Is it Necessary to Implement Blended Learning?

Blended Learning
Corporate training programs have been implemented by most companies as a matter of investment. But, with technology advancing at such a rapid rate, it is not enough if you just leave all the training sessions in to just classroom training. It may not fulfil all the goals completely. Today, we see BYOD, next generation cloud computing, and all other pervasive technology. In order to enhance appeal, reach, and impact all in one, it is important to revamp the training program and move to a new strategy called Blended Learning.

Understanding the overall essence of the Blended Learning methodology is most important. A combination of several elements is contained in it. It includes teaching methods that are efficient and effective, powerful and rich content, and dissemination channels that are enabled using a Learning Management System that is efficient enough. You can sum it up by saying that blended learning solutions are much more than a simple classroom teaching methodology. You have all round techniques involved in it, like eLearning modules, face to face sessions by instructors that lead to games, and also learning programs employing the social media.

There are a number of things you need to keep in mind before implementing blended learning in to your organizations learning programs. Here are the most important questions you need to consider before making the big move:

  • Is your current learning program benefiting a geographically diverse workforce? Have you left enough room and space for flexibility? Have you implemented the concept of anywhere anytime learning?
  • Are your organization’s learning objectives effectively fulfilled using the current strategy and methodology?
  • Is optimal learning working out with your employees? Are they having a continuous learning process?
  • Have you made sure to set training touch points to appeal to the interests and requirements of the Generation C workforce? Are these methods interactive and modern? Do they align with the social media?

In case you find that at least one of these questions answers ‘no’, then you need to implement blended learning methodology in your learning program. This enables you to help your employees to excel in their roles and provide them the fuel to focus in their work and offer continuous learning programs to help them grow.

The concept of Blended Learning

The LMS enabled Blended Learning includes the core concepts of Mobile Learning, Online Learning, Social Media or Informal Learning, Games, and Classroom Training. If the Learning and Development function is able to regularly align the outcomes with the larger goals of the organization, then you can say that the learning is effective. Blended Learning is what is needed to improve the performance for the organization. You could create a vibrant learning environment with this. Using technology as the backbone and other channels to be able to disseminate the content, the employees will be able to experience flexibility and quality in all the learning processes.

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Blended Learning Solutions – A more effective form of learning

Blended Learning The training process is one that involves a number of different processes. A continuous learning process needs to be provided to the learners along with some reinforcement techniques to make sure it works out well. These learning solutions need to be designed using a well planned strategy if you want to get results that last really long. ELearning and ILTs are two very important learning techniques which have their own advantages and limitations as well. The biggest part here is to decide which one is better among the two.

Since a very long time practitioners have been debating on the topic to come out with a feasible solution. Different people have different views and claims for each type of learning process. The training requirements in today’s world have become extremely complex with the increasing complexity of business. As such, sticking to a single type of learning format will no longer work out. For maximum eLearning benefits, both the styles need to be combined in the correct manner to get a blended approach of learning. This is where the concept of blended learning comes up from. Different delivery methods are mixed together to create a learning experience which is more comprehensive. This is called blended learning. It is typically used for a mixture of ILTs and eLearning. In short, it is known as the mixture of the face to face instruction method with computer mediated instruction techniques.

Before deciding to implement blended learning, it is necessary to understand how the method works, and what its advantages are. When you use blended learning, it helps you mix all the different kinds of learning strategies, methods, and even the medium of delivery. This helps you ensure that all your objectives of learning are successfully met. A typical example can be that in which product training needs to be given to your employees. You can use a classroom session for this, or a series of different sessions including some self paced modules and hands on demo. You can try doing it with some simulation modules and then an online assessment. You have a variety of options in front of you. Different types of content can be matched to offer you the most effective learning solution for your specific requirement.

ILTs and eLearning, when integrated together, make a very strong learning process. eLearning is well known for all the benefits it can offer on any kind of level. But, it cannot fit perfectly in every situation. You need to add ILTs in it to complement the process. This makes your training process really effective and comprehensive, and also offers maximum results. You need to remember two points:

  • ELearning and ILTs need not be mutually exclusive.
  • Do not view both the processes in different silos.

ELearning solutions can be used as the backbone of your process, as it is cost effective and reaches out globally. You could just add a bit of ILTs here and there to integrate the system seamlessly with the eLearning process.

For a learning technique that is ideal, you need to mix both the learning processes and create a perfect blend.

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E-Learning and Blended Learning

Blended Learning It is difficult to find one simple solutions for a complex issues. The expectations with regards to performance at work place or at home are complex; we need a blend of various learning solutions to resolve these complex issues. In such a scenario, Blended learning offers a greater chance of success.

Blended learning is not new concepts. In fact, it is an age-old concept that existed for several centuries. In ancient India, the pupil leave with their teacher or guru for years in Ashrams. The pupil was imparted theoretical knowledge, in the presence of the guru, sitting under the tree. The requisite physical training took place in open places. The pupil would also help the guru in the preparation of food. And, many such areas of learning were available under a single roof under the aegis of a single teacher. Blended Learning is akin to the form of pedagogical practice such as the Gurukul where there exists a blend of various training or learning strategies.

