With digital transformation sweeping through enterprises today, it’s never been more crucial for organizations to close skill gaps in emerging technologies. Hiring isn’t always the answer. The extreme shortage of candidates for roles in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Data Science and other disciplines is one reason why training from within—and upskilling your existing employees—makes the smartest, fastest and most cost-effective solution.

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If you’re more of a visual learner, check out Simplilearn’s webinar on blended learning. Here we’ll sum up the main points of the webinar, focusing on the benefits of blended learning. 

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning, also called “flipped classroom,” “hybrid learning” or “mixed learning,” is an approach that mixes instructor-led classroom training with online content, usually in the form of on-demand videos that learners review outside of class. The live instruction can be face-to-face or online (via a live virtual classroom or even two-way video), or there might be no live lecture at all.

Blended learning can also combine other elements besides content and instructors. For example, in a blended learning study published in 2018, one university completely excluded lectures (face-to-face or virtual) but instead used a mix of videos, digitized reading materials, pre- and post-learning assessments, practice exercises with feedback and weekly surveys, with face-to-face elements in the form of study groups, presentations, formative assessments and other peer interactions.

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Benefits of Blended Learning

Blended learning represents a fundamental shift in instruction methods. It has the potential to optimize outcomes for individual students in ways that traditional instruction can’t. Blended delivery modes allow for each aspect to be taught using the most appropriate medium for the topic at that particular stage in the training.

Extensively studied and practiced in K–12 and university education, blended learning also offers an ideal solution for improving corporate training, especially when it comes to upskilling employees for the quickly evolving digital economy. Here are five reasons why.

1. Different people learn different things in different ways

It’s pretty common knowledge that different people learn differently. In 1992, researchers Fleming and Mills developed a popular model of learning styles called VARK: Visual (when people learn best by sight), Aural or Auditory (when people learn by hearing or speaking), Read/Written (when people learn when things are displayed as words) and Kinesthetic (when people learn by physical use or practice). 

Other researchers have broken these modalities into even more distinct learning styles, adding Logical (when people prefer using logic or reasoning to understand concepts), Social (when people learn through interaction with other people) and Solitary (when people learn best alone through self-study).

With so many different learning styles to address, a blended learning solution makes sense. For people who learn visually or through reading and ideally alone, online self-paced video delivery would be the best mode. Social and aural learners would gain most from live instructor-led classrooms. Meanwhile, hands-on practice from engaging in applied learning projects would satisfy kinesthetic and logical learners.

2. Using multiple modalities dramatically reinforces engagement, learning and retention

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Numerous studies show how for most people, learning is improved by combining different activities alongside more passive study. Ideally, these could include the “human” element of interaction, such as threaded discussions, video conferencing and internal social media forums to share and compare knowledge and to encourage and demonstrate the effective application of newly learned skills to the workplace.

By utilizing as many learning delivery methods as possible (video, live instructor, social and practical), you can fill in any knowledge gaps left by modes that were less than optimal for the specific topic or learner. 

3. Learners can control the pace of their learning

People learn best when they have some control over their learning. Choice reduces learner apathy, relieves some of the stress of the learning process and motivates people to engage with the material. Corporate learners differ from traditional students. Most employees deal with time constraints, as they have to balance heavy workloads and their personal lives. Also, their coworkers come to the table with a wide range of knowledge and experience with the course topic.

Blended learning enables employees to study online, as quickly as they can manage, instead of having the pace set by the fastest or slowest learner in the group. They can skip ahead past familiar information or pause, rewatch and seek additional resources. They can also access the content when they are most alert and even take breaks as necessary. This “flipped” blended approach enables learners to start with the knowledge they gained on their own and then supplement it with the personal attention of instructor-led classroom training (either virtual or on-premises), plus the group interaction of social learning and finally, the hands-on practice of applied learning projects.

As noted by Clifford Maxwell, an education researcher at the Clayton Christensen Institute, “some element of student control is critical; otherwise, blended learning is no different from a teacher beaming online curriculum to a classroom of students through an electronic whiteboard.”

4. Blended learning saves money

Organizations of any size can optimize return on investment by saving costs while increasing engagement and retention by integrating eLearning into instructor-led programs. Blended learning reduces instructor fees, company travel expenses and training materials; enables distance learning at a global scale; and can greatly soften the impact training has on daily operations and the employees themselves. For example, “Ernst & Young cut its training costs by 35 percent while improving consistency and scalability with eLearning,” says Mark Rose, director and founder of Creativedge Training and Development. “They condensed about 2,900 hours of classroom training into 700 hours of web-based learning, 200 hours of distance learning and 500 hours of classroom instruction, a cut of 53 percent.” 

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5. Blended learning is modular and scalable

Especially useful for large, global enterprises, blended learning is modular and scalable, both upward and downward. Dedicated classroom training takes a lot of time to set up and participate in, making it not economical on an ad hoc basis.

However, online learning libraries alone lack the engagement, practical exercise and personal feedback that optimize learning. In contrast, by providing easily accessible training content backed by opportunities for live virtual-instructor interaction and applied projects, a blended learning program enables employees to upskill quickly in a specific technology or subject. As eLearning designer Troy Foster says, “Modular courses increase agility and thereby the organization’s capacity to capitalize on new business opportunities as they arise."

It’s ideal for training a dispersed workforce. According to Upwork’s Future Workforce Report, 63 percent of companies have remote employees. By complementing anytime online content with localized instructors, blended learning enables both scalability and the cultural personalization required to achieve training globally. Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company with 330,000 employees in 28 countries, successfully uses a mix of learning and development methodologies, from online modules to “lunch-and-learns,” one-on-one training and live virtual classrooms. 

A Final Big Advantage of Blended Learning

With a blended learning approach, you don’t have to invent anything or depend on ad hoc fixes to increase the effectiveness of your employee training program. Proven solutions are already available from third-party vendors, like Simplilearn, who can supply and guide you in the best customized blended learning solution for digital upskilling. Jane Hart, Editor of Modern Workplace Learning magazine, says, “For real transformation to take place, it’s not a matter of having a ‘bolt-on’ strategy to existing training practices (‘typically social and mobile’), but rather ‘a full-on, meaningful re-conception’ of what it means to support all ways of learning in the modern digital workplace.”

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For more information on blended learning, download our white paper  “Why Blended Learning Is the Fastest Way to Close Digital Skill Gaps” now.

About the Author

Dan BiewenerDan Biewener

With 15 years of experience teaching and developing instructor-led training and video-based e-learning curricula, Dan is currently Director of Training Research at Simplilearn where he conducts and compiles research on the latest content and training best practices. Backed by his degree in Speech Communication and numerous certifications in Digital Marketing and aviation technologies, Dan brings insights from both sides of the training process.

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