I am a product of Public Television. As a child, my hours of daytime television were limited to the line-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 superheroes and talking animals but on the enchanting series Schoolhouse Rock! Those wonderful five-minute videos (we would call them "short-form documentaries" today!) 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 blended 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 virtual training profession for any length of time know there are always trends and fads. We’ve been introduced to learning organizations, lifelong learning, matrixed teams, learning communities, and a myriad 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 the future of our profession? In part, it makes significant economic sense that even the bean counters can see immediately. Blended learning became a necessity during the pandemic, and continues to increase with the emergence of geographically dispersed work environments in which staffing levels are constantly changing. 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, hiring and onboarding new employees.
Onboarding and Training a Hybrid Workforce with Blended Learning
Gone are the days when we could start all new employees at the same time and conduct two-day orientation programs. Flying instructors and learners around to attend training classes is not economical, often disruptive to business and personal relationships, and simply not a priority in today's remote work environment.
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.
Virtual first is a lasting impact of the pandemic. In the “before times”, it was a common perception that more rigorous training programs required an in-person classroom experience. Now, with months and months of experience proving that much of this content can be taught effectively in a virtual environment, training programs will be designed for virtual delivery first. Strong arguments will need to be made to justify in-person classes, especially those that include travel related expenses.
But, traditional classroom approaches are not very flexible, and they are expensive. We used to wait until we could 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 virtual (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 learner who cannot attend a training session on Tuesday or is called away because of an emergency, can simply enroll in the next offering.
There will, of course, be strong arguments to be made for some face-to-face programs – especially where collaboration and community building are critical.
Hybrid is the New Blended
And let's not forget the hybrid learning environment, putting a whole new spin on the blend.
Work life is just not what it used to be. Our training needs to reflect the change in our workforce composition.
Employees’ work conditions are continuously changing, often unpredictably: one day in the office, one day at home, one day on the road…. we need a learning model that adapts to where people are learning while also designing content in a way that meets the business goals.
Maximizing audience engagement means we need to merge blended learning and hybrid learning - and treat them as complimentary concepts.
- Blended Learning: program designs that combine live and self-directed content, where the delivery technology is determined by the performance objectives.
- Hybrid Learning: live events with participants in the office, at home, or on the road.
Two great ideas whose time have come! Let's get those crazy kids together.
(Listen to our podcast: Blended Learning vs Hybrid Learning... It's Complicated to for a great conversation on this topic.)
What's Not To Love?
Blended learning can have a positive effect on the bottom line and can theoretically increase the skills and knowledge of new hires, the entire organization, management tends to support, and more importantly, persist in supporting this shift to virtual delivery methods.
It's a methodology that has worked for a long time - I'm living proof! So fall in love with it along with me - as we move into the future of learning together.
We developed the Hybrid Training Course, 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.”
Your entire team might be interested in our Hybrid is the New blended - Designing to Meet the Needs of Today's Remote Workforce, which is part of our new Trends in Virtual Training - Expert Seminar Series including 12 trending topics in learning and development. Purchase 5 workshops and get the 6th free!