What is blended learning? Must it combine an e-learning component with something else? Are the terms hybrid solution or mixed-mode solution different from blended learning? Everyone seems to define blended learning their own way. A little bit of context would be useful.
Blended learning fits many environments, but its first use was probably in the academic world. Given the cost of traditional classroom training to both the institution and the learner, less expensive content-delivery solutions were needed. For instance, an introductory chemistry class via a web-based training tutorial coupled with an actual laboratory experience would meet the needs of the both the institution and the student in a cost-efficient manner.
If blended learning makes sense in an academic environment, it certainly makes sense in the cash-strapped training world. In the training environment (skills and knowledge used in the workplace for the current job), this implies a performance-based blend.
While a blended learning solution often contains an e-learning component, a broader, more traditional and realistic definition for blended learning in a training context is simply a combination of strategies to promote more effective performance in the workplace. With this definition, hybrid and mixed-mode solutions are basically synonymous with blended learning.
To qualify as a blended solution, there must be one or more core training strategies. A core training strategy is the primary way, or ways, skills are presented and practiced. These strategies may be traditional or e-learning. More than one core training solution may be adopted to meet the needs of a diverse audience. For example, with computer systems training, two core training solutions might include a web-based training tutorial for the more computer literate members of the target audience and an instructor-led training class for those unfamiliar with the use of computers.
In addition to the core training strategy, a performance-based blended solution includes performance support activities. These are activities that provide information or knowledge that is supplemental to the core training solution, or additional practice or reinforcement back in the workplace. These activities may occur before or after training (or both) and they can be mandatory or optional.
There are many activities that can enhance the effectiveness of the core training solution(s). Just a few examples include advance information, coaching sessions, assigned reading, and group discussion. The performance support activities may provide the learner with additional practice or an opportunity to share knowledge and experience. While there are many advantages in providing performance support activities, the bottom line is that the core training has been made more effective and, therefore, learner performance back in the workplace is improved.
There really is no single answer to what an ideal blended solution would look like. If the learners do their jobs better as a result of the blended training initiative, it has been successful.
Langevin Learning Services has an excellent one-day Blended Learning workshop that provides a process, tools, many industry examples, and a whole host of take-aways to make crafting a blended solution easy.