Your guide to blended learning

Everything you need to know to create your blended learning program.

By Videhi Bhamidi

Before we start, which of the following do you think are true of blended learning?

  1. Blended learning is achieved through a single platform or learning model
  2. Blended learning is simply adding digital content to classroom learning
  3. Blended learning can happen in a single day or instance
  4. You plan your tools/technologies before considering your learners
  5. You need extraordinary instructional design skills to create a blended solution

Answer: NONE of the above

Whether you answered right or not, we’ll answer any question you have about blended learning. From what is a flipped classroom and the benefits of blended learning, to best practices and blended learning tools.

About the author

Videhi Bhamidi is a Learning Product Consultant at Easygenerator. With over 15 years of experience in e-learning, user-experience research, and thought-leadership projects, she is a regular contributor to L&D magazines. She is an Oxford alumnus and strives to fuse design, research, technology, and didactics in her solutions.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning is a powerful yet flexible learning method. It allows you to blend traditional classroom learning with digital tech. This helps you to meet the diverse learning needs of your employees. The journey of a learner can span days to months depending on your goal.

For example, a typical blended learning solution might look like this:

Typical blended learning solution

Ingredients:

There are five key ingredients of a blended learning approach:

Blended learning ingredients

Blended learning models

The station rotation model:

Like all blended learning models, Station Rotation includes both face-to-face and online learning. Trainees rotate between types of training sessions, at least one of which is online. For example, a learner may complete a module online and then take part in an offline group activity.

The flex model:

The Flex Model focuses on online learning. Trainers assist and support employees on a flexible, on-demand basis as they work through the online learning.

A la carte:

The A La Carte Model lets learners take an online training course in addition to compulsory offline courses. This gives them more flexibility than conventional, pre-scheduled training sessions.

The enriched virtual model:

The Enriched Virtual Model places the emphasis on online training from day one. Face-to-face training is a supplement in certain cases. Trainees learn on the job using online content. But they can meet with trainers if they have a problem or want to discuss the learning content.

Flipped classroom:

The Flipped Classroom Model is very similar to the enriched virtual model. Classwork and homework activities are flipped by using technology. The usual classroom time is used for trainer-learner interactions and discussions. But the teaching happens through digital resources and recorded material outside class. This online learning helps students/learners to study at their own pace. They can then come prepared for the classroom activity.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Blended Learning

Advantages and Disavantages of blended learning

The Electrolux case study

As Electrolux continues to grow, its training needs are expanding. Neither face-to-face nor digital training alone could meet their goals. So, Electrolux looked to launch a blended learning program.

Electrolux turned to Easygenerator to introduce a cost-effective, agile and scalable blended learning strategy.

Goals

  • In-house content with affordable tools
  • Faster content development
  • Freeing up resources
  • Accessible by a wide-range of learners

 

With Easygenerator, our trainers could use the tool straight away - no complications, no PowerPoint with voiceover (this is not engaging). The tool is easy and professional to use.

Our trainers could create and distribute content in-house at a speed and pace they wanted as per the local market needs.

Deployment

Electrolux uses e-learning in three ways:

  • Preparation: This lays a foundation of fundamentals before the main training sessions.
  • Repetition: E-learning is used for repetition of what was taught in class.
  • Practice: Repetition of the message is key, but practicing the know-how is equally important. Classroom material is made accessible via mobile devices.

This helped them provide digital training throughout the year, as opposed to occasional classroom training.

Here’s a use case of how Electrolux deployed the solution:

To help the European sales team prepare for an event, the Sales and Service Training team chose blended learning instead of running a classroom training session alone.

They used a mix of videos and Easygenerator courses to prepare the sales team for the event. With this, they could include more information without blocking a specific day/time with the team. It also ensured that everyone went to the event with the same level of knowledge. They combined this with face-to-face training at the event to refresh their knowledge.

This method was really appreciated and is already something that everyone expects before each event.

Results

Electrolux is now confident that its blended learning model is helping it stand out with retailers in Europe.

The results of switching to blended learning speak for themselves: greater scalability, better ROI and personalized learner experience. This scalability is crucial to the company’s competitive success.

  • Scope: 80 authors; 2,000 modules; the average NPS of courses is 9.16 (out of 10); there have been more than 10,000 active sessions using the tool.
  • Global access: Trainers across Europe use the authoring tool to create training resources. And it’s now available to all regions.
  • BYOD: Given the responsive content, the training team could support learning and performance needs across devices.
  • Effectiveness: Learners have reported reduced dependency on scheduled training programs as they are able to access information on demand.
  • Types of courses: Trainers create courses/content on product-specific topics. This helps the sales teams to stay updated. They are also able to localize the courses to more than 20 languages to meet regional needs.
We use e-learning to build a foundation before delegates attend a face-to-face training day. We then reinforce key messages in the weeks that follow. It’s a vital part of our blended approach and an economical solution to extend and maximize your scope of training coverage. It's the perfect solution to controlling your message at a distance.

