Blended learning: What’s the right blend?

When an organisation puts together a blended learning programme the main aim is to provide training that achieves the desired learning objectives, which in turn improves employee performance, which in turn improves business performance.

By selecting the right blend of methods, mediums and technology an organisation can realise a number of benefits that improve the effectiveness and value of the training which drive return on investment. Benefits include:

  • Flexible learning design:
    By mixing different methods the programme design can satisfy multiple requirements at once. For example develop a solution that’s globally scalable whilst ensuring training is consistent for all learners.  Develop a course that increases everyone’s knowledge but have a more advanced path of learning for a distinct group.
  • Greater Knowledge Retention
    With the ability to stagger learning in more bite size chunks over a longer period of time a learner can increase their knowledge retention greatly.  Having online elements and recordings that can be viewed on demand or just in time when required can also assist with greater retention.
  • Tracking performance and progress
    Various technologies can be used to capture a number of different data points which can be tracked for example attendance, assessment scores, time spent on learning.  Reports can then be used to identify what learning activities more successful learners do.
  • Reduced Training Costs
    Some organisations use blended learning to reduce training costs.  Depending on the blend a solution can reduce expenses.  Less hours in a physical classroom means reduced instructor, materials, travel and venue costs. However, it is important that a blend should not be overly focused on reducing costs.  If the training is not completed or effective then the business will struggle to see business improvement which will have a larger impact on the bottom line than the initial reduction of training costs.

At BPP Professional Development we try and approach blended programme design slightly differently. The easiest way to illustrate this is showcase what a typical BPP Professional development programme looks like and then consider the why and how.

Using a recent client provides a case study to showcase how BPP Professional Development delivered a scaleable tailored blended learning solution.  The client has a group of 1000 employees worldwide that sell financial products.  They are part of the sales function and are talking to senior finance people on a regular basis.  The client wants the group to be more financially fluent, so that when they talk to these finance people, they have a level of financial awareness that allows them to understand their problems and present solutions in their language.

Our solution? The programme is a blend of pre-recorded (asynchronous) modules, reading and online classroom live sessions, supported with regular diagnostic testing. For this particular client, we were reluctant to place too much emphasis on asynchronous elements. Due to lower engagement and interaction levels of asynchronous content, these can often yield low completion and utilization rates, as users go through the motions and do the bare minimum to register a pass on various systems. For this reason, there is a substantial element of live delivery which allows our expert presenters to maximize interaction and engagement

The duration of this programme is 8-12 weeks; this is to focus the group and not make the programme so long that it is easy to lose momentum because the end date is a year away. Our groups are capped at 25 people to ensure maximum interaction and engagement during the programme. Each group has a designated start and end date and the group will work together throughout the programme, aiding social collaboration (which is critical to learning) and networking across the business.

The learning solution is embedded in our training portal.  The portal allows us to modularize a programme and also provide regular diagnostic testing throughout.  So a programme like this is split into 6-7 modules and users are given diagnostic knowledge checks at set points to test their understanding.

 

So how do we deliver the online live sessions? For this programme there are 6, 90 minute diarized sessions online live, using BPP’s award winning virtual classroom technology. Adobe Connect technology allows our presenters to engage the audience using a wide variety of engagement tools. Clients often initially have a pre conception that these are ‘webinars’ and learners sit and stare at computer screen for 90 minutes. This could not be further from the truth, as sessions are highly interactive and engaging, for example, asking questions along the way and have learners interact via audio or chat; regular use of polls.  Group exercises translate to the virtual classroom via the use of breakout rooms where the class is split into smaller groups and given a case study to discuss and present back their thoughts to the wider group – learners love these sessions. In short, the technology we use, gives us the capability to replicate anything that is done in the traditional classroom.  We always encourage delegates to attend live sessions, in order to maximise the benefit from the live interactions. For those that are unable to attend a live session, or for those who would like to recap or re-watch, recordings are provided.

All our trainers are trained on the software to ensure they design their sessions to be highly interactive and engaging.  If you would like some more details on what is possible with the training view our feature video here or alternatively see one of our presenters in action here.

So how does BPP design and deliver these tailored blended programmes? The key is collaborating with clients to understand exactly what their training requirements are, challenges they face and the type of blend they require. We find that clients are typically looking for solutions that have a high live delivery element but are supported with other learning assets such as asynchronous modules, case studies etc. We have over 150 online courses that can be used to supplement and these can be used as they are or completely customized for the clients needs.

The breadth and depth of BPP means we have access to a vast library of materials such as course notes, glossaries, case studies and templates that can be brought in to complete a programme that caters for all learning objectives.  All of this content is kept up to date through the use of over 500 subject matter experts that we work with on a daily basis to write content or deliver classrooms or workshops across the world.

So, what’s the right blend in blended learning? In short, there is no single answer. The right blend is whatever is right for the client, the learners and their training. That’s where BPP can help, we collaborate with clients to get the right blend for them.

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