What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning definition: Blended learning is the combination of traditional, face-to-face learning methods with technology-based, eLearning methods. At first, blended learning was defined as a mixture of offline and online learning. However, this definition is problematic.
Webinars have become a more viable alternative for face-to-face classroom sessions – and they’re delivered online! A better description of blended learning is now a blending of self-paced training and live training. The live training, in this case, could be carried out in a physical classroom, or in a virtual classroom, such as a webinar.
As webinar tools have evolved, they’ve become a more popular and convenient way to deliver live training sessions. As you can see below, over the last decade blended learning has steadily become more and more important to trainers and instructors. This is primarily due to improvements in the technology that makes blended learning possible.
The benefits of blended learning
Blended learning has always been a great way to augment the learner’s experience but its advantages go beyond that. Here are some of the benefits you can expect from employing blended learning models:
Blended learning allows you to train your learners in lots of different ways. This flexibility can allow you to employ some really engaging training methods. The instructor and the learner can both take advantage of the ‘live’ element of training.
The learner can ask questions if they’re struggling with any of the content. And instructors can gauge the level of understanding of the content being covered. Not only does this help the flow of the ‘current’ session but it also allows instructors to adapt and improve future training sessions.
Webinar tools have added lots of features that mimic in-person classroom sessions by enabling learners to ask questions or raise their hand. This further facilitates the use of webinars in place of real-life classrooms.
Is blended learning effective? The answer is a resounding yes. And it’s backed up by a significant amount of academic research. By combining different styles of training, points made in self-directed training sessions can be reinforced in live training sessions so that a comprehensive understanding of the course content is achieved.
Live sessions are a really efficient way to deliver training as they can cover a huge amount of information in a short period of time. They allow you to add context and further explanation when needed, and you can answer questions or deal with confusion on the fly.
One of the major benefits of using webinars to facilitate live sessions is that they reduce training time. There’s no travel involved – the learner’s work desk or mobile device is the classroom. So as soon as the class ends they can get back to work! This allows you to run multiple sessions on the same topic easily and as a bonus, a video recording of the session is also generated for future use.
Blending eLearning elements with live training results in a reduction of the amount of money spent on training. This is because travel, accommodation, expenses and printed training materials are reduced. This cost reduction has been so transformative for businesses that delivering courses online is now the de facto way to train corporate staff.
Webinars are so effective that a lot of organizations are using a blended learning model that has zero “in-person” elements. That means there are no travel costs at all, and trainers can train more frequently.
The return on the investment made by training is always topical. A blended learning model that uses webinars for live training is a more efficient and cost-effective way to train. This means that you see a quicker and greater return on investment.
How can I start using a blended learning model?
Using blended learning to train your learners is easier than ever. First and foremost, You’ll need an LMS like LearnUpon to manage and deliver the eLearning portions of the training. Here are some other things to consider before you begin, and some practical tips to help you get you started.
Using webinars for blended learning
To run a webinar you are going to need a webinar tool. There are lots of options available to your business, you just need to find one that suits your needs. Things to consider include the size of your audience, their requirements, and the learner experience.
Webinar tool options include:
These tools integrate with an LMS to synchronize session setup, registration and attendance reporting. When a course is set up in the LMS with webinar elements, the sessions are set up in the webinar tool simultaneously. As users register for the session the roster builds in the webinar tool as well. The webinar tool will track attendance data on the day of the session and relay that info back to the LMS.
Make sure that you record each session so that you can use these recordings at a later date. This is a great way to generate reusable training content. These videos can be placed into eLearning courses and delivered other audiences.
How to integrate a webinar tool with your LMS
When a webinar session is part of your eLearning course, integrating your chosen tool with your LMS is a smart choice. It enables you to:
- Schedule sessions in your LMS that automatically reflect in your webinar tool. This means you only have to set up a session once and there are no pesky scheduling conflicts.
- Register your attendees through your LMS and the data will automatically be sent to your webinar tool. It’ll also automatically transfer attendance data back to your LMS so you won’t waste time manually updating this information.
- Most importantly it stops the repetition of repetitive tasks, improves reporting, streamlines workflows and best of all, it only takes 2 minutes to set up.
What does an LMS webinar tool integration do?
The aim of any integration is to reduce the duplication of work and to automate time-consuming tasks. This is done by synchronizing data from one system to the other. With a webinar tool LMS integration there are three parts to this synchronization:
- Scheduling sessions: The creation and scheduling of the sessions are completed in the LMS but it will also take effect in your webinar tool. This means you only set up the session once and also ensures you don’t have scheduling conflicts.
- Registration of attendees: The registration of users is done through the LMS and this data is sent to the webinar tool where it builds your webinar registration list.
- Attendance reporting: The learner’s attendance is captured in the webinar tool and passed back to the LMS for reporting purposes.
Blended learning examples
Blended learning comes in many forms, here are some examples to help you judge if it’s suitable for your situation:
- Learners can prepare for live training sessions by completing online learning activities. The eLearning sections introduce the content that will be covered in the ‘classroom’. These activities could include reference reading, watching videos or answering a pre-course questionnaire to assess the learner’s abilities. Instructors can then analyze reports on the content completed, for example, the results of the pre-course questionnaire, to identify areas that need to be focused on during the classroom-based training session. This allows the instructor to personalize the course content to meet the learner’s needs. Another benefit of this approach is that it can help ensure that all learners turn up to the live training sessions with the same knowledge level on a particular topic, removing the need for the instructor to cover the basics needlessly.
- During the live training sessions, learning can be enhanced through the use of multimedia content or computer-based exercises.
- After the training session, learners can complete exams or quizzes in addition to submitting assignments to a learning management system (LMS) for the course instructor to assess. The learners can also give feedback via survey modules run through the LMS.
- Online collaboration, in the form of group chats, can encourage learners to discuss the course content long after the live session has taken place with the instructor acting as a mediator. Forums are a great way for learners to discuss the live sessions they’ve recently attended.
- One of the major benefits of blended learning is the ability to create an online resource within your LMS that learners can refer to before and after live training sessions.
Important blended learning considerations
It’s important that blended learning isn’t used just for the sake of it. It’s up to the course instructor or facilitator to ensure that the learning objectives are being met. If they’re not then you may need to rethink your approach.
Start off by listing your learning goals before identifying the content or tasks that need to be undertaken in order to meet each goal. Once you have completed this you can think about how each goal could be achieved in an online and/or offline learning setting.
At the start of the course provide your learners with the course structure, learning goals and milestones so they know what to expect. If the online setting is not suitable then don’t force it, the most important thing is to ensure the medium being used to deliver training is enhancing the learning experience for your learners.
Using a Blended Learning Checklist
Using a checklist is a great way to make sure your Learning Management System is working as it should be to support classroom-based training. We run through a 6 step checklist in a previous post if you need help in coming up with your own.
The aim of blended learning is to combine the strengths of both traditional and online learning methods to provide learners with an engaging learning experience. By using this ‘best of both worlds’ approach to training you’ll soon discover that blended learning models benefit learners and instructors equally.
In LearnUpon we’ve put a huge focus on making it easy to setup blended courses that contain any combination of face-to-face and online training components. Online course content such as videos, documents, and interactive SCORM/xAPI content can be easily combined with exams, assignments, surveys and face-to-face components to maximize learner engagement.