02 Jan Why Blended Learning in Dubai Works (And Can Work for You!)
There have been many definitions of blended learning over the years and people don’t always agree on them.
We prefer to think of mixes of learning approaches and activities, and only then consider where technology might appropriately support those activities. Transferring this to a workplace context, people learn in different circumstances:
• by observing others at work
• by trying things out
• by discussing concepts with others
• by collaborating with others
• by practicing skills or procedures in a safe or simplified environment
• by reading, watching, or listening
These different learning approaches might be supported by digital in various ways. For example, discussions can take place face to face, but they can also take place on the phone, in an online forum, in a webinar, or possibly in the future in a virtual environment using VR technology. Similarly, it’s increasingly possible for collaboration to be remote, for people to work on projects together without being co-located. There are interesting questions in that case about how people become part of a community of practice with people they work with daily but might never meet.
Then there is practice until you master the art, which could happen in a digital simulation, and of course, reading, watching, and listening could involve ebooks, podcasts, or online videos and animations. So there are many ways in which learning might become more digital, but there are also, at least for some topics, great advantages in learning in a face-to-face group environment. This is one of the main reasons why blended learning has the potential to bring together the best of both.
What benefits does blended learning offer?
There are clear benefits in creating an appropriate mix of learning activities—what that mix is will depend on what is being learned but could include a mix of observation, analysis, practice, and accessing learning content via reading, listening, or watching. Introducing technology and digital learning into that mix of activities can also offer benefits. Here are seven benefits of introducing a blended learning program:
1 Multi-mode and media learning
A well-executed, narrated and the animated process is intuitively much easier to comprehend and follow than a series of process diagrams on a piece of paper or in a PowerPoint, and it can be rewound at any point of confusion
2 Practice in a safe environment
A point stressed by Broad and Newsom in their research into workplace learning is the vital importance of providing practice opportunities, case studies, and simulations. By moving knowledge acquisition to eLearning tutorials, workshops in the blend can be more clearly focused on practice. Additionally, online case studies and practice scenarios can further enrich the learning experience to ensure knowledge and skills transfer. Soft skills or decision-making simulation can be repeatedly retaken to enable people to hone skills in a way that just isn’t possible or affordable in a classroom environment. Case studies are a great way to help learners with sense-making and they can be offered in blended learning courses in such a way as to make them easier to understand and revisit.
3 More effective use of time
Blends can be designed to fit into people’s very busy working lives with tailored modular activities.
Research suggests that learners are skeptical about the value of one-off classroom interventions and feel that learning needs to be more of “a ‘process’, where participants can practice, and develop their skills over a period of time.” It was common for respondents to suggest they would prefer to take up a program of learning, rather than choose products individually, where a syllabus was created for them. A modular blended approach that offers people guidance as to which learning they should do in which order, and provides modular learning that can be consumed in short periods of time, over time, may help address these challenges.
If there are multiple shorter online activities, it is easier to schedule a few minutes per day, or even per week, to study. Similarly, using effective online approaches means that workshops can become shorter and more modular, as upfront definitions and underpinning knowledge can be delivered online. Alternatively, workshops may remain the same length but be devoted entirely to group practice and discussion, rather than upfront knowledge transfer, thereby making the most of people’s time together.
4 Scaffolding and learner journeys
To quote Development Dimensions International (DDI) “Training should not be approached as a one-time event. Instead, training should be seen as an integral part of the “learning journey,” which should be closely aligned with the challenges facing an organization and what leaders must do to drive the business forward. This journey takes place over time and consists of multiple formal and informal learning components and experiences. It begins with a review of relevant organizational and assessment data, the business drivers, and the target audience’s development gaps. This information can then serve as the starting point for designing the learning journey.” Blended learning can take learners on a journey, which can present information and practice opportunities to them in an ordered way, helping them first to engage with new concepts, make sense of them, understand how they are relevant and identify skills gaps, then focus on learning new concepts and mastering new skills, and finally to embed them into working practice.
5 Increased reach and take-up
Making learning easier to fit into people’s working lives should act to increase reach and take-up. Additionally, technologies such as virtual classroom technology enable people to gather at the same time for a workshop, but not be in the same place, which is important from a purely practical perspective. Additionally, digital online forums can promote dialog between people who are in different time zones and would otherwise struggle to keep up a regular discussion or dialog.
6 Combating the forgetting curve
All the way back in 1885 Dr. Ebbinghaus noticed that just as there is a learning curve associated with acquiring new information and skill, there is a similar ‘forgetting curve’ that illustrates how knowledge may be lost over time without sufficient support and practice. Effective interventions, therefore, need to draw on learning strategies that help cement learning in such a way that the learning is more likely to be retained.
Here’s one of the salient points to remember: “There is a body of research that suggests that spacing learning and practice over time helps people learn more efficiently and remember better. It has been found to be effective in various domains, from sales training to language learning to medicine.” Blending your learning, so that learners can choose to learn little and often over time, and can also revisit activities to refresh their memory, can help people to both learn more quickly and to remember better. This should help combat the forgetting curve in ways that will be richer and more effective than relying on memory alone or on scribbled notes from a workshop session.
7 Improved transfer of learning
The failure of learning to transfer effectively from face-to-face workshops to the workplace has been recognized as a challenge for many years. Around 30 years ago, Broad and Newstrom’s book Transfer Of Training analyzed the results of a series of studies into the effectiveness of transfer and outlined important recommendations which remain true today. More recently, a doctoral study conducted into the transfer of learning from a face-to-face executive education program run by a leading business school found identical issues related to the failure of participants to transfer insights gained in the classroom back to their working practice. Among the recommendations Broad and Newstrom make is the importance of involving managers in supporting the transfer of training, something which LEO’s blended model supports via manager guides and prompts for manager discussions. A survey conducted of top executives by John Kotter8 (1988) reported four major factors that frequently inhibited the success of training and development efforts to improve performance in managers—the most powerful of which was a lack of involvement by top management in the behavioral change process (reported by 71% of respondents).
What Evidence Is There for the Effectiveness of Blended Learning?
Insight from Development Dimensions International (DDI) on the Effectiveness of Blended Learning
“DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011 found that organizations that have highly effective development programs use 32% more methods of development. But it is not just about the quantity but the quality. And the quality comes from a focus on more than just formal learning; it comes from a true focus on continuous learning and learning journeys. Training should not be approached as a one-time event. Instead, training should be seen as an integral part of the ‘learning journey’, which should be closely aligned with the challenges facing an organization and what leaders must do to drive the business forward. This journey takes place over time and consists of multiple formal and informal learning components and experiences. It begins with a review of relevant organizational and assessment data, the business drivers, and the target audience’s development gaps. This information can then serve as the starting point for designing the learning journey.”
Insights from IBM
“There are many reasons to consider a blended curriculum. We can talk about learning styles, budget considerations, content and format suitability, and even scheduling and travel costs. We’ve learned, however, that perhaps a more compelling reason to consider a blended curriculum is the learning makeup of today’s new workforce. It’s not possible to offer these dynamic new employees a meaningful learning experience, suiting their core characteristics, without using a varied blend of delivery modalities.”
Final Word on Blended Learning
Whether you’re calling it blended or its new but less frequently preferred moniker, multi-modal, the concept of blended learning is nothing new.
While many organizations still think of blended learning programs only as a combination of face-to-face training and eLearning, this isn’t necessarily the case. Blended programs have evolved because they are an effective form of learning that takes into account a time-poor workforce’s learning needs. Technological advancements mean that blended learning programs can be both designed and delivered using the most appropriate channels in order to maximize impact.