann and Karen Vieth

Tune into the InSync Podcast where Karen Vieth, the Vice President of Virtual Learning Solutions, and Jennifer Hofmann, the Founder and President of InSync Training, delve into the blended and hybrid learning.

Topics covered include the rise and uniqueness of hybrid learning, how hybrid and blended learning connect, and how to cultivate curiosity and continuous learning in these complicated learning environments.

Below is the transcript of the conversation.


Important Links

Listen to the podcast Blended Learning vs Hybrid Learning. It’s complicated. by clicking below.

Learn more about the four-hour workshop mentioned in this podcast here:  Hybrid Training: Merging People and Content to Optimize Learner Engagement in Blended Learning

Conversation Transcript

Karen Vieth: Hello, everyone. I'm Karen Vieth, Vice President of Virtual Learning Services here at InSync Training. Welcome to Modern Learning on the Air. Today, I'm here talking with Jennifer Hofmann, Founder and President of InSync Training, about a very complicated topic: blended learning versus hybrid learning. Welcome, Jennifer. Tell us a little bit about why hybrid learning is such a hot topic right now.

Jennifer Hofmann: Hi, Karen. Hi, everyone. Well, hybrid learning is a hot topic right now, but I think it's going to stay a foundational topic for us in learning and development moving forward. The pandemic introduced a lot of our population to remote working, and a lot of the population is going to remain remote or at least a hybrid workforce. And that means they're going to be learning from different places on different devices and on different days.

Jennifer Hofmann: We need to create an experience that works for the learners where they are and with the device they're using. So hybrid learning is about where people are learning, and it's about how they're learning, meaning what type of device they're on. And I don't think that this is going to go away. I listen to the news. Hybrid and remote work is staying, so therefore we need to develop hybrid and remote learning to support that workforce. Really, hybrid is its own environment. We can't treat it like it's face-to-face or virtual learning or e-learning. It's not any of those. Hybrid learning combines the best of all types of learning together to create an environment in and of itself.

Jennifer Hofmann: And Karen, I know that you've recently run into people that kind of push back on that a little bit. Yeah, that's funny because, you know, you mentioned hybrid being its own environment, and just a few weeks ago, I was training a group, and hybrid learning came up in our discussion. So when we discussed it, I just threw it back to them like I always do, right?

Karen Vieth: So I asked them to define what hybrid learning really was, and when it got down to it, it became clear, just as you mentioned, that most individuals really see hybrid learning as two separate environments just brought together. So bringing face-to-face together with virtual, almost sort of like out of pity, right? And versus treating them as that very specific unique environment that you mentioned.

Karen Vieth: And in fact, it was so interesting in our discussion, one individual asked the question, why would I want my face-to-face learners to have their laptops open and not focus on me, the person facilitating, or the other in-person learners? And I really had to pause because then I asked, Well, what happens to those virtual learners if you're focused on the in-person learners, right?

Karen Vieth: And she responded, Well, those learners can simply, you know, just watch what's happening in the in-person room, almost like, you know, like it's peering through a window or over the shoulder of other individuals. And so ultimately, what I said happens is that virtual learner feels less than, right? Less than the in-person learners. And if we're truly talking about leaving no learner behind in this hybrid environment, we have to set people up for success.

Karen Vieth: All learners up for success. Not one group over the other. And therefore, you know, design and the delivery and the support of hybrid learning as a unique environment is unique as well. We have to really focus on what are we doing with people and the content through the technology. So Jennifer, I know that, you know, you've been a blended learning guru for some time, and we're sort of in this new hybrid learning environment, but truthfully, it's not new.

Karen Vieth: It's kind of like the new blended, right? So how would you describe the hybrid as the new blended concept that we've coined period and think, and how those two kind of intersect? Well, hybrid learning, like I said earlier, is about where people are learning and how they're learning, meaning what device they're learning on, whether it's a laptop, face-to-face.

Jennifer Hofmann: I would consider that part of the where, it's the how and the where. However, you describe that blended learning is about the content, how the content is delivered. So that's e-learning or video or live online or face-to-face. We design content for a particular delivery environment, but we also need to refine that design to the where people are and what device they're using now.

