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Hybrid learning to boost employee engagement in training

Hybrid learning is a training approach that accommodates both in-person and remote learners, making it an appealing choice for many organizations.


Sera Özkıvanç

Definition of hybrid learning  

Hybrid learning refers to an approach where some individuals participate in person while others engage in learning activities online. This educational model combines the benefits of face-to-face interaction with the convenience and flexibility of online learning. 

In a hybrid learning environment, instructors use online elements like video conferencing tools to teach remote learners and those physically present in the classroom simultaneously. This enables seamless interaction and collaboration between both groups, fostering a cohesive learning experience. 

Differences between hybrid learning and blended learning  

Now that we understand what hybrid learning entails, let’s differentiate it from another commonly used term in e-learning: blended learning 

The two terms are often used interchangeably, which may be confusing. So let’s clear this up by explaining the differences.   

Blended learning, similar to hybrid learning, combines in-person instruction with online learning activities. The key distinction is the people involved in the learning process. In a blended learning environment, the whole group of learners participates in both in-person and online learning components. They experience a seamless integration of different learning types, where some elements are completed online, and others are conducted in person. 

Hybrid learning is when some learners participate in person while others participate online. Both groups receive instruction simultaneously, regardless of location. 

Let’s take these explanations further with some examples.  

Imagine you’re part of a marketing team attending a marketing strategy workshop. In this blended learning setting, you create marketing campaigns together with your colleagues and receive immediate feedback from the instructor in person. You also have access to online modules with resources like case studies, industry trends, and examples of successful marketing campaigns. 

Now, let’s consider a hybrid learning scenario. In this case, marketers from different branches of your company come together for a training workshop. Some team members join in-person at the main office, while others participate remotely via live video. The instructor holds interactive discussions, organizes group work activities, and provides real-time feedback to both the in-person attendees and those participating remotely. This hybrid approach allows for collaboration and knowledge sharing regardless of the marketers’ physical location. 

Benefits of hybrid learning  

Hybrid learning has many benefits that make it a practical approach for educators and learners. Let’s explore.  

Flexibility and convenience  

The hybrid learning approach eases the juggling act for working professionals by offering flexibility in terms of timing, reduced travel requirements, and sometimes, to an extent, the ability to learn at their own pace.  

Learners can engage in discussions, collaborate with peers, and receive instructor guidance without needing to be physically present in a specific location. This accessibility allows them to balance their job responsibilities while actively participating in the learning program, leading to better work-life-learning integration.  

Moreover, the hybrid approach often includes asynchronous learning elements (but not always). Examples include pre-recorded lectures or self-paced modules, which allow professionals to learn at their own speed. Learners can review materials, revisit concepts, or pause and resume their learning based on their individual needs and availability.  

This level of control over the learning process enables learners to make time for learning without disrupting their professional commitments. 

Overcoming geographical barriers  

Another significant advantage of hybrid learning is its ability to overcome geographical barriers. With traditional face-to-face courses, learners are typically required to attend classes at a specific location, which can be challenging for individuals living in different cities, countries, or remote areas. However, hybrid learning eliminates the need for extensive travel and allows students from diverse geographic locations to participate in the same course. This opens up new opportunities for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and diverse perspectives in the learning process.   

Plus, hybrid learning is a valuable alternative when unforeseen circumstances disrupt traditional face-to-face instruction. Bad weather, natural disasters, or public health emergencies like Covid-19 can disrupt the traditional classroom environment. In such situations, hybrid learning provides a seamless transition to fully online instruction, ensuring continuity and minimizing disruption to the learning process. Students can continue their coursework and engage with educational materials remotely, allowing learning to proceed uninterrupted despite external challenges. 

How to design a successful hybrid learning strategy 

Designing a successful hybrid learning strategy requires careful planning and thoughtful consideration. Here are a few best practices. 

Determine the learning experience mix 

Hybrid learning is all about teaching two groups of people at the same time: in-person and remote learners. Both groups join training live for the most part. But hybrid learning can also incorporate asynchronous components in the form or pre- and post-class support.   

