The steady proliferation of new technologies, the desire to provide innovation in the learning experience and the need to control costs, has put a spotlight on the use of blended learning models.
But what is blended learning and how can organizations leverage this teaching style? In this blog, we will discuss what is blended learning, review blended learning characteristics and models, look at the benefits of this type of learning program and summarize considerations when creating blended courses.
Blended learning is defined as a teaching method where both face-to-face and technology-mediated instruction is used to deliver education and learning opportunities.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning is defined as a teaching method where both face-to-face and technology-mediated instruction is used to deliver education and learning opportunities. Blended learning is sometimes called hybrid learning or mixed-mode learning.
Students do not have to be physically in the same location during the technology-mediated parts of these educational experiences. They may, however, interact digitally via the internet or social communities.
For example, one blended learning course might combine students’ participation in a class delivered by a teacher in a conventional classroom with their independent completion of online components of the course outside of the classroom.
Macro Connect found that 82 percent of students want blended learning instead of purely classroom instruction.
Blended learning characteristics
Whether you are designing a new blended learning course or looking to modern an existing course, blended learning includes synchronous and asynchronous learning methods.
What is Synchronous Learning? Synchronous learning is defined as an instruction method where the instructor and the students engage with the course content and each other at the same time, either from the same or different locations.
What is Asynchronous Learning? Asynchronous learning is defined as a learning method where the students engage with the course content at different times and different locations.
A blended learning format or program will include at least one of these synchronous learning methods and one asynchronous learning method:
Classroom learning: Also known as instructor-led training (ILT), this synchronous learning method will never go out of style, but it is costly compared to online learning. It can also be more time consuming, have poorer knowledge retention and takes people away from their job for an extended period. However, when combined with online training, classroom training can provide an environment to practice required skills, encourage collaboration between learners and significantly reinforce learning material. Enhance this learning method with classroom discussions and interactive exercises.
Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT): Another form of synchronous learning method, VILT leverages live video conferencing and offers many of the benefits of classroom learning but reduces time away from the office. Well structured virtual ILTs encourage learning and knowledge retention by including discussions and interactive exercises.
Online, self-paced learning: With this asynchronous learning method, learners can select the best time to take the training It is also an ideal resource to leverage microlearning to introduce new concepts and reinforce past training. Support online learning with textbooks, video content, interactive online quizzes.
Experiential learning: This is a learning process where students “learn by doing” and by reflecting on the experience. Experiential learning activities can include, hands-on laboratory experiments, internships, practicums, field exercises, study abroad, undergraduate research and studio performances.
Blended learning models
There are many blended learning models and the effectiveness of each depends on the audience, the subject, the geographic location of the students, the desired outcomes and more.
The first approach, which is a mix of presentation and interaction, emphasizes classroom engagement as its key element, with assistance from out-of-class, online tasks. This model, often known as the flipped classroom or flipped curriculum method, includes students viewing podcasts or other online resources independently before attending class-based tutorials or seminars based on these materials.
The second is the blended block model or programme flow model, where a sequence of activities, or “blocks,” is structured to incorporate both face-to-face learning and online study. For example, a blended course for people who are scattered across the world or work full-time may start with a block of intensive face-to-face sessions, followed by blocks of online study and collaboration through online tutorials, and then perhaps another block of face-to-face learning or group presentations.
The third model, which is entirely online but is still regarded as blended learning, combines both synchronous learning (like online or virtual classes) and asynchronous activities, like discussion forums.
Other blended learning models include rotational learning where during class time, students rotate to a computer lab or among different online learning stations and flexible learning where students move among learning modalities at a self-determined pace, with instructors giving help as needed. Hybrid learning is where learners take a mix of traditional and online classes, working in the classroom and at home.
However the blended learning course is structured, both online and face-to-face learning content and activities are combined with one another to help students achieve the same outcomes with the same material.
While digital learning is popular, many students are hesitant to give up their education in the classroom, which is one of the reasons that blended learning is so popular.
Blended learning advantages and disadvantages
For learners, the advantages of a blended learning environment include expanded information access, improved satisfaction, and greater learning results. There is also the opportunity to learn with others as well as teach others. For employers, blended learning provides the following benefits:
- Opportunity for collaboration with colleagues at a distance
- Increased flexibility to engage in learning without extensive time away from the office
- Increased interaction and engagement
- Enhanced learning
- More cost-effective, compared to pure instructor-led courses
According to the Center for Digital Education, blended learning is popular among 73 percent of educators. Macro Connect found that 82 percent of students want blended learning instead of purely classroom instruction.
While instructional technology and gamification has made digital learning increasingly popular, many students are hesitant to give up their education in the classroom, which is one of the reasons that blended learning is so popular.
One disadvantage of blended learning is that it may take time to build your templates and best practices, if you are new to this training style. The good news is that once you have created a template, it becomes a lot easier to create new courses.
A study conducted by the Financial Times found that three-quarters of organizations’ executive courses are now taking place at least 50 percent online.