Trainer, Electrolux

Download the Electrolux Customer Case

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Blended Learning Best Practices

We’ve seen one successful application of blended learning, but what are the dos and don’ts for designing your own blended learning program? Here are our blended learning best practices.

Course Rhythm

We’ve seen many instructors stick some online learning onto their face to face courses and hoping for the best. But you need to approach blended learning with a different mindset. Rather than being an add-on, the two types of learning should be integrated with one another to form a well-oiled machine.

Have a clear goal in mind that you want to achieve and help the learner work through relevant activities and guidance.

Plan Learning Time

Plan when each piece of learning actually occurs within your blended classroom. For example, feedback or group work need in-class sessions. And don’t forget the importance of having a structure that supports applying their knowledge.

Foster learner autonomy

Provide your learners with options so they can learn through the best methods for them. They are more likely to be engaged if they get to choose how they learn. Embrace technology to give learners choices beyond the constraints of the classroom. For instance, you can engage learners with content prior to the course. Make sure the content is relevant for them and they know how they can benefit from participating.

Power of Data

Don’t underestimate the power of data. It can provide invaluable insight to help you re-evaluate and optimize your learning strategy.

In an Easygenerator webinar, Electrolux and LECOM revealed what makes their blended learning approach so successful, what challenges they overcame whilst implementing it, as well as which tools they use.

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Getting Started with Blended Learning

Here are our 3 steps to make blended learning possible:

The three steps of blended learning

Step 1: Business Challenges:

What does the business demand?

First, we recommend you to think about the business goals driving this change:

  • What is the challenge you are trying to solve with blended learning?
  • How will blended learning create the desired behaviors/results?
  • What is the expected outcome?

Example:

Your organization’s sales team performance is not up to the mark. You need training intervention to help them up their game in the next 3 months. The allotted time and training budget are not enough to either arrange an elaborate classroom training or rich e-learning courses.

Requirement:

The expected outcome is to equip the sales team with the necessary knowledge that they can use in their flow of work. This process must be implemented within the following limitations:

  • Short-time frame
  • Low budget
  • Inexpensive ways to enable continuous learning
  • No scope for fully classroom or fully digital learning.

Solution:

Blended learning can create the desired results because of its flexible structure. You can pick and choose the tools, models, and time span, and piece them together without losing sight of the goal.

Step 2: Didactics

What do you know about your learners?

You need to understand your learners before deciding the technology:

  • Who are your learners? – Profile, prior knowledge, technology awareness
  • What are their learning goals? – Desired behaviors, skills, knowledge
  • How do they usually access information? – Mobile, desktop
  • When can they learn? – How much time do they have?
  • Where do they learn? – Physical locations

All these pieces put together will help you understand their persona. This will then help you integrate all the different tools in a seamless way and deliver the best learning experience for your learners. Plus it will inform you with valuable insights.

Step 3: Technologies

What technologies/tools are required to create a blended learning environment?

You can’t achieve the perfect blend with one tool alone. Typically, you will use a variety of tools and platforms, for instance:

  • Classroom learning – face-to-face training, workshops, coaching
  • Digital learning – authoring tools to create e-learning courses, webinar software
  • Social collaborative learning – social networking platforms, collaborative tools
  • Mobile learning – apps
  • Performance support – job aids and digital resources
  • User-generated learning – videos (YouTube), forums
  • Self-learning – videos, pdfs, Google
  • Personalized learning – Simulation software
  • Assessments & tracking – Quiz software, LMS tools, xAPI

Example:

Here’s a sample blended learning program:
The technologies of Blended Learning

Design your Blended Program

Here are a few applications to jump-start designing your blended learning program:

Blend with digital resources for pre-/post-classroom support:

This is a classic form of blended learning. You digitize a part of the training and provide it either before or as a follow-up to classroom sessions.

Blend with digital resources for a flipped classroom

In this case, you are blending as well as flipping the activity of classroom and digital learning.

General scenario:

Classroom: You watch/listen and learn in the classroom

Home/At work: You reflect and practice online or on paper

Flipped scenario:

Home/At work: You learn the subject online

Classroom: You reflect/practice in class, with your peers and trainer

The Flipped Classroom

Blend with digital resources for performance support

You teach the core subject either in the classroom or e-learning programs. Then when it’s time for learners to perform on the job you support them with digital information nuggets like job aids and resources.

Conclusion

A blended learning approach can have a massive impact on your learners’ knowledge engagement and retention. The key to a successful blended learning program, though, is understanding both your learners’ and your organization’s needs.

With this understanding, your blended learning program and content can be personalized while reaching more learners and reducing time constraints and costs. Learner experience is heightened, collaboration is improved, and trainer time is optimized.

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