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Blended Learning: The Best of All Worlds

I recently had a client ask me, “is instructor lead training (ILT) dying or is that something people still ask for?” Thinking back to the ILT project we finished up just a couple weeks back, the question caught me by surprise. Face-to-face delivery is not dying. Rather, recent trends and technology are causing changes to the landscape of training. Training departments are reallocating where they spend their time and money. It’s a shift, not extinction.

Maestro’s journey thus far highlights the training world’s shift of focus. When Maestro was founded our bread and butter was eLearning. Now, although about 70% of our business is mobile, we work along a spectrum of development to create tools that help the world’s most advanced companies perform beautifully. On one end is a very specific tactical solution, like a 3-D animation. On the other end is the opportunity to dig deep into a corporation’s overall approach, such as, the opportunity to build out an enterprise mobile strategy. ILT, mobile applications, eLearning, eBooks, mobile tools, etc. fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. One delivery method is not better than the other.

Enter the blended learning approach.

ILT? eLearning? Mobile? Perhaps it is not only mobile or ILT that is the solution, but a combination of the two. Blended learning, or the “learning mix,” as corporate learning expert Elliott Masie describes, combines “instructional design, with learner choices, and external resources.  This mix presents instructors with the opportunity to exploit the unique features of each delivery method to optimize learning.

Lets take a peak at blended learning at work…

A client of ours well known for orthopedic implants, faced a crucial training challenge when they acquired a line of power tools to add to its portfolio of products. The majority of the items sold by its sales force were one-time use products as opposed to capital equipment. This presented a two-pronged training need.

First, the 1,200 sales reps needed to understand how and why selling capital equipment was vastly different from selling the one-time use products they had handled previously. In addition, the reps needed basic education about the new line of products so they could sell effectively—and with confidence.

The answer was an app, which enabled reps to learn the necessary background information on power tools in preparation for in-person training. With the app serving as a prerequisite for the basic face-to-face training, the in-person sessions could focus on building confidence and specific selling skills. Then after face-to-face training is completed, learners can continue to sharpen their knowledge using the same handy application they are already familiar with.

It’s like a blended learning sandwich!

Not only does blended learning play to the strengths of each delivery method, it is proven to be more effective than ILT or eLearning alone. A study found that combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger learning advantage than purely face-to-face or purely online instruction did.  So when you are building a learning strategy, get creative! Throw in several different delivery methods and blend away to provide your users with engaging learning.

References i   http://trends.masie.com/archives/2012/2/1/707-learning-mix-2012-challenge.html ii  Bernard, et al (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of Educational Research 74, 379-439.

Sydney Hill

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