April 16, 2019
Whether teaching school pupils, university students or professionals, blended learning is often heralded as a really effective way of teaching. But how does it work?
Blended learning is a type of training or educational programme that uses a mixture of both digital and face-to-face teaching techniques. Both of these techniques have pros and cons, and good blended learning programmes take the best aspects of both to maximise the impact of learning.
Here are some ways in which blended learning methods can make training more efficient and effective.
Everyone learns in their own way. Using digital training resources puts learners in control of the time and place that they learn, and the length of the learning sessions. It allows them to learn at their own pace, repeat sections they find harder to grasp, and reference information as and when they need it.
Group face-to-face training sessions are rarely this personalised; although they often give learners the chance to ask specific question, the learning experience is pretty rigid, at a defined place, time and pace. There isn't always time for learners to focus on topics that they find particularly interesting, relevant or challenging. Learners may even resent losing several hours to attend a workshop or lecture about something they already know.
By combining independent digital learning resources with occasional face-to-face sessions, learning remains relevant and effective. The independent training can be used as a springboard in one-on-one sessions to evaluate personal goals and challenges, and take appropriate action to improve.
Large training sessions require a lot more resources than digital training. An institution will require a lot of time, energy and personnel to organise these sessions, or they may pay for expensive external companies and events. Digital resources that can be accessed on personal mobiles and computers require fewer physical resources and personnel, so are often comparatively cheaper.
On the other hand, large training events can be really exciting and inspiring, and they are an excellent opportunity to network. A good blended learning programme will ensure learners still receive the benefits of these training sessions; however they will simply complement a sustainable baseline of independent digital training. Large sessions are not relied upon, and don’t have to occur as frequently, therefore saving a lot of time and money.
Another way blended learning programmes can maximise efficiency is by using flipped learning techniques - when trainees learn something independently before discussing it in full in a group. By ensuring learners are prepared beforehand, the group session can be used more efficiently to deepen understanding, discuss issues, carry out problem-solving activities and answer any specific questions.
Blended learning allows trainers to take advantage of technology and human evaluation in tracking results. Learning management systems gather data from digital courses and provide a comprehensive report of not only course completion and test scores but also engagement levels and self-assessment. This is something that face-to-face training simply cannot achieve with such speed and in such depth.
However, this data can be reinforced by one-on-one or group sessions where trainees and mentors or managers discuss the training, how effective they find it, how happy they are with the content and levels of support and whether certain changes to the programme would make it more effective. This way you’re gaining both quantitative and qualitative data on the blended learning programme and the learner's outcomes, and can make changes to improve results.