The pandemic has transformed our ways of working. Whether remote or socially distanced, the new ways we work require a change of approach for L&D. The dust has settled on last year’s leap to digital learning. Now, it’s time to rethink what modes of learning work best. In this blog, you’ll find out how flexible blended learning can help you meet your changing needs and explore some examples of what an effective blend looks like.
What does the modern workplace look like?
People have rapidly adopted new technologies and pivoted approaches to keep working during the pandemic. Some of these changes may have been reactive. But they aren’t temporary. From new hybrid work patterns and methods of collaboration to people taking on new roles and emerging skill gaps, our ways of working are changing. These rapid changes and the increased anxiety of the past year mean many employees are struggling.
While the pressure to self-learn is on, the support to do this isn’t always there. Ad hoc on-the-job learning is harder. Zoom fatigue is setting in. And the appetite for long workshops is not there. Average online learning session times had long-held steady at around 20 minutes. Over the last year, we’ve seen this drop dramatically to just above 4 minutes. People want shorter, sharper learning experiences that are relevant and help them do their jobs better.
In this new landscape, it’s clearer than ever that one size doesn’t fit all. Rather than sticking with rigid learning strategies, it’s time to create the flexible blended experiences that your organization and employees really need.
How can blended learning help?
Blended learning design isn’t new. The classic models have been around for years. But while approaches like the flipped classroom have their place, the pandemic has shifted things dramatically. With face-to-face training largely impossible, new teaching methods have taken hold. Mixing webinars with elearning has become the norm. And people are starting to see the benefits of these new blended strategies.
- Flexible: A digital-first blend enables people to take online learning at their own pace – wherever and whenever. It’s perfect for hybrid working where there are many kinds of workplaces and ways of working.
- Streamlined: A blend of short, modular learning experiences allow you to reskill and upskill employees faster. Breaking the learning down and putting it into practice, sooner rather than later, embeds the new knowledge and skill.
- Personalized: Adaptive digital experiences are what modern learners expect. Providing a range of training and different routes through blended learning creates more personalized, relevant experiences.
- Social: Isolated workplace setups have made it harder to maintain social connections. Adding structured social learning to your blend ensures that colleague knowledge sharing isn’t lost.
Find out more benefits in our blog on Blended learning: What it is and why it’s important.
What should blended learning look like in 2021 and beyond?
Our new ways of working need a modern blend. An approach that’s flexible enough to suit the varied demands of the new learning landscape. Don’t feel tied to a strict blended learning model or teaching strategy. Rather than maintaining the approaches of the past, focus on what your business and employees need.
- Digital-first: Look at the formats available. Identify which will be most effective for your needs now and in the future. Embrace online learning alternatives like Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) and webinars, as well as elearning.
- Concise: Use role selectors and diagnostics to tailor content. Make your elearning short and concise microlearning experiences. Gaining knowledge and skills fast is your priority.
- Paced: Pace your interventions to maximize their impact. Provide supporting content ahead of VILTs and webinars so you can focus those sessions on practice and application.
- Social: Use digital spaces to enable learners to share and discuss ideas. Build lasting social learning connections using the channels your business already has available.
What are the different elements you could use as part of a flexible blend?
With a flexible blend, the possibilities are endless. Here are some of the formats you could mix and match to meet your learning objectives:
Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) or webinar: A great alternative to face-to-face, use a VILT or webinar if you need to get people together who may work remotely. To maximize the impact of the session, make sure it’s supported by other web-based learning. If people have explored this content in advance, then you can focus the VILT on discussing and applying the learning.
Online coaching and mentoring sessions: From virtual coaching to role play, one-to-one sessions focus on the areas where people need help. Create social connections and ongoing learning with these colleague feedback sessions.
Elearning: One of the most flexible formats, elearning can be used in a variety of ways.
- Diagnostics: Assess current competency levels or include a role selector so content is relevant and tailored to the learner’s needs.
- Microlearning: Short chunks of learning can easily fit around workload to upskill quickly or provide regular refreshers.
