by Danielle Greening, GP Strategies

FACT - One single learning solution sometimes just isn’t enough.

In many cases, learning solutions need to be fused together in order to successfully cater towards specific business needs. This is why blended learning (BL) is so successful - given the right approach. Now, whilst blended learning has been around for a long time, it is still very much a thing of the present. Many people within the learning and development industry are taking heed of how it combines the best mix of learning deliveries. But as with many other trends, blended learning has its sceptics.

Towards Maturity has found that just 22% of learning is delivered through fully blended solutions. Organisations are clearly apprehensive about taking that leap towards designing their blended learning solution, and this is mostly due to a false depiction of what it truly entails. So, what really is the truth about blended learning? Let’s find out what is fact and what is fiction.

Blended Learning Saves You Money - Fiction.

It is a common misconception that by using a blended learning solution within your organisation, you will subsequently save yourself money and time. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, if not researched properly, you could end up forking out a lot more than you initially accounted for, and will possibly waste your resources in the process. Essentially, the cost of learning depends upon how much delivery is involved. For instance, if you create a blended learning programme with the intention of hundreds of users participating, and the desired users indeed complete the training, then it will be cost efficient. Otherwise, you’ve created a programme which hasn’t been utilised to its full potential.

Pound sign

If you plan for hundreds of users, and only achieve a small percentage of that, then you will be wasting time, effort, and most importantly, money and resources. Before deciding on a blended learning solution, do your research. Are you trying to get volume? Is it a box ticking exercise, or are you trying to engage and win people over to a new way of doing things? As with any learning programme, this part of your research is essential, and will affect the route to delivery you finally choose. Get amongst your learner audience - find out what they’re already using inside and outside work to learn. This will help shape the kind of blend that will work with this audience.

The Learner is Isolated - Fiction.

It is widely misconstrued that blended learning solutions can stifle communication, and eventually leave the learner feeling isolated. Why? Because of the sheer volume of information that is accessible on mobile devices.

But we live in a social, digital age, so it’s inevitable that technology will eventually be used to expand the learning environment. By using technology within a blended learning solution, users are able to connect and learn from one another through online portals. Blended and online e-learning can actually benefit the learner as oppose to hindering them due to the boundless opportunities to communicate. No boundaries = no learning limits.

BL is used to increase human interaction, as oppose to decreasing it as many people misunderstand. Educational technology connects students across the world. Classrooms can come together in a way which traditional face-to-face would never normally allow. It Requires Less Work Than Traditional Face-to-Face Learning - Fiction.

Face-to-face learning is considered the grandfather of the L&D world. Because of this, new, innovative methods of learning, such as blended learning, may be deemed as a lesser learning mechanism than that of the more traditional approaches, and are even considered as ‘easy’. But this isn’t always the case. Contrary to popular belief, it actually requires more time and effort from the user and trainer, in comparison to traditional classroom learning.

Why? Well classroom learning can only offer a certain amount of facilities; group lessons, marked assignments, individual conferences. Whilst blended learning can offer much more; Online discussions, instant messaging, dropboxes, online grading tools, immediate feedback from reports. Blended learning is able to cater to the user’s wide variety of needs, along with the instructors, and resources can be managed in an efficient, effective manner.

Blended learning effectively engages the learner to do more due to the innovative way of presenting content, whilst face-to-face can sometimes be monotonous and distracting. This, however, is very much down to the engagement of the deliverer, which will vary enormously. Some deliverers can make the most mundane topic massively engaging, whilst other deliverers can do the total opposite. As with most things, the more engaged a user is, the more inclined they are to want to learn, and subsequently, the more work they actually complete.

Teachers Will Be Replaced By Technology - Fiction.

Artificial Intelligence System

“Technology is just a tool…the teacher is the most important.” This couldn’t be more true for the opportunities that blended learning provides. Teachers/trainers who use blended learning as a delivery approach understand that in reality, their role is more important. As with all other areas if our lives, technology is helping us evolve the way we do things. Training delivery is no different to this, and like any adaptive organisation, they need to ensure that they are evolving their role.

As opposed to having to teach an entire lecture theatre of 100 people, blended learning provides more time efficient one-to-one study time as the trainer receives reports and feedback almost immediately from the technological assessment systems. This makes room for a more interactive, engaging learning environment.

Ultimately, blended learning breaks down the limitations of the classroom by encouraging students to continue learning outside of school hours. But this doesn’t remove the role of the teacher, it merely enhances it. Technology can only do so much; it is just a tool. It’s up to the teacher to use the technological findings, and tailor the learning plan to suit the needs of their class. The most successful blended learning programmes are dependent upon the trainers selecting suitable, engaging content for their students to learn the most from.

The Learning is Easy and Requires No Creativity - Fiction.

One of the most common misconceptions that people have towards blended learning solutions is that it is easy. Whilst some may think that BL requires you to just play a video to a class, this is not always the case. Technology, videos, and games can be an integral part of your blended learning solution, but this doesn’t mean that the students just sit back and relax. Conversely, it provides the students with an array of pathways to learn more, not do less.

Students can now take ownership of their learning, as oppose to solely relying on the trainer, which will subsequently result in a more efficient learning method. Blended learning takes the best of both worlds, and creates a more engaging, inquisitive, and challenging environment. Therefore, it is not easier than traditional learning, it is merely amalgamating the old and the new together in order to create something which is beneficial for all involved. And the more you do this, the better your blended learning development will be.

Do you have uncertainties about the true realities of blended learning that may be putting you off creating your blended learning design. Find out more about how GP Strategies can help you in your quest to implement a successful learning programme.