Blended Learning: Why Everything Old Is New Again-But Better: In the 21st Century, the Education and Skills of the Workforce Will Be the Dominant Competitive Weapon. (1)

By Burton, Roger | Journal of Banking and Financial Services, February-March 2005 | Go to article overview

Blended Learning: Why Everything Old Is New Again-But Better: In the 21st Century, the Education and Skills of the Workforce Will Be the Dominant Competitive Weapon. (1)


Burton, Roger, Journal of Banking and Financial Services


In an increasingly complex and competitive environment, financial services institutions face strong pressure quarter-to quarter, even month-to-month, to produce measurable gains. The best source of competitive advantage in this environment is a highly trained and motivated workforce. This requires a learning environment that creates continuous improvement, to keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace.

With recent advances in the science and technology of learning, there are many alternative forms of training media ranging from e-learning, teleconferencing and web-based seminars to more traditional approaches: self-study, job aids, videos, mastery cards, computer-based training (CBT), role-plays and workshops.

How do you know which is the best corporate learning choice for your organisation?

Why take one item from the menu when you can have the whole buffet?

Blended learning presents that buffet--and if you know how to choose your servings wisely, you will come away from the table more satisfied, with far better results, and with a much better return on your training investment. But, if you choose unwisely, it may have negative effects on your business performance.

The key is to understand why blended learning is so powerful, and to know how to make the choices that will provide the best blend of skills enhancement and sustainment to ensure long-term competitive advantage.

Everything old is new again

Blended learning is a customised approach that applies a mix of training delivery options to teach, support, and sustain the skills needed for top job performance. With blended learning, the 'tried and true' learning methods are combined with new technology to create a synergistic, dynamic learning structure that can propel learning to new levels.

How does blended learning accomplish this? To answer that, first we need to understand what learning is and how it achieves performance improvement, regardless of the delivery mechanism.

Four stages of learning

In the corporate setting, learning is a means to an end--a beneficial change in job behaviour. The learning model follows four stages:

1. Initial knowledge or skills acquisition;

2. Increased knowledge or skill proficiency;

3. Ability to apply knowledge or skills in simple situations; and

4. Ability to apply knowledge or skills in increasingly complex situations, to think through a solution.

Stage   Description             Learning tools and instructional
                                strategies

  1     Initial knowledge or    Assessments or diagnostics, e-learning,
        skills acquisition      self-study, mastery cards, job aids,
                                information access systems, examples,
                                analogies--to assess the learning need,
                                then teach skills and knowledge

  2     Increased knowledge     E-learning tutorials with practice
        or skills proficiency   exercises, modelling and testing to
                                improve understanding of the context
                                for performance, and to test
                                proficiency

  3     Ability to apply        Interactive multi-media, simulations,
        knowledge or skills     projects, practice exercises,
        in simple situations    workshops, role-plays, mentoring, lab
                                work, monitored on-the-job application
                                with performance coaching--involves the
                                participants in simulated simple
                                situations and provides feedback on
                                responses

  4     Ability to apply        Mentoring, coaching, expert
        knowledge or skills     presentations with group discussion and
        in increasingly         practice, case studies, advanced
        complex situations      workshops and simulations, videotaped
                                skills practices--involves the
                                participant in complex situations where
                                they must problem solve and react
                                instantly to changing circumstances,
                                and includes both feedback on
                                performance and fine tuning

These four stages represent a continuum from passive reception of facts to active application of them. …

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