Blended Learning: The answer to your learning and development prayers?

The most successful organizations are the ones that continually develop their talent

Even the ones at the very top of the hierarchy. Where organization structures have become more fluid, learning and development has naturally had to follow suit.

Face to face training will always have a place. It provides an experience that you can only really get with human contact, and at Ashridge we see hundreds of leaders every year thrive on the experience they take away from one of our residential programs. On the other end of the scale, fully virtual online training means that you can scale up and train hundreds of people on the same topics. They can fit it into their own schedule, and you can monitor their progress from afar.

Is blended learning really a middle ground then? Is combining face to face training with virtual delivery the best way to develop your future leaders?

The challenge:

Many organizations have found out, often a little too late, that implementing blended learning is not as simple as adding a bit of online training to a face to face course or adding a classroom-based element to a virtual program.

If a blended approach is to deliver the goods, it needs to be aligned to strategic organizational objectives and have enough flex to adapt with the changing priorities of a business.

So, L&D practitioner, what do you need to do to make sure your blended learning program delivers value to your business?

The solution:

Be clear about your objectives

What are your business goals and how is this blended learning program going to support them? Who is the program aimed at? How receptive will they be to the training? What do you want them to learn?

Only once you have answered these questions, and possible several others, can you start thinking about what your blended learning program will look like, and the content you need to underpin it all.

Don’t be seduced by the tech

So many businesses fall into the trap of choosing technology that is totally inappropriate for their business, because it’s the latest ‘thing.’ It’s essential to get your tech right, so make sure you stop and think before investing in gamification, mobile apps, avatars and other things that you don’t really need.

You also need to think about how people will learn. Does everyone have a good enough internet connection to live stream a video? Is there somewhere quiet to join a virtual meeting?

Nothing turns people off more than technology that doesn’t work as it should, so make sure that your content is the star of the show.

Do some myth-busting

People often have preconceived ideas that blended learning is just a cost-saving initiative and a poor relation to real training. You need to nip this in the bud quickly to get any buy-in from your stakeholders. Senior management, HR, L&D and line managers all need to be involved in reinforcing the message that the organization has invested in developing a program that best meets the needs of the employees.

Design a great program

This sounds obvious, but it’s vital to design a program that is fit for purpose. Take a cross section of your target audience and create personas for them. Make sure that the program you design will meet their needs. Consider questions such as:

  • Do they have to be tech savvy to access the virtual training elements?
  • Will they have time to fit the learning into their schedule?
  • Is it relevant to their job role?
  • Do they understand the language?

Once you’re clear about the content, split it into chunks and attach a learning objective to each chunk. Then you can consider whether classroom-based training or virtual delivery will be the best way to achieve each learning objective.

Make sure that the program flows consistently, and that you allow participants enough time to complete the program around their work schedule.

Plan your implementation properly

Getting a blended learning program up and running is a complex task, and usually needs a phased implementation. For larger scale projects a Project Manager is recommended to manage everything from logistics to internal communications and content reviews.

Hult International Business School
Hult International Business School
Ashridge Executive Education