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Top 10 Best Practices for Blended Learning in the Workplace

The ODLS group shares tips to mix learning platforms

Although many of us first think of on-line learning when we hear the term Blended Learning, as a best practice it entails much more than just the use of technology. Blended Learning is defined as a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching. More and more research is emerging that shows adult learners retain more knowledge and build skills they can apply at work when they have multiple learning channels to utilize. So what are some of the options you can chose from to build your blended learning solution? Here are our top 10 best practices to help you implement an innovative Blended Learning Solutions for your employees:

  1. Classroom Training: Yes, our first tip is to not cut out classroom training from your blended-learning design. Survey any adult learners and they will tell you that "face-to-face" is still their preferred learning method. However, by combining traditional classroom training with supportive online learning, you can drastically reduce the amount of classroom training in your curriculum and get better results! 
  2. e-Learning Modules: The first component of blended learning that most of us turn to is asynchronous, or self-study, online learning modules. A few simple best practices for developing e-Learning modules include the following (to name only a few): length should ideally be 30-45 minutes; multiple knowledge checks should be incorporated; and video segments and other graphics should be utilized to increase engagement throughout the module.
  3. Webinars: Webinars are often confused with asynchronous e-Learning modules. The main difference is that a webinar, though completely online, is a live event. Webinars afford the convenience of being accessed online with the benefits of live interaction and dialogue.
  4. SME Videos: SME stands for subject matter expert. Many of our ODLS clients (including the Mass. Trial Court highlighted earlier) are taking advantage of improved technology that allows for the development and playback of SME videos. These videos can then be incorporated into e-Learning modules or, with minimal effort, be made into standalone learning modules. Another big advantage is the economic value of paying a small royalty for the rights to replay a video versus the expense of having a SME present live.
  5. Online Resources & Tools: An overlooked, affordable and impactful way to provide employees with online learning is to develop what we refer to as practice profiles. These profiles outline best practices, step-by-step processes, templates and leverage models to remind adult learners how to apply what they were introduced to during a class or an e-Learning model. The advantage is that they are quick to access and easy to use.
  6. YouTube Videos: These videos are meant to be short, between 10-15 minutes, and are a mix of a marketing piece and an educational video. They typically incorporate graphical models that are easy to follow and/or a storyline that make them engaging. The benefit separating it from other video formats is that the public can access them.
  7. Animated Snippets: Meant to be very short and entertaining, animated snippets are video segments that focus on just one learning point. They are versatile, can easily be incorporated into other online learning and with today’s technology can be very fast and efficient to develop.
  8. Open Learning Labs: This type of classroom learning is referred to as “flipping the classroom”, and were made famous by the Kahn Academy. The design is built on the premise that students learn online new knowledge, models or methods at their own pace. When they spend time in a classroom, instead of a traditional lecture students can apply their learning to real-life challenges while getting coaching from the instructors.
  9. On-line Student Lounges: Learning Management Systems now make it easy to incorporate online peer mentoring by implementing chat rooms into our learning designs. By encouraging or requiring students to meet and chat with other students we can now utilize the invaluable tool of peer mentoring without the scheduling hassles or large time commitments.
  10. Application of Learning to Real-life Work Challenges: The foundation of adult learning is to help our students apply knowledge and skills to real-life work challenges. When developing a blended learning curriculum this principle is even more important. Starting with and revisiting a current work challenge throughout the curriculum can be the glue that holds your blended learning design together and ensures your employees have gained learning that last.

Designing, developing and implementing a well laid out blended learning solution takes time, resources and a variety of experts. Nevertheless, as learning professionals, we know that utilizing several different learning approaches and channels will afford the best learning impact for our employees.

Please share your experience so we can learn collectively on how to implement impactful blended learning solutions. (dhenry@donahue.umassp.edu)

The Organizational Development & Learning Solutions group of UMass Donahue Institute advances organizational learning and productivity by bringing together needed expertise to work collaboratively with our clients to build solutions. We apply our expertise in the corporate and public sectors; consulting to community organizations, government offices and global corporations. Using technology as a tool for delivering interactive instruction, ongoing collaboration, and insightful conversation we’re able to engage with clients and partners in a way that inspires learning and provides creative and customized solutions.

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