Blended learning: A mix of methods and formats to achieve the goal

What is blended learning?

Blended learning stands for the combination of digital learning with traditional face-to-face formats. Blended learning has recently become more and more of a buzzword. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and virtual working, training delivered via virtual meeting tools is becoming the norm. As a result, every training programme is quickly becoming blended learning. So the question for us is, what is a good blended learning concept?

Success with the right format mix

Digital and non-digital formats with a high proportion of "learning-by-doing" create a varied learning experience. The right choice of formats always depends on the learning objectives and the target group. Internal and external resources can be combined for this purpose. Typical elements of blended learning concepts are, for example

Flipped Classroom
Gamification
Recommended Learning Journeys
Micro Learning Nuggets

A mix of compulsory parts and supplementary, voluntary programmes is particularly effective. This allows learners to deepen their knowledge where they see the greatest need for learning. Or where it is the most fun!

Learning methods and the didactic concept

A typical pitfall of blended learning is to rely on general knowledge transfer. Today, high-quality digital content is available for almost every subject area, and some of it is even freely available. Unfortunately, content without embedding and transfer is quickly forgotten. Especially if it is not used in the learner's everyday life. It is better if theoretical knowledge, a concretisation to one's own case and application in everyday working life come together.

An example: Team leaders need new skills in the area of virtual team leadership. Impulses from a trainer in the group on theory can only serve as an introduction. Supplementary learning elements such as articles, a leadership app or a video course provide the ideal complement to enable transfer. This is followed by concrete application tasks. For example: conducting coaching sessions with several employees. The group can then reflect on what the learners have experienced and what they have learnt.

Nudges can play a role in the longer term for reinforcement. Small stimuli, such as an email, can remind participants to apply what they have learnt. Learning nuggets (e.g. short videos) help to retain content for longer.

The right LMS for successful blended learning navigation

Only a good learning management system brings the learning concept to life. There are various options here: Innovative apps, company-specific solutions through to integrated talent suites.

The learner experience is an important component for all of them: an easy-to-use and attractive interface makes users want to learn. Clarity and intuitive navigation are also important: What content is available next and in what form? What else is suggested to me? Can I pick up seamlessly on my smartphone where I left off at my desk? Then learning is fun.

The platform is also crucial for the responsible L&D managers. It allows training progress and utilisation to be tracked, which means that the quality of courses can be continuously improved. Questions are forwarded directly from the learners to the person responsible.

Also important: high-quality feedback at the end of units as well as feedback impulses in between (such as thumbs up/thumbs down or ratings) can be collected automatically. In this way, content and entire learning journeys can be successfully managed and continuously improved.

Advantages of B

The great advantage of blended learning is its almost seamless integration into learners' everyday lives. This means that learning continues not only in the classroom but also at work. This can make a decisive contribution to strengthening the learning culture.

The gain in flexibility is also an important argument in favour of blended learning in itself. Learners can access content at the best possible time in order to apply it directly and improve productivity. This also increases employee motivation, as successes are immediately visible. At the same time, participants systematically build up skills over longer periods of time that are not quickly forgotten.

This also increases the return on learning. Above all, blended learning saves time in the long term. Online offers provide participants with efficient learning opportunities without having to wait a long time for face-to-face training and then having to accept travelling time and costs. The scalability of offers to broader target groups also leads to a more efficient use of resources and lower costs for (especially external) trainers.

Many blended learning contents are also modularly reusable and can be integrated into various learning journeys in the company after being prepared once. In the long term, this can provide Learning & Development with a broad portfolio of training courses that can be created quickly for many target groups.

The role of Learning & Development departments

Blended learning also poses challenges for L&D. How is content curated given the current "content explosion"? What is really relevant to the corporate strategy? And what specific applications are involved in the various learning journeys?

To do this, L&D needs to get close to the business. Direct interaction with employees and managers makes it possible to identify learning needs and address them better than ever before with good blended learning programmes.

At the same time, the role of learning experience designers is also becoming increasingly demanding. New IT skills are needed to provide blended learning programmes. Even if many learning principles remain valid and many tools are available: The preparation of digital elements is time-consuming and, depending on the online platform, also expensive. Investment is needed not only in platforms, but also in the skills of L&D experts. They also need to undergo continuous further training in order to stay up to date.

A good first step is often to take a look at your own learning portfolio in order to clarify the question: What blended learning programmes do we already have? What should the learning portfolio look like in the medium term? And what skills do we need to develop in the L&D team to achieve this?

Would you like to know what blended learning could mean for your learning strategy? Feel free to contact us!

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Dr. Axel Hüttmann
Dr. Axel Hüttmann
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