Jennifer Hofmann: Used to be. I would say we never want people learning in the virtual classroom with a cell phone, for example, because they can't have the same experience as the people at a desktop computer. And that's still true. They can have the same experience, but we need to design for them to get the right outcomes. So really the intersection of hybrid learning and blended learning is a sweet spot where content delivery, learner location, and learner device all come together, and it really has a lot to do with how we set up the design, right, so that we're designing activities for individuals in all of those places.

Karen Vieth: Right? And then it also comes down to how facilitators engage people in this new environment, right? It's about how we create a culture of that ongoing learning for all, meaning when we are utilizing small group discussion, we're making sure that we're focusing on all people. So if you're in Maine and I'm in Wisconsin, it doesn't mean that we can't be in the same breakout room and have a rich discussion or it doesn't mean that, you know.

Karen Vieth: KW In Japan and the two of us can't come together to actually have a professional discussion. So I think it's really important that as facilitators, we're focused on utilizing the technology as a vehicle, right? A vehicle to connect people and content, because let's face it, it's about where people are learning, right? And then our job is to facilitate ideas to bring them together and embed sort of that learning into the flow of work that we're expecting our learners to actually be able to do back on the job.

Jennifer Hofmann: So Karen, you just reminded me of a story I haven't thought of in ages. It had to be 20 years ago when I was first starting in this virtual world. And yes, virtual learning has been around that long. I remember teaching from home, and it was December in Connecticut. It was gray, It was getting dark early, it was raining, and it was the second day of a three-day class.

Jennifer Hofmann: We had no video or things like that. And you could just tell that the energy was low. Have you ever been there where you just tell that nobody was as fully engaged, including me? Right? I mean, it was sucking the air out of us. And so out of desperation, I just said, Just go look out your window and tell me what you've seen.

Jennifer Hofmann: And actually, it was an amazing thing because for me, it was a December dreary evening. But we had people in Australia, and for them, it was a spring, early summer morning, and they were having their first cup of coffee. And that was a really different perspective because their head was in a different place. And we also had people that said, Oh well, yesterday I was in my office, but you know, I moved, I transitioned overnight to a hotel for working and one person said that they didn't have a window and they kind of complained about that a little bit.

Jennifer Hofmann: But even then we had the person that moved from their office, their traditional office to a hotel room. We had people that didn't have windows. We had people on different sides of the world, different times of the day, different seasons of the year. And really hybrid learning was happening back then, wasn't it? I mean, different places on different devices, on different days and bringing them together and connecting them with that very simple exercise, unplanned was a way to engage them emotionally in what was going on.

Karen Vieth: Right. Well, the key that you mentioned is the connection, right? The whole goal of any training initiative is to help individuals feel included so that they have a part right in this training that we're doing. And really as a facilitator, just in that story that you mentioned, you were the bridge connecting all people together. So it's not just us as facilitators being able to bring the content alive to individuals.

Karen Vieth: It's how do we bring the content and the people together. And again, through the vehicle of technology, because people want to be they want to be emotionally vested right in their learning. And the only way they can feel emotionally connected or emotionally engaged is if we include all individuals. And I go back to my story where a couple of weeks ago that woman said, Well, I don't want those people to in person to have their laptops up because it's distracting.

Karen Vieth: And in my mind, I don't think it's distracting. I think it's actually an ability to connect globally in all situations so that we can utilize this wonderful thing that we have technology to be able to connect people across the globe. But it does start with design, doesn't it? Jennifer When we really think about how a facilitator interacts, we can on the fly have some of those activities like you just mentioned.

Karen Vieth: But in order for us to really be intentional about meeting the needs of all these learners in our hybrid learning environment, it is about design. And I know universal design is something that is is kind of a a buzz out there today. So can you talk a little bit about what Universal Design has to do with hybrid learning?