- Pre-work: Short tutorials provide the basics in advance of a VILT so everyone is on the same page.
- Practice: Virtual environments use scenarios to enable learners to apply their knowledge and skills in a safe space.
- Reflective activities: Provide an opportunity for people to reflect on what they’ve learned so far and plan how they’ll apply this at work.
- On-the-job prompts: Provide quick guides, tools and templates to support the application of learning at work.
- Quiz or assessment: Assess the competency levels having completed some or all of the blend and provide guidance on how to move to the next level.
Pre-recorded videos: Demos or expert explanation videos can ‘show’ people exactly how to do a task. After simply watching the videos, they can get on with the work.
Informal social learning: Keep the conversation going by encouraging sharing between colleagues. For example:
- Regular online group catchups to discuss tasks, challenges and their progress through the blend.
- Discussions on intranet forums.
- Peer support over Slack, Teams or check-in calls.
Face-to-face workshops: Use workshops where the real-life location and human connection can’t be achieved virtually. Face-to-face often involves high cost and time investment, so only use it if it’s a real necessity. Support it with digital elements so the session can focus on activities where face-to-face really adds value.
Not sure you’re ready to move away from face-to-face? Find out more in our online training vs. face-to-face learning blog and the ultimate guide to transforming your face-to-face training to online learning.
Examples of how to approach a flexible blend
Here are two different situations where a flexible digital-first blend can create great learning outcomes.
Situation 1: A retail company bringing in contractors and onboarding new hires into front-line sales work.
- Elearning and explainer videos: Start by providing digital onboarding material and quick “how to” guides so people get up to speed fast.
- VILT or webinar: Explore the company’s approach to sales with customer roleplays followed by group discussions.
- Elearning scenario quiz: Follow up the session with a safe space to practice customer conversations before getting onto the front line.
- Coaching: As people start to put the learning into practice at work, offer one-to-one coaching on the shop floor, where needed.
- Microlearning refreshers: Provide on-the-job support, as and when needed.
Situation 2: Reskilling staff who traditionally worked five days a week in an office, but now have a hybrid workplace.
- Elearning diagnostic: Begin by assessing current competency levels and then provide tailored elearning topics that focus on each learner’s specific skill gaps.
- Virtual coaching sessions: Pair up learners with experienced colleagues to build core skills.
- Social challenges: Regularly set challenges within intranet forums or over social channels to encourage continual learning and the sharing of ideas with peers.
- Microlearning refreshers: Provide microlearning refreshers and quizzes so the skills are reinforced over time.
These are just two examples. Find out more in our blogs on how to design a great online blended learning program and building a winning blended learning strategy.
Top tips for shaping effective blended learning
Flexible blended learning creates multiple learning experiences that meet the different needs of your business and employees. Here are our top tips for making sure your blend is effective.
- Reuse. Remix. Adapt. Designing a blend doesn’t have to involve lots of planning. You can quickly pull together a blend by drawing on what you have. Don’t be scared to try things out. Get experts to create learning. Remix and adapt your blend as you go.
- Stay focused on your learners. Find out how your learners will use your blend. Are they going to be remote or in an office, factory, or shopfloor? What work social channels do they use? What elements will add value and be sustainable? Work out the learning landscape for your employees, so they don’t have to.
- Keep an eye on the time. Think about how long people will need to work through the blend. Some elements will be more flexible than others. Limit the VILT time to where it really counts – conversations and practice. This avoids zoom fatigue and maximizes guided self-learning.
- Get your managers involved. Ensuring time is available for learning. Providing coaching and support. Encouraging social learning among their team. Manager engagement makes a massive difference to how employees engage with your blend.
- It doesn’t end with the blend. An effective learning blend is just the start. Building a learning culture is crucial to sustainable development as we continue to adapt to new ways of working. Find out how this can be done in our podcast on Worldpay’s rapid shift to blended digital learning.
Ready to put digital learning at the heart of your flexible blend? Book a demo of Elucidat to get started with a free trial.