Ever wondered about the benefits of blended learning for your team or organisation? Perhaps you’ve heard the term, but you’re unsure of what it means or looks like in practice?
Well, in this blog post we look at how blended learning could improve your team’s performance, as well as their enjoyment of/participation in their continued professional development (CPD).
What is blended learning?
Put simply, blended learning mixes more traditional, offline face-to-face training, mentoring and coaching, with online opportunities to study, game and chat. To find out more, read about Laughology’s Big Chats, Little Chats coaching programme for O2.
With budgets in many sectors increasingly squeezed and technology developing at a rate of knots, businesses and organisations are reviewing their CPD offers and turning to a blended learning approach.
Why is blended learning important to consider?
I recently heard a group of people chatting about a computer-based training task, which their boss had asked them to complete. In fact, that’s not what they were talking about at all. They were comparing the amount they had paid their teenagers to do the online training for them – a tenner is roughly the going rate, in case you’re interested!
Upon a little more investigation, it turned out that there was a host of different reasons for people passing the task on and not doing it themselves. These included:
- No enjoyment of online learning
- A lack of time (or feeling that they’d have to do this at home)
- Avoiding repetition of training they’d already done
- No need for this particular training
- Because they could... naughty!
Whatever the case, there’s clearly a flaw in the system. Several folks are also out of pocket. Not only have the parents coughed up, but the computer programme, bought by the company, hasn’t provided good value for money on this occasion.
What are the pros of blended learning?
Face-to-face training remains one of the most successful ways to develop people – as long as the facilitator is engaging, and the content is relevant. We know that face-to-face training:
- Enables us to have a laugh with others, helping us to remember any new learning.
- Encourages us to take time out (away from our desks), connect with others and build even better working relationships with colleagues.
- Helps us to gain a greater understanding of new strategies, applying them to our own situation and asking questions in the here and now.
Classroom-based learning isn’t the only face-to-face training opportunity. Do you enjoy learning from others? Shadowing a colleague can be really beneficial. Are you seeking more solution-focussed team members? A mentor or coach can facilitate deeper thinking. Conversations can take place in the same room or online. The only cost is time.
Delivery that’s fit for purpose
Sometimes, a face-to-face training session isn’t the best form of delivery, particularly if the content is knowledge-based. In a previous role, I attended statutory ‘Health and Safety’ and ‘Safer Recruitment and Retention’ training. Personally, an online programme would have been better. And yes, I promise I would have done it myself – and not just because I have no teenage kids to share the load with!
Less pressure, greater flexibility and reduced costs
When we feel under pressure at work or have busy personal lives, we don’t often have the capacity or the headspace to take on anything else.
If, at this point, we are three-line whipped to attend an event, any money spent will potentially have been fruitless. Either we cancel at the last minute, meaning our company still incurs the costs, or we do attend, but the information goes in one ear and out the other. Our mind is already distracted by what’s on our to- do list.
Better, then, to be in control of our own professional development and to ‘put the brakes on’ if necessary. Or, if possible, opt for something that reduces the pressure. With online learning, people have the flexibility to do the course when it suits them.
Of course, online learning can also lead to savings. It’s cheaper and less time-consuming than attending an off-site event with a trainer. One licence can even reach everyone in the organisation. Happy days!
What are the cons of blended learning?
Lack of motivation
If people aren’t motivated to learn, there are many ways they can avoid it - as with the example of the teenage kids. Similarly, by handing over greater ownership of professional development to individuals, some may try to ‘put the brakes on’ permanently.
Lack of broader skills
Some team members can become frustrated with online learning, as they don’t have the requisite technical skills to fully access and enjoy it. Getting to grips with the technology, as well as the content, can cause cognitive overload.
For others, with less advanced people skills, ice-breakers or ‘chats on your tables’ can be thoroughly stressful.
Top Tips for Making the Most of Blended Learning
- Research suggests that Millennials are driven by technology and are therefore more suited to online learning than some of their older colleagues. This isn’t always the case, so we should be aware of our biases. If there is a barrier to someone accessing online or face-to-face training, ask how you can help them to overcome it. This might involve offering specific IT training or buddying up with a partner to attend an event.
- If you are expecting/ insisting that people go on a course or complete a particular piece of computer-based training, clearly communicate the reason for this. Perhaps it’s face-to-face because you want everyone to have the opportunity to contribute. Maybe it’s online to fulfil a statutory requirement, with legal implications if it turns out they didn’t do it themselves!
- Help people to embed any online learning with follow up activities. These may be tasks related to their work, which their manager or HR business partner will hold them accountable for. Or it may be that you set up small working groups (3s work best), which hold each other to account. These 3s can chat in the same room, or nationally/globally online.
- Take people on your blended learning journey with you. People are far more likely to be motivated, happy and successful, if they understand the benefits of thinking about their own thinking (metacognition) and enjoy creating bespoke development plans, which are fun and suit them. This can only be a good thing for everyone’s mental health, as well as for the company coffers!