Today, the needs and challenges of learning have changed. Enlisted below are a few such challenges:

  • Time constraint
  • Total number of students that can be reached
  • Learners being distributed at far different places
  • Complexity of tasks to perform
  • Complexity of content
  • Forms of content (Audio, Video, Text etc.)
  • Infrastructure
  • Cost

All these factors necessitate a unique learning strategy; a strategy that constructs a learning environment that has the following features.

  • Ease of access of content to remote learners
  • Platforms to deliver various types of content anywhere and anytime.
  • A learner-centric Learning Module/Design.
  • Easy tracking
  • Multiple delivery of learning content
  • Regulatory or supervisory control over content, trainer performance and learner’s understanding.

The above learning environment is a blend of technology and traditional learning strategies.

E-Learning and Blended Learning:

Technology helps create most effective blend of learning solutions. E-learning, itself, is a technology-enabled blended learning concept. It can be mixed with traditional learning solutions like instructor-led training programs, books, field trips, etc.

Blended learning is the latest product in the arsenal of e-learning. Companies that develop Learning solutions help organizations build a blend of learning solutions suitable to their requirement and resources. Technology enabled Blended Learning includes all the advantages of e-learning and more; It offers more time and variety of platforms to deliver content.

Blended Learning solution does increase the cost of learning but the benefits, in terms of the significant impact on business goals, mitigate its costs. Blended Learning helps bring a very real and desired change in employee performance which in turn boosts the organization’s performance.

Learning managers or Officers face the challenge of application of Blended Learning. It is indeed a challenge because they are the premiere points of contact with an overview of various processes and have the requisite expertise to identify the areas of improvement. And so, they must lead the process of incorporating a suitable Blended Learning technique in the learning environments of their company by understanding the specific needs of the organization and employees, and developing a suitable strategy to combat the same.

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What about surplus learning budgets?

Elearning

Companies allocate budgets for their learning requirements. Learning managers are responsible and have authority to spend these funds to satisfy learning needs in their respective organization. In general it is observed that, at the end of each financial year, all learning needs are satisfied but some part of allocated fund remain unspent.

It is an opportunity for learning managers to invest in learning needs other than required for core operations like employee benefits, slow performers, skill enhancement for reducing time and improving quality, emotional development of employees etc. In an ideal case, these funds should go in areas which are not related to core operations and more towards employee benefits.

Following is the list of courses which you can buy or make an order for:

• Courses to improve or enhance Emotional Intelligence – Emotions are weakness of a person, but the same time this could prove strength too. Emotions enable persons to bring best out from them.

• Courses on Sports – Getting trained in sports and playing with colleagues will help to establish relationships and increase relatedness. Sports develops team spirit which is very important element in delivering projects successfully.

• Courses related to Home Affair Management – Other than office, the person spends time and energies managing home affairs. The person or resource may be good enough in his skills, but if he fails in managing home affairs, then this will effect on his work.

• Courses related to Physical Health – Physical fitness has direct impact on work output in office. Courses on simple and effective exercises to be done in office and home will benefit resource and office as well.

• Course on Divinity – Religion is the main source from where person seek energy and no religion develops negative energy. Religious teaching helps person to find right direction to put his/her energy and time whole heartedly. This helps organization to benefit in work and maintaining healthy and happy in his surroundings including office.

• Courses on Positive Engagements – Courses related to simple magic, poetry, music, dance etc. will help person to engage in activities which resist him to move towards negative activities and helps to build confidence and feel of special.

Providing course in these areas will give caring message to employees. They feel company cares about them as it cares about its business. This helps to develop attachment towards company and feel like another home. This is very difficult for all company to develop these feelings in resources; get use of surplus funds and benefit your organization.

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Blended eLearning: Variety Adds Spice to Life

Blended eLearning can be defined as the combination of diverse delivery channels and teaching tools as part of course design. Blended learning usually takes in a variety of ingredients as classroom learning, online courses and mobile learning etc; the right mix of these ingredients depends on the course design.

Blended Learning

Some of the possible combinations of blended learning would include:

  • Classroom instruction blended with on-line training.
  • On-line training material coupled with access to a guide or subject expert.
  • Blending simulations with structured courses.
  • On-Job Training (OJT) culminating with easy sessions.
  • Managerial coaching carried out using e-learning activities.
Need for Blended eLearning:

People are not single-method learners! Different learning problems require different solutions; hence it becomes inevitable that we use more than one method in the learning process. Every individual has unique learning styles and requirements, thus requiring a combination of different learning contexts.

Elements of Blended eLearning:

The various elements include:

  • Classroom training
  • Web-based training
  • Webinars
  • CD-ROM courses
  • Video
  • Simulations
  • Mobile Learning

Based on the analysis of the learners’ needs, their understanding levels, resource availability and the nature of audience the appropriate elements will be chosen.

Advantages:

The advantages of blended eLearning are as follows:

  • It provides flexibility in scheduling and timetabling of courses.
  • It changes focus from classroom training to online learning placing the learner in such situations where he has to study, participate and attempt the given activities.
  • Enables users to interact (group discussions) and maintains privacy at the same time.
  • Customizing learning content to suit a variety of audiences.
  • Cost effective and swiftness at work makes blended learning the most sought after training mode for which most of the multinationals are currently focusing on.

 

Future of blended learning:

With the advancement in technology many models of blended learning have risen like:

  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual World
  • Tele Presence

The addition of new tech gadgets impacts learning and training in this modern era. Straightly put blended e-learning is dynamic liable to changes, widening the learning dimensions.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about the same.

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