Jennifer Hofmann: So it's being used more, but the concept of universal design has been around forever. So if you think about universal design from a public sector perspective, you can have stairs into a public building or you can have a ramp up in a public building, and the ramp can be used by everybody. The ramp can be used by people in wheelchairs, people on walkers, and people that don't need to use additional devices to assist them.

Jennifer Hofmann: That's universal design. We don't need to create two solutions. We've got one solution that works for everyone. And when it comes to universal design for learning, there's three things we need to think about. The first is offering information in more than one format. And I don't mean designing to a different learning style. I'm a visual learner or I'm an auditory learner, things like that.

Jennifer Hofmann: What I mean is making the information available in multiple ways. So if we have a live online session recorded so people that maybe have English as a second language or had a very disruptive background environment can watch it later and get that information, possibly have a transcription going on. So again, English as a second language or people that need that are hearing impaired can fully engage or engage more fully, I should say.

Jennifer Hofmann: So what we need to do is find a way to make all information and all content accessible to all learners. That makes it more equivalent. We also want to give different ways to interact with the material and show other people what we've learned. So the virtual classroom gives a lot of different options. I've always said that in a virtual classroom, if somebody speaks out loud using the microphone, if someone types something into chat, if someone decides to write on the whiteboard or maybe the chat is private, all of those communication or equivalent and facilitators need to learn to respond to those different inputs in the same way.

Jennifer Hofmann: Like we'll never say, Hey, Karen said in chat, we just say, Well, Karen's question is excellent. And people say, Well, I didn't hear that out loud. Let me check chat. In other words, they're all different languages of the virtual classroom and they're all valid.  That's, I think, important when you talk about the design of a blended in a hybrid program that all inputs and outputs are valid.

Jennifer Hofmann: And we also want to look for multiple ways to motivate students and learners in universal design. And our InQuire Engagement Framework really talks about that. We want to engage people emotionally because we know that the learning environment is impacted by how individuals and groups feel about the learning. We want to motivate them environmentally, meaning whatever environment they're in, whether it's a traditional office, whether it's working from a kitchen table, whether it's walking through a warehouse with a tablet, how do we maximize that environment for the individual?

Jennifer Hofmann: Because the experience of individuals certainly impacts the experience of the group. And we also want to engage people, of course, intellectually. And we usually start with intellectual engagement, What people know and what they can contribute to the learning environment impacts them as a learner and also impacts the group. So maybe that's another aspect of hybrid and blended learning.

Jennifer Hofmann: The new hybrid blended learning that we haven't talked about a lot is that it's always a very democratic process meets the needs of the many, you know, or as important as the needs of the individual.  Well, and something you mentioned just kind of made me think about creating some curiosity for the learner. Right. As a facilitator, as a designer, as a as a producer of hybrid learning, we really need to help learners feel important, feel included, feel connected and want more.

Karen Vieth: Right? And so one of the things I know we talk about a lot with intellectually engaging learners is to create an opportunity for learners to feel curious about the next thing, the next topic, the next interaction with said person. And I think that that's when we can really ensure equality is happening with each of these different environments that we bring together in the hybrid learning environment.

Karen Vieth: But one of the things that I think is so important is people constantly say, you know, it's not easy. Well, it's not. I mean, it's it's extremely complicated, right? And it takes a lot of intention on the designer and the facilitator and the producer supporting these hybrid learning environments. Well, I want to back up and say I don't think it has to be incredibly complicated, but it's certainly more complex than showing up and teaching for three days and then going home.

Jennifer Hofmann: We've always stood up, face-to-face as the ultimate best experience in learning, but we've all been in plenty of training programs where after three days, even if the program felt good emotionally, we didn't apply what we learned. We didn't  retain what we've learned, right? So we got to get away from face-to-face being the best option for all interactions.

Jennifer Hofmann: Hybrid blended learning is more complicated. We need to get our head around it, and we need to design it in a way it's easily communicated. You know, a visual course map. And maybe we can link to a course map at the end of this podcast. Might be a way to demonstrate what the blend looks like.