So, consider the different types of hybrid learning approaches and choose the one that best suits your course and learners. How much emphasis will you put on synchronous versus asynchronous learning? How much of your course will be theory, and how much of it practice?  

The first step is planning the hybrid space for synchronous sessions. Take advantage of various interactive tools like discussions, polls, Q&As, and breakout rooms to engage learners in real-time. This creates a shared experience for both groups. 

Then, plan the asynchronous elements. These should consist of small and easily digestible content. Keep videos short and articles within a five- to seven-minute read.  

Creating a balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning is most effective. Synchronous sessions allow for real-time interaction, discussions, and collaboration, while asynchronous components provide flexibility for self-paced learning. 

Pro tip: Plan live online sessions with interactive elements like discussions, polls, and breakout rooms. To support asynchronous learning, complement these sessions with pre-recorded videos, readings, and online quizzes. 

Incorporate collaborative activities  

Foster collaboration within your hybrid learning strategy by integrating group activities and meaningful discussions. Assign group projects that require learners to collaborate on problem-solving tasks, case studies, or simulations. By doing so, you create an environment where learners can collaborate, share insights, and build connections. This not only enhances their understanding and retention of the course material but also cultivates a sense of community. 

Another good practice is allotting time for learners to reflect on the course material beyond class sessions. The deliberate focus on reflection promotes a higher level of engagement, bridging the gaps that can exist in virtual learning environments. Reflections can take various forms.  

These strategies create a sense of belonging and make it easier for learners to feel actively involved in the course. 

Pro tip: Slack channels are a great medium where learners can exchange key takeaways, share thoughts and questions, and even display how they used their newly acquired knowledge on the job.  

Pay extra attention to remote learners  

While hybrid courses are convenient for remote learners, often, there can be a divide between them and in-person attendees. It’s up to the instructor to bridge this gap and make sure that both groups are engaging equally. And while it can be twice as difficult to capture the attention of two groups, it’s important to ask questions, support, and check in with each learner.  

The tech setup also plays a crucial role here. For remote attendees, the quality of the training will only be as good as the platform through which they’re joining. Poor video and audio quality, connectivity issues, or a lack of interactive online elements are surefire ways to lose the interest of remote learners.   

Pro tip: To help foster a stronger sense of class community, pair your remote learners with in-person attendees. Ask the latter group to bring their devices and log into the online platform during training. Have collaborative activities where remote and in-person learners group together via video or chat.  

Prepare engaging materials  

Enrich individual learning by providing materials that learners can review independently. Curate relevant articles and case studies that highlight successful practices within your topic. Or, share videos and interactive content that introduce key concepts. For instance, if your training is on a technical topic, record a tutorial-like video that walks viewers through the process. Learners then have the option to rewatch and refer to the video whenever they need.  

Also, think about what kind of material you can share asynchronously that would equip learners for active participation during live sessions. For instance, consider sharing internal case studies relating to your topic as pre-session reading material.  

Pro tip: Enhance learner engagement by incorporating interactive quizzes. During live sessions, allocate time for learners to take the quiz together, creating a sense of shared participation. After completing the quiz, facilitate discussions around each question and answer, encouraging learners to share their perspectives, ask questions, and provide explanations.  

The combination of different types of material will also help your learners beat the forgetting curve, which not only ensures effective knowledge retention but also promotes the application of skills in real-world settings. 

Wrap up  

Hybrid learning strikes a balance between the benefits of face-to-face interactions and the flexibility of online learning, catering to the diverse needs and preferences of today’s learners. By allowing remote access to the training, it promotes the inclusion of people from all places – including those who don’t have the scheduling flexibility to attend in person.

The key to a successful hybrid learning strategy lies in carefully planning the learning experience mix. Balancing synchronous and asynchronous learning activities allows for real-time interaction, collaboration, and flexibility. Incorporating collaborative activities, such as group projects and meaningful discussions, fosters a sense of community and enhances knowledge sharing among learners. 

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About the author

Sera Özkıvanç is a writer, marketer, and the resident content specialist at Easygenerator. Over the last four years, she’s written marketing content for various SaaS brands around the world. These days, she’s doing her best to embrace the rainy weather in Rotterdam.