When I meet with clients to discuss training choices, they usually assume that they have only two options: eLearning or classroom delivery. This misconception is a common one simply because most businesses have only been presented with these two options in the past. But I am quick to tell them that there is a third option: blended learning. Blended learning is not an identical new concept but is one that has not been fully discussed or implemented until recently. Blended learning is the combination of eLearning and classroom delivery. Many times blended learning is as simple as an eLearning course that takes place of a classroom delivery; but in other cases, it is much more involved and effective.
A fully effective blended learning experience is more than an online course or simulation taking the place of classroom presentation. Many times, the eLearning is a prerequisite to classroom training. There may be some aspects of classroom training that lend them more to an online course. For example, the history of a company may take a few hours in the classroom and only thirty or forty minutes in an online course. Not only does the online course take less time to take, but it can even be more effective. Videos and employee testimonies can be easily incorporated into an eLearning course. These videos can do wonders for new employees and will often put them in a positive state of mind before stepping one foot into a classroom. In addition to being a positive experience for new employees, a blended learning approach also frees up classroom time; this time can be used to focus on more important learning criteria.
Another instance where prerequisite online courses can be effective comes in the form of system simulations. There is always uneasiness associated with learning a new type of software. When a new employee comes into a classroom and is introduced to new software for the first time, panic can set in and learning is stifled. This can be avoided with the use of software simulations that the learner takes before entering the classroom. This allows the new employee to familiarize them with the new software and explore it in a restricted and guided environment.
The simulation may be as simple as a guided tour or as in depth as a "Demo and Try It" opportunity in which the learner actually performs simple steps using the software. No matter how the simulations are used, they can be effective learning tools and time savers. The facilitators have the comfort of knowing that new employees have already been exposed to the software and, in turn, can focus on more detailed portions of the software.
Another advantage of blended learning is the ability to track the learner's progress before they reach the classroom; this can be an invaluable tool when finalizing curriculum. If learners take an assessment after completing a prerequisite module and all seem to have trouble with a particular question or section, the facilitators can adjust their presentation to address the problem areas, thus enhancing the effectiveness of the training.
In conclusion, there are always several different ways to approach training. Sometimes eLearning alone can work and sometimes classroom training can be the most effective way to reach a learner. But blended learning is also a viable option that should be continuously explored and implemented. We owe it to our employees and to our organizations.