Semantic change dictates that the meaning of words can and do change over time, and the meaning of blended learning conforms to this general rule. Traditionally, this form of learning entailed adding online learning components to the traditional classroom education environment. The term has evolved and encompasses a broader meaning that now refers to using multiple learning methods in offline and online settings to provide better training, support and education for learners.
Corporate blended learning best practices adhere to the latter definition of the word. The idea is to make the most of both physical and virtual training methods, in a ratio that best suits the trainees. Workplace training in a corporate environment should educate in ways that enhance on-the-job performance. Whether a corporation implements webinars with in-depth mobile support, engaging forum discussion tools or a virtual classroom with renowned educators, the following best practices lead to exemplary results for corporate blended learning.
1. Deciding on the perfect combination of instructor-led training and online
The right combination of physically and virtually blended learning depends on the unique learning needs of each corporation. Building effective blended learning programs hinge on the specific goals of the corporation, as well as the training needs and job roles within the corporation itself. When adopting blended learning strategies, it’s of utmost importance to decide the combination of online and offline components.
Use virtual strategies when:
- Subject matter mastery is not contingent on physical proximity or hands-on training. If training benefits from hands-on training, physical learning is ideal instead.
- Information or skills need to be delivered to a wide range of corporate groups. Physical training is unnecessarily cumbersome when wide swaths of a corporation need training.
- Training needs to be accessible and efficient. In effect, virtual training is the ideal choice whenever hands-on training or time consuming training is not necessary.
Physical learning environments should be the priority when:
- The material works best with employee collaboration.
- A hands-on demonstration of physical tasks aids knowledge retention.
- The need to ensure comprehension of the subject matter underscores a need for traditional learning through group interaction.
Striking the right balance between virtual and physical learning takes all of these factors into account.
2. Considering the distribution method of learning materials
Considering the blended learning materials you will use plays an integral part in building effective training programs.
Virtual formats are the ideal learning material distribution method when:
- Practice is essential for content mastery. The easily accessible nature of placing materials online allows workers to repeat the training exercises as often as possible until content is conquered.
- Material needs to be easily accessed by workers across the country or globe. Many corporations need to train people in a significant number of offices in varying locations, making offline distribution undesirable, if not impossible. Virtual material distribution ensures that these difficulties are remedied while effective learning is maintained.
- The learner’s job will require constant adaptation and newly evolving skills. The constant training updates require a platform that provides those updates without taking them out of their daily job routine too often.
Offline distribution is the best way to distribute materials in situations where:
- You are educating a smaller population within the corporate workforce.
- Materials need to be distributed within one corporate office or a geographically centralized area with limited turnover.
- There are insufficient resources to effectively distribute learning material online or technology makes online access unreliable.
Carefully consider the totality of the corporation to formulate the ideal blended distribution strategy.
3. When to conduct hands-on training online or offline
As a general rule, hands-on training often works best in a traditional learning environment. This is true for a number of reasons, including:
- Hands-on training often involves training of skills that involve extensive face-to-face practice.
- Hands-on training also involves physical training more often than not, which is why letting employees physically learn the skills in person is so helpful.
- The training in question works best in a physical group setting.
While the benefits of offline training for hands-on learning may seem obvious, there are reasons to take hands-on learning to a virtual environment. Hands-on physical training is usually an intimate affair, but some hands-on training needs to be widely disseminated throughout the corporation.
When hands-on training must reach a wide audience, virtual world training provides a large boost to learning efficiency. The simple reality of many corporate environments is that learners are located in different time zones and highly demanded corporate training experts do not maintain regular training schedules. Virtual training is equipped to overcome these rigidities.
4. Testing and assessment best practices
Testing and assessment is a critical way to ensure workers retained the essential knowledge and expertise gained. To determine the correct blend of online and offline, consider the following:
- The role that group activity should play in the testing environment. The more imperative it is that group role playing scenarios should be a part of testing, the need for traditional assessment grows.
- Offline testing is helpful for assessments involving real-time tests and employees working within the same geographical region.
- Virtual testing is best when general assessments and knowledge tests are needed. Since group activities, interactivity and skill tests are not needed for assessments of this nature, an online format is ideal for any and all generalized assessments.
5. The right job aid system
The right job aid system is the final piece of the puzzle for maximizing the effectiveness of corporate learning. Find the correct blended learning mix for job aid systems by considering the following:
- When learning content needs to support application skills, virtual job aid systems take precedence.
- When learners are already comfortable with system basics, this also stresses the importance of a virtual job aid system.
- Offline job aid systems are best for learners who are unfamiliar with basic system concepts and/or when the content is detailed in its nuance and complexity.
Corporations that consider each of the aforementioned factors as complementary pieces of a whole will develop an effective blended learning strategy that maximizes educational value while preserving corporate functions and efficiency.