Blended learning approaches have proved so successful for both training companies and their learners that they are becoming an integral part of long term strategies. But what is blended learning? Why has it seen such a rapid rise in popularity? What are the benefits for training companies and their learners? And what does a blended learning course look like in practice?
In 2020, training providers were forced to adopt live online webinar and self-paced eLearning as a way to continue delivering training during COVID-19. The move to online was fast and experimental – a means to survival in a world where face-to-face training was no longer possible. But as the world re-opens will there be a return to face-to-face or will learners favor remote learning going forward?
The answer is both.
A year on from COVID-19, it is clear that the way we deliver training has changed forever. The evolution due to the needs and demands of next gen learners who live in a digital world and the rise of remote working and learning. But the idea that entirely online learning could replace face-to-face learning has turned out to be false – students are favoring blended learning approaches. A recent Salesforce Connected Student Report shows that only 21% of respondents would prefer an all-online course, with twice as many students (43%) preferring a blended course.
“Students really missed the social experience of interactive teaching,” says Graham Virgo, senior pro-vice chancellor for education at Cambridge University in the Salesforce Connected Student Report. “We have conducted surveys of our student body and found that while they are appreciative of the pivot to remote delivery, they miss in-person education.”
What exactly is blended learning? Blended learning is a course made up of three quite different types of training; face-to-face, live online, and self-paced eLearning, with the intention of all elements being complementary to each other. For example, students might complete a survey prior to a face-to-face classroom session to gauge learning objectives or levels of knowledge. Post-course modules are designed to extend and reinforce learning and prepare students for assessment with quizzes.
This approach to learning supports a wide range of learning styles. It also enables flexibility in terms of when students learn, their location, and their pace. As well as providing the much needed human connection in a face-to-face environment.
Let’s look a little closer at those three elements and their key benefits….
Blended learning approaches: Key elements
Face-to-face or classroom training
A traditional face-to-face course is held in a classroom. This delivery has the most limitations, as class numbers are dependent on venue size, geographical location and time and date availability. However, face-to-face learning is an important part of education. It enables students to connect with each other as well as their trainers, and be fully engaged with learning.
Live online, virtual classroom or webinar
Live online or webinar is similar to a traditional face-to-face course, but held in a virtual classroom. A presenter, or presenters, deliver a presentation in real-time to learners around the world who attend remotely via video conference. Live online is delivered using software such as Zoom, Go-To Webinar, Google Classroom and more.
While live online cannot replicate the connection and engagement that is achieved through face-to-face, there are a growing number of online collaboration tools designed to improve the experience. Tools such as Miro, Creatly, Blackboard and Microsoft Whiteboard.
Self-paced or self-directed eLearning
eLearning is self-paced learning, such as online courses and modules that people can complete in their own time, online. eLearning can be done from anywhere and students do not have to attend a live online course on a specific date, or attend a live class. These modules can include SCORM packages, quizzes, surveys, wikis, on-demand videos, and assignments.
This type of learning gives learners true flexibility and control in how and when they learn. But due to there being no involvement from a trainer, these are best suited as being complementary elements to face-to-face or live online learning. Rather than a stand-alone course.
Blended learning approaches: The benefits
For training providers, blended learning approaches can help scale your business and increase profitability. Your trainers can teach global audiences from the comfort of their own home. You can charge more money for a blended learning course as it provides a richer learning experience. And you have a competitive advantage over an old-school training provider who only delivers traditional face-to-face courses.
Additionally, eLearning tools can track student completion and automatically mark student assessments. Saving even more time and helping you get a better understanding of your students’ learning.
For learners, there are many benefits to blended learning including flexibility and increased learning outcomes. With live online webinar, or by reducing the length of the face-to-face components, learners have reduced or removed travel and accommodation costs. And it’s less time away from their day-to-day.
Blended learning ensures all individual learning styles are catered for – be it face-to-face, podcast, video, SCORM modules or quizzes. The ability to complete modules at their own pace is shown to increase knowledge retention and improve learning outcomes. As is the ability to access online libraries and forums, review content, re-do online quizzes and assessments and
Blended learning approaches: Course example
Here’s an example of a blended learning course from one of Arlo’s training providers, True Relationships and Reproductive Health.
True’s Cancer Screening Education For General Practitioners is an eLearning-based course composed of podcasts, surveys, quizzes and online evaluations. This is complemented by a short 30min face-to-face/webinar session.
This is one of True’s most successful blended learning courses with significant elearning components, complemented by short face-to-face or webinar. True uses Arlo, Learnbook, Zoom and Articulate 360 to create, deliver, sell and manage their blended learning courses.
- Introductory session. A predisposing activity and quiz in Learnbook on Australia’s National Cancer Screening Programs.
- Webinar. 1x 30min in-depth face-to-face or webinar session focused on cervical cancer and symptoms.
- eLearning modules. Complete 10x 30min eLearning modules in Learnbook on various topics, including ‘Symptoms and Signs of Cervical Cancer’. Each is followed by an evaluation.
- Podcast. Listen to 1x 1hr podcast in Learnbook on breast screening.
- Online hub. Attendees then get access to an online hub full of tools and resources to further extend their learning journey.
- Online forum. Attendees then get access to an online, anonymous forum where they can ask questions directly to True’s expert clinicians and chat to their peers.
- Activity and evaluation. Attendees complete a knowledge-reinforcing online activity, followed by an evaluation. Upon completion they are awarded their accreditation certificate.
Blended learning is here to stay
Flipped learning, hybrid learning, remote learning, blended learning. There are many terms that refer to this new way of learning. Pre-COVID, these were more likely buzz words, trends or experiments for you and your business. Now, midway through 2021, blended learning is a powerful strategy. It is becoming well and truly embedded in the long-term business plans of successful training companies.
For more on blended learning, check out these resources:
- Ultimate guide to blended learning
- Webinar: Blended learning case studies
- Webinar: Blended learning overview
- How Parallel successfully delivers blended learning
Blended learning approaches are a combination of face-to-face, live online and eLearning, giving people the ability to learn flexibly and in a way that best suits their learning style. For example, students might complete an online course module prior to a face-to-face classroom session to get them thinking ahead of class, or post-course to continue their learning journey. The intention of blended learning is for all elements to be complementary, and delivered in a logical sequence.
A blended classroom takes the traditional education and teaching method of face-to-face and combines it with online learning. There has been a rise in blended classrooms post-covid and students are favoring this approach due to its flexibility and support of different learning styles.
Blended learning is a course made up of three quite different types of training; face-to-face, live online, and self-paced eLearning. Best practice blended learning is that the elements are complementary to each other and delivered in a logical sense. For example, students might complete a survey prior to a face-to-face classroom session to gauge learning objectives or levels of knowledge. Post-course modules should be designed to extend and reinforce learning and prepare students for assessment with quizzes. It is best practice to make online forums and resource libraries widely available to students.
To efficiently and seamlessly deliver blended learning you’ll need several best-in-class systems. For training providers, a course management system that handles online registrations, records customer data, manages venue bookings, automates emails and manages invoices, discounts and refunds is the best place to start. From there, you can integrate with live online course software such as Zoom, and LMS software such as Coassemble and LearnDash.