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Building Blended Learning Programs: 5 Essentials


A Shift In Blended Learning Is Happening Now

Most organizations have an average training completion rate of 20–30%. [1] This is depressingly low. Poor completion is mostly down to employees having too many competing demands, busy schedules, and not having the space to learn the way they want to.

But if the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s that employees want development opportunities that lead to more fulfilling work. That’s why many organizations are now looking to better support employees with a variety of learning methods to make learning accessible, fun, and engaging.

As cultural shifts and new ways of working continue to evolve, so must our approach to learning. One way to do this is through a new kind of blended learning approach—one that supports more collaboration, flexibility, and personalization than ever before.

Read on to learn more about asynchronous vs. synchronous learning, what to look for in an LMS, and why a collaborative learning approach is critical for organizations looking to promote group learning.

A Shift In Blended Learning

Traditional blended learning combines:

  • In-person, live, instructor-led training sessions
  • Digital online learning sessions which can include audios, videos, and other media-rich supporting resources
  • Structured self-study time based on the live classroom sessions and the online learning materials

Today, businesses and technology are evolving more drastically than ever, so learning must be similarly light on its feet. Luckily, organizations have an opportunity to completely rethink approaches to blended learning to keep up with these changing times.

Even before the shift to remote working, experts highlighted the importance of collaboration and digital connectivity instead of traditional top-down training. Today, employees demand more from their learning—but it’s just not possible to achieve with training that is dictated from the top, whether it’s in person or online.

The blended element of learning—splitting training into two elements—is worth preserving, but what if we didn’t think about learning as physical vs. digital and, instead, found a framework better suited for how people learn, work, and consume content today?

The new blended learning should combine:

  • Synchronous collaborative learning (such as live video sessions and collaborative workshops in breakout rooms)
  • Asynchronous collaborative learning (such as collaborative learning platforms and peer feedback on projects)

This new approach focuses on which learning experiences should be synchronous and which should be asynchronous, with collaboration as the key factor in both cases.

Best Tools For Building Effective Blended Learning Programs

Whether you’re educating leaders on the value of soft skills, providing on-the-job training to sales reps, or onboarding new hires, you need practical training tools centered around collaboration. Today, a learner’s experience is only as good as the training toolkit.

So, what tools do you need at your disposal to build this new type of blended learning program? Here, we share our top 5.

1. A Learning Management System

The right Learning Management System (LMS) allows you to create, manage, and deliver eLearning content. Organizations use LMSs to manage and scale their online learning programs.

According to a Deloitte report, the average employee only has time to dedicate 1% of their work week to skill development—that’s about five minutes each day in a 40-hour work week. [2]

An effective, high-quality LMS can make it possible to schedule blended learning in convenient, shorter courses with different modalities over a few days or weeks to increase learning retention and fit better into busy employee schedules.

With an LMS, employees can engage with their learning in their own time and space. And the software can automatically track employees’ progress. It enables L&D managers to check in on those who’ve paused at certain points to ascertain if the training module is too difficult, too long, or if they have simply forgotten to continue.

2. A Webinar Platform

Webinars are the perfect synchronous approach to bridging the gap between online training and in-person sessions. It’s a happy medium that can help perfect the combination and, therefore, an ideal fit for a blended learning environment. People can ask questions, interact, (whether that be peer-to-instructor or peer-to-peer), and webinars can be recorded for individuals who can’t attend.

Webinars have the flexibility to be carried out cost-efficiently for both small and large audiences. Having a platform to conduct virtual learning sessions is crucial in enabling group participation as part of a blended learning program.

Platforms like Zoom and Livestorm are great for boosting engagement, particularly as they have features such as chat and poll functions, pre and post surveys, and break-out rooms which allow smaller groups of people to collaborate and share knowledge.

The best way to make webinars part of essential blended learning tools is to schedule them in advance at a convenient time for all to avoid conflicts. Also, you should send out timely reminders of the session with an outline of what will be discussed before the date. That way, team members have enough time to do background research on the topic and prepare to participate by asking questions they may wish to ask.

Once the webinar has ended, ensure you ask teams for follow-up on how the training was and if any questions were not answered during the session.

3. Video Software

Training videos reduce costs and provide learners the convenience to learn at their own pace. Video platforms like Vyond and Powtoon enable anyone to create effective training videos. But be sure to choose the right video format for sharing subject matter expertise. The most effective types of video in learning are:

  • Storytelling – You can use a video storytelling format to share your company’s mission, core values, or even share a day in the life of your colleagues. This makes for a great learning experience as part of your onboarding program.
  • Screen recording explainer videos – Typically a recording of a trainer’s screen demonstrating specific software features alongside audio narration, screen recordings are highly effective in enabling learning in the flow of work.
  • Live videos – Some sessions will always benefit from live support, especially from a Subject Matter Expert. Facebook Live’s feature is a good example of live video used to stream sessions that create opportunities for learners to connect, ask questions, and provide feedback.
  • Interactive videos – Interactive videos break the monotony and get the viewers involved instead of them passively consuming videos. Typically, it’s done using engagement prompts such as questions, quizzes, and the like in your videos to spark a dialogue.

Top tip: As videos are likely to be a major part of your content creation strategy, be sure to consider an LMS that makes it easy to embed videos into your courses.

4. An Authoring Tool

An authoring tool is a program that helps you design a digital course and publish it in desired formats. Instead of creating a course through codes or an in-house developer, an authoring tool enables you to use drag-and-drop as well as other user-friendly interfaces to create a course and upload the content to your chosen learning platform.

While a standalone authoring tool allows those with little to no coding or developer abilities to easily and quickly create digital courses, Learning Management Systems with built-in authoring capabilities make it even easier to scale content creation.

An authoring tool is essential in supporting collaborative learning cultures because it enables anyone to create a course. This means Subject Matter Experts can share their knowledge and incorporate peer feedback to become a true learning organization.

5. A Collaborative Learning Platform

Collaborative learning is a training approach where employees share their expertise and knowledge, teaching and learning from each other simultaneously. This group learning enhances the learning experience by capitalizing on each team member’s ideas, skills, and institutional knowledge.

Collaborative learning is one of the keys to effective blended learning and part of a larger trend toward more interdependence. Companies are transitioning from the hierarchical top-down management styles to high-accountability, low-authority models. Today, people rely more on group work than individual project ownership for better results.

Unlike traditional corporate training, collaborative learning is fast, democratized, iterative, relevant, and impact-driven—all beneficial for blended learning.

Collaboration Is At The Heart Of Blended Learning

In-person training can be difficult to execute as you have to manage varying schedules. Online learning can also be inefficient, as it’s more challenging to keep teams engaged. But with these five blended learning tools that promote collaboration both asynchronously and synchronously, you create an efficient, dual environment that achieves all the benefits and little to no drawbacks. This is why L&D teams are seeing it as a must-have approach to improve course completion rates.

Ready to learn more about how collaborative learning works in practice? Get in touch with one of 360Learning’s experts to find out more.

References:

[1] Reactions: Deliver Engaging and Up-to-Date Courses With Collaborative Learning

[2] Bite-Sized Learning

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360Learning

360Learning is the LMS for collaborative learning. We enable companies to upskill from within by turning their experts into champions for employee, customer, and partner growth.

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