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E-Learning: The Answer Is Blended Learning, Now What Was the Question Again?

Article excerpt

The term blended learning has been the most overused buzzword in the learning industry over the past couple of years, but it has, in fact, always been the way that training has been provided. Technically speaking, any combination of delivery methods is a blended learning solution, such as an instructor-led session coupled with take-home workbooks. Elliott Masie refers to a session he did via phone with PowerPoint slides he'd sent ahead as an example of technology-driven blended learning. As far back as 1996, Pete Weaver of DDI was evangelizing technology-driven blended learning through presentations titled, The Magic Is in the Mix.

So, just what is all of the fuss about?

For most organizations, a robust blended approach should maximize the ROI potential of a complete curriculum. To prove that, a Thomson NETg study published earlier this year found that a structured curriculum of blended learning will generate a 30 percent increase in performance accuracy and a 41 percent increase in performance speed over single-method delivery options. GO TO "Thomson Job Impact Study" (June T+D) New technologies have enabled companies to explore novel and creative ways to mix and match delivery methods to learning needs. Given what we now know about how people learn and what employees need to be successful, organizations are excitedly experimenting with these different methods, searching for combinations that provide for the greatest increases in workforce productivity.

There isn't a vendor or training department that wouldn't say it is providing blended learning today, but confusion from the myriad of different and new technologies has kept most suppliers and training functions from truly maximizing the potential of this approach. Bluntly, most organizations haven't matched the right delivery methods to learners' needs.

To help your company design, develop, and deploy blended learning solutions that can increase productivity, drive revenue, and support individual development, let's explore a sample blended learning scenario and six best-practice components needed for successful blended learning solutions.

A sample blended scenario

Sue has been a sales rep for the past six years and has participated in many training courses to more effectively sell her company's products and services. Sue likes to receive the core of her training before she's ready to use it, but she also has come to rely on print and her company's intranet to find the information she needs. However, she often can't find that information when she needs it. Like most salespeople, she thinks classroom training takes her away too long from making sales. What she likes about instructor-led training is that she learns as much during lunch and hallway conversations with other salespeople as she does in class. Learning through collaborating with and observing others is not only important to her, but it's also enjoyable.

You probably know a lot of people like Sue. She has different learning needs at different times. Let's look at three sample paths that, when combined, provide an effective blended learning approach.

Path A: Formal preparation training. Let's assume the company is rolling out one of its most significant products in the past several years. To get the salesforce up-to-speed quickly and all grounded in the same basic information, the training department prepared a structured, core set of learning activities for Sue and the rest of the salesforce.

Sue's first exposure to the new product is a "Just the Facts" knowledge document, a set of marketing materials that have been repurposed and that provide her with a quick overview and a cheat-sheet she can print out. Next up is a 20-minute introductory Webinar. This second exposure to key information appeals to Sue; hearing and seeing a presentation by a top sales producer is usually worthwhile. Once completed, the presentation will be edited and enhanced, including the addition of questions and answers gathered during the session and posted on the intranet that same afternoon. …