Historically, the training industry has focused on production over customization. With a one-size-fits all approach (usually a traditional classroom-based course) in order to maintain profitability. But in a world full of customization, learners are demanding more. Could hybrid learning be the answer? In this article we’ll explore production v customization, the rise of online, self-paced learning, and the future of the training industry in a post-COVID world.
Mass production came about from Henry Ford’s Model T production line. In 1913, Ford installed the first moving assembly line for the mass production of a car. It reduced the build time from more than 12 hours to one hour and 33 minutes. This new mass production method helped create goods at a lower price. Making them more accessible and cost effective for consumers and creating scalability and huge cost savings for the business.
But one sacrifice of mass production was the lack of customization. Famously, Ford is reported to have said “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.” Eventually, of course more options were added. But it could be argued that they were mere variety, not true customization. True customization was simply too costly.
Now, 100 or so years later, we live in a world full of customization. From Netflix, to McDonald’s, to shoes and sunglasses. What we watch, eat, wear – nearly everything can be customized to suit our own personal needs. It has become a consumer expectation that if we buy something, we will have the ability to customize it.
But, it’s just as important to note, companies have achieved this customization en-masse. With virtually no impact on their scalability and profitability.
However, the big question here is – is mass customization possible in the training industry? Is it really possible to cater to individual learning preferences while also maintaining a profitable training business?
The answer is yes, it’s possible. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s necessary. Your learners demand it.
So, what does true customization look like in the training industry?
The rise of remote, self-paced learning
And in response, we saw a mass roll-out of new learning tech companies – all focused on delivering remote, online, self-paced learning. It seemed like the perfect solution in a rapidly changing training industry. Self-paced, online learning – what more could learners want?
A lot more, as it turns out.
Because while there was an initial surge, more recently we’ve seen both learners and trainers alike pull back from these types of platforms. So much so, that Thinkific posted a $26.4 million US dollar net loss last year. And has laid off 20% of its employees as a result.
Why? Three key reasons.
Three shortfalls of remote, self-paced learning
- Poor knowledge retention. Learners don’t want to be given a login and left to learn on their own. This entirely self-paced way of learning is ineffective in terms of knowledge retention – with no resources, discussion or ongoing support. In fact, recent studies show that online self-paced courses have low completion rates – as little as 2%!
- Quality isn’t guaranteed. These platforms have given rise to the “training entrepreneur”. Anyone with a camera and some subject knowledge can create a course and sell it online. But, a camera and a platform don’t turn skill experts into great instructors! It’s harder than ever to discern between a good or bad course, or a good or bad trainer. And learners are spending their hard-earned money on a course that doesn’t deliver results. There is no accountability for the trainer when it comes to learning outcomes, and no guarantee for the learner.
- Lack of connection. The 2020 novelty of remote learning, working and socializing quickly wore off. Now, people are craving personal connection once again. Arguably the biggest shortfall of remote, online training is the lack of connection between learner and trainer, or between learners themselves. In a recent survey on how modern workers learn, 91% say that collaboration is the most useful to help them learn. And 70% get their motivation from mentoring and coaching.
So while the pre-COVID days of traditional instructor-led training wasn’t perfect, neither is this new online, self-paced approach.
A hybrid learning approach
Along came 2021 and the easing of COVID restrictions, and with it the hybrid workplace was born. People craved face-to-face connection, and by 2022 this hybrid model was fully embraced as the new normal. A preference over remote.
And herein lies the answer for the training industry – the future of training is a hybrid approach.
Sometimes referred to as blended learning, hybrid learning means providing course content in a variety of delivery formats; including face-to-face, live online webinar, quizzes, on-demand video, podcasts and surveys. Each element is complementary to the others, designed to support specific learning outcomes. And are usually centered around a carefully curated instructor-led training session.
For learners, hybrid provides a richer learning experience than any single format on its own. It enables access to content that best suits individual learning styles.
For training companies, it’s scalable and effective – it reduces the costs of classroom-based training with venues, food, accommodation and more. It allows training companies to continue to use their biggest asset – their trainers – but in a more cost-effective way.
So, if we go back to our question from earlier – is it possible to deliver mass customization in the training industry? Yes, it’s possible to deliver mass customization with an effective hybrid strategy. A strategy that gives learners true flexibility in how, when and where they learn.
In fact, we’d go as far to say hybrid is absolutely necessary. Hybrid training is necessary in order to meet your learners’ needs and continue to thrive as a training business in this world of customization.