Could one of the silver linings to COVID-19 be an increase in blended training? For almost 10 years, famous creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson has been making a strong case for a radical change in the way organizations deliver education. If you have not yet heard his entertaining TED talk, I highly recommend this use of 20 minutes of your time.
Robinson is by far not the only expert to put forward this idea. However, organizations, perhaps similar to your enterprise, usually have set ways of doing things. Everyone is used to them. They do not see a need to spend resources to create new methodologies and materials…and also have to train people in using them.
Then, almost overnight, the COVID-19 virus single-handedly turned the world upside down. Whether an organization (school, enterprise, non-profit, shop, religious institution, etc.) liked it or not, most—if not all—of the interactions, communication, and work became remote.
It wasn’t a matter of want; it was a matter of must.
Now, as we emerge into a new normal, your enterprise has a unique opportunity. Instead of going back to how it used to be before corona, you can choose to keep the advantages of lessons learned by using a blended learning approach.
What is blended training?
For me, blended training is best defined as a methodology which:
- uses time in two ways (via synchronous and asynchronous learning examples).
- includes both physical and virtual tasks.
Using time in two ways
“Khronos” is a Greek word that means “time”. Something which is in “chronological order” is organized according to time. A recipe is a good example: first, you do this, then you do this, and so on.
So, synchronous components happen at definite times. Asynchronous components take place at the trainee’s own pace.
Examples include frontal teaching (in a classroom or remotely online), discussion groups (again, in person or virtual), and scheduled, hands-on practice (physical or digital). Everyone begins and ends together, at the same time.
While there is usually a deadline by when this part of the training needs to be accomplished, within that time frame, the learner is free to choose their schedule. For example, let’s say that the trainee must watch an online video about a manufacturing process and then complete an online questionnaire about what they watched. This assignment is given at 10 am on Tuesday and must be completed by 10 am on Wednesday. The student chooses any time during that window to do the work.
Including both physical and virtual tasks
One of the temptations is to do everything online. That is understandable because the lines between blended learning and e-learning often get blurred, especially during the past year or so. However, true blended learning includes both physical and virtual ingredients.
Thus, blended training mixes and matches some of everything.
The main advantage of blended training
For enterprises, the big plus is consistency. By definition, an enterprise is a group of associates, franchises, or branches. Despite the different locations, all the individual businesses want to be seen as one unit, one company, or organization. Common branding is a big factor but no less important is enterprise employee training: getting every employee to the point at which the customer will have the same experience, no matter at which location they are. In other words, consistency.
Blended training, by nature, highly increases this outcome. First of all, many components are in the cloud. This makes them not only virtual but also asynchronous. They can be accessed via any digital device with a working internet connection at any time. This allows the same training material to be offered state-wide, country-wide, or worldwide.
Second of all, the online, synchronous meeting option allows employees in various locations and time zones to be in the same “classroom”, listening to the same trainer deliver the same material in the same manner.
Is blended training always the best way?
There is a lot of reliable data to support the idea that a blended training approach is better than just e-training or lectures. One recent study looked at dental students learning how to administer local anesthesia. Results showed that the blended learning group performed better on their clinical skills than the e-learning or lecture group.
On the other hand, an equally reliable, recent investigation examined the laboratory skills of medical neuroscience learners. In this case, the in-class group showed better skills than the blended learning group.
From my experience, blended training is always the most effective methodology. To me, the research is a reminder that different situations need different mixes.
It is too simplistic to say that a training program will be 50-50 synchronous and asynchronous, 50-50 physical and virtual. A more effective approach, in my opinion, is to adjust the mix for your employee training.
Blended Training Example #1
If your enterprise is training employees in “industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services” such as Deloitte, then you would want to emphasize a face-to-face aspect in addition to the virtual and digital components. Deloitte’s employees are often in client situations that are of a private and personal nature. Thus, training should include enough opportunities for a variety of in-person roleplays. As a result, Deloitte’s mix will likely be “heavier” in physical, synchronous roleplay opportunities.
Blended Training Example #2
On the other hand, perhaps the main goal of your enterprise is a focus on cross-cultural awareness. This is the case with Excedo, an organization which “improves your ability to communicate in cross-cultural business situations whatever your level of English”. Their training involves case studies in which trainees use what they have learned to evaluate why the communication was not effective. This is a perfect task type for digital learning. Thus, Excedo’s mix will likely be “heavier” in digital, asynchronous case study tasks.
Creating blended training
There is no magic formula, and please don’t let anyone convince you that there is. The best advice I can give you is how I do it:
- First, I use my common sense.
- Second, I try it out.
- Third, I remove what didn’t work and increase what did.
I have found that not being afraid to make mistakes, even look a bit foolish sometimes, is a very powerful thing. If I am trying something that I am very unsure of, I am upfront about it. I tell my learners that we are going to try something new. We do it, and then we reflect together about what worked or didn’t. My willingness to experiment, to be wrong gives my learners permission to do the same—an important part of any enterprise culture.
One thing that I do know for sure is to get the right tools for the job.
The right tool for blended training: EdApp Mobile LMS
EdApp is a blended learning solution that can help with synchronous and asynchronous, virtual and digital components. Let’s look at one of each.
One of the synchronous options which EdApp offers is its virtual classrooms feature.
Via Zoom or Microsoft teams, your trainers can hold scheduled, online lessons. As I mentioned earlier, this is perfect for enterprises that aim for consistency of training among employees in different time zones within one country and/or a workforce spanning more than one country. Check out this article for more information.
On the asynchronous side is EdApp’s Discussions & Assignments feature.
Using the Assignments feature, your enterprise trainer can set a task that requires the trainees to submit a response. The Discussions feature allows the trainees to interact with each other in a conversation-like forum. Pairing the two creates an opportunity for virtual, peer-assisted learning.
For example, your enterprise is a national clothing chain. Your trainer posts a case study of an incident that happened in one branch. The trainees’ task is whether or not this situation correctly reflects your enterprise goals and why. Until the task deadline, students can discuss this issue between themselves, benefitting from their peers’ knowledge and points of view. The trainer can monitor, even jump in to add or clarify as needed. Then, each student submits their conclusion for grading.
Even if masks are coming off in your area, choose to do it better this time with blended training.