Designing blended courses
When creating a blended course, consider including the following steps to ensure that you have created a well-structured program that will deliver on the above benefits.
Learning goals. Begin by developing student-centered learning outcomes. These will impact the content, the delivery method, which portions are delivered online or face-to-face, as well as how they are connected and evaluated.
Learning paths. Training paths offer an organized and focused approach to learning, as they break down complex topics into smaller, manageable steps. Build the sequence of courses, resources and activities that a learner will need to follow in order to achieve the learning goal. Structure it so that the student gets a solid foundation before moving on to more advanced concepts.
Outline. Create a syllabus or an outline with a schedule for each course that clearly shows when and where students will have contact with material and learning activities. Blended learning requires self-directed study and time-management skills; therefore, students must understand what their targets are and when they need to be completed.
Schedule. Consider what you and the learners will do when and where. When both online and in-person activities are intensive, engaging, and tough to accomplish, blended courses are at their best. The two delivery methods must work together and complement one another.
Consider learning preferences. Keep in mind your learners’ preferences when developing a blended learning strategy. Some people might prefer video courses, whereas others would choose other self-paced learning methods.
Don’t just add online components. Simply adding online learning to an existing course will not create an effective blended learning course. Consider a redesign of a course, with each section’s duration and location carefully planned.
Integrate group collaboration: Self-paced learning has many advantages but providing the opportunity to interact with peers to share knowledge brings many benefits. Consider adding discussion groups, chat rooms or group discussions.
Consider technology used. Consider how learning technologies might be used for course lesson sharing, group work, peer evaluation, question assistance, and so on. Make sure the technology you choose is appropriate for learner’s skill levels as well as meeting course goals.
Create an assessment or progress plan. Include ways to check the progress of the learners. These can include quizzes, or asking the learners to provide summaries of what they learnt. Tests and discussion groups are other ways to check how learners are doing.
Blended learning with technology
When opting for a blended learning program, choosing the correct technology and overcoming the difficulties that come with using technology are key aspects of establishing an effective learning environment. The following obstacles and suggestions were identified in a recent study on teacher perceptions conducted by Athabasca University and the Commonwealth of Learning (Cleveland-Innes, Ostashewski, Mishra, Gauvreau, & Richardson, 2017):
Access to technology: Determine what resources are accessible and whether there are any limitations like limited amount of bandwidth, unstable Internet connections, or a scarcity of devices such as laptops or cellphones.
Design: Creating the ideal in-person and internet activities necessitates combining technology in a way that supports genuine learning while adhering to pedagogical principles of both.
Safety and security: Create awareness of cyber-malice and make sure that security measures to combat unethical learning methods, academic dishonesty, identity theft, and bullying are in place.
Skill development, support, and training: Both learners and instructors must be technology literate and able to use technology applications to benefit from this program.
Mobility: In today’s learning environment, it is almost essential to offer learning content that can be run on PCs, tablets, and smartphones. According to the findings of a Skillsoft survey, 72 percent of the participants reported increased engagement with mobile learning. Lynda.com found that smartphone users completed courses an average of 45 percent faster than those who took the modules on their computers. When designing blended courses, ensure that learners can take in online content when they want, where they want.
Greater demand for blended learning
In a reflection of the greater use of technology, the need for lower costs and the desire for convenience, a study conducted by the Financial Times found that three-quarters of organizations’ executive courses are now taking place at least 50 percent online.
However, interaction between participants remains important. The 142 Chief Learning Officers who responded to the Financial Time survey said two-thirds of courses this year would be taught online synchronously — studying at the same time — or using blended online and in-person teaching.
Blended learning is not just for busy executives. It can be used for training and onboarding new employees, providing product training and enabling sales. Another survey on the U.S. training industry found that small and midsize companies leveraged blended learning the most in 2021. According to the survey, some 43 percent of hours were delivered via blended learning techniques, up from 33 percent the previous year.
- Virtual classroom/Webcasting accounted for 37 percent of hours delivered
- Online or computer-based technologies accounted for 34 percent of hours delivered
- 30 percent of training hours were delivered by an instructor in a classroom setting
- Interestingly, blended learning was used exclusively or mostly by 15 percent of the respondents.
Macro Connect found that 82 percent of students want blended learning instead of purely classroom instruction.
Using LEAi for blended learning
To help course creators create optimized content for learning, we developed a tool we call LEAi. This AI-enabled tool helps teams to create content for both online learning and instructor led training (ILT).
You don’t have to be a L&D (learning and development) specialist to use LEAi. Our tool is so easy to use that everyone from HR to sales enablement can convert existing content they have into learning content for blended learning formats – in minutes.
Key benefits of LEAi include:
- Use content that exists in your organization to create automatically create training content
- Be guided by best practices with our LearnAdvisor
- Update existing courses fast with our auto-update feature
- Repurpose content easily for different modules and courses
- Use the content to create different learning delivery modes
- One-click microlearning
If you are considering converting an existing ILT course or looking to develop new blended learning courses and you need a tool to help you accelerate the process, talk to us!