The blended learning guide, table of content:

In the past, the major approach to learning was ‘face-to-face’ learning in a classroom setting. With the arrival of computers and then the Internet, the new approach of e-learning became more popular.

Today, many more learning interventions and approaches exist, and creating ