Research on blended learning has shown significant benefits for learning outcomes. An experiment conducted by the University of Iowa found that more than 95 percent of students enrolled in the blended course section earned course grades of C- or higher, compared with 82 percent in the large lecture sections and 81 percent in the online sections. Blended learning is becoming more common in the classroom, but now businesses are also capitalizing on the benefits as well.
There are many ways to combine instructor-led training with eLearning, but blended learning has grown to include more than lectures and eLearning modules. Mentoring, cohorts, performance support, and job aids, as well as other learning experiences, can all be used to build a comprehensive learning ecosystem. Generally, the structure of blended learning fits within four models: rotation, flex, enriched virtual, and a la carte. Here, we’ll describe these four models.
The rotation model is the most like a traditional classroom experience. Essentially, students rotate between different learning stations (e.g., classrooms or activities) with the oversight of an instructor until each learner has been through each station. In the case of blended modalities, learners would rotate through mentoring, cohorts, ILT, or web-based courses in turn.
The benefit of the rotation model is that learners can progress through the learning curriculum in smaller groups. Research shows that students tend to learn more and retain information longer in small-group learning settings. Moreover, instructors can more easily tailor the learning experience.
In the flex model, the bulk of learning takes place online. Instead of lecturing groups of students, instructors act more like tutors, assisting learners on an individual level. Additionally, instructors don’t dictate the training content. Learners choose what to learn based on personal interest or need.
For example, learners may have access to an array of courses online, and they can choose which courses are most useful or interesting to them. Instructors are present for additional help as needed. Students may also choose to work in small groups, receiving help and support from peers as they complete online coursework.
Self-directed learning and personalized learning modalities have notable benefits for engagement, so this model is perfect for continuous learning initiatives. It’s much more likely that employees will be successful working through material they enjoy, especially when training time competes with billable hours.
In contrast to the rotation and flex models, the enriched virtual model uses instructor-led training and web-based training in concert. Most of the learning takes place through online courses, but designated activities are taught in the instructor-led modality.
This model is common in corporate training. For example, AllenComm worked with Nordic Naturals to create a brand training initiative using an enriched virtual blended learning approach. Employees could complete their online coursework anywhere, at their convenience. Then, after the course work was completed, learners attended a follow-up, in-person training with an instructor to ensure long-term retention and application of the principles they learned online.
The enriched virtual model is useful if space is limited and your learners don’t mind learning remotely. This model allows for flexibility in how and when learners can complete their coursework, while still providing in-person, face-to-face instruction.
A La Carte
Unlike other learning models, a la carte learning can be entirely remote. Learning is completely web-based, delivered through a landing page, learning portal, or mobile learning platform. However, a virtual instructor is still available to students, often through videos, forums, or chats with students. As such a la carte learning is still considered blended learning.
This model can accommodate large numbers of learners because there’s no need to meet physically. It’s also a good option if travel is too expensive or getting learners in one place is too difficult. For the successful deployment of an a la carte initiative, it’s important to have reliable content management technology. Your platforms must accommodate courseware hosting and virtual ILT, or similar methods (e.g., live chat, chatbots, etc.), to communicate with learners.
When choosing a blended learning approach, consider your students and their learning preferences, your budget, time, and space constraints. Don’t be afraid to mix and match modalities. Your employee training design isn’t limited to the four models described here, nor is it limited to simple eLearning and ILT. Aspects from rotation, flex, enriched virtual, and a la carte models can be combined to create a blended learning approach that’s perfect for your needs.