Jennifer Hofmann: And another way to make it less complex is to start thinking about the micro learning that you might include. I don't mean expensive animations and things like that necessarily, but MICROLEARNING could be as simple as a PowerPoint slide designed to be an infographic, a Word document. That's an interactive worksheet that people can use in the class. And later on after the live session is done.

So blended learning is about more than a live event. It's about addressing all the moments of learning need when you're learning something for the first time, when you want to learn more, when you're trying to apply what you've learned or remember what you've learned, what do you do when something goes wrong? And what do you do when things change?

We have different types of learning needs or moments of learning needs, and they don't all just happen in the live classroom. But if we take what happens in the live time, face to face, or live online or hybrid and teach using these tools that we want them to use later, like the infographics and maybe a worksheet or an interactive quiz teach using those tools, then people will be prepared to use those tools later on in their blended learning experience.

And my last point on this, Karen, is the word experience learning isn't done just when the LMS says we're finished, learning continues beyond the live sessions. And until we accept that, then I think we'll still pay attention to the most live portion of the blend. I agree. It's like creating a culture of continuous learning, right? And the need to really continually connect to one another within this new environment, if you will.

Karen Vieth: I'm focusing really on the people, the content, and again, through that technology. So thank you, Jennifer. So if somebody was was looking to gain some expertise in designing, delivering and supporting hybrid learning from modern learners, what would you suggest?

Jennifer Hofmann: Well, first of all, Read, there's a lot of articles out there. Chief Learning Officer, magazine, Training Industry magazine,  a lot of different resources that talk about a lot of different things.

Jennifer Hofmann: And we need to be continuous learners too. In the Learning and Development Department. If you're looking for a formal training intervention, of course we can help you add in sync training. We've got courses on hybrid and blended learning that are ready to go. Actually, it's our most popular course right now and the content evolves every time we teach it because our environment, the global environment, continues to evolve.

And Karen, since you're the lead instructor on that, I need you to tell them a little bit more about that course. Well, the hybrid learning course is really exciting because it's truly the tagline is Leave No Learner Behind. And what we do in that hybrid learning course is we it's all scenario-based. And so we actually set up a hybrid environment that we walk through and we ask different elements throughout of how we're going to solve for this hybrid learning environment challenge that Bluebird Technologies is having.

Karen Vieth: So by the time you leave after the 4 hours of of class, we've helped individuals get into breakouts and really understand from a design delivery and support perspective how to assist in this global challenge that the scenario is talking about. And it you walk away with a blueprint, if you will, of how to create a hybrid learning course based around the topics that we provide.

So it's a really it's a great hands-on project scenario-based course that is only 4 hours long. So it allows you to dive in quickly and get some real tangible activities that you can use back on the job. So thank you so much, Jennifer, for joining us today. And thanks for all of our listeners out there. For anybody who wants to learn more about in-sync training, please just make sure to connect with us on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Facebook, and of course at insynctraining.com

Thanks again for coming on to In-Sync training's, Modern Learning on the Air podcast and join us every month the first of the month for our newest and latest podcast. Thanks, everyone.

Listen to the podcast Blended Learning vs Hybrid Learning. It’s complicated.

Learn more about the four-hour workshop mentioned in this podcast here: 

Hybrid Training: Merging People And Content To Optimize Learner Engagement In Blended Learning


Blended Learning vs. Hybrid Learning. It's Complicated.

Blended Learning vs. Hybrid Learning. It's Complicated.

A Conversation with Jennifer Hofmann and Karen Vieth Tune into the InSync Podcast where Karen Vieth, the Vice President of Virtual Learning...

Read More
With Hybrid Work, When & Where Does Learning Happen?

With Hybrid Work, When & Where Does Learning Happen?

Let me ask you a question. Can you define mobile learning? Is “mobile learning” a learning technology, a design technique, or something else...

Read More
7 Considerations When Implementing a Hybrid Virtual Learning Strategy

7 Considerations When Implementing a Hybrid Virtual Learning Strategy

Mastering Hybrid Learning In May 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that the number of companies requiring employees to work full-time in the...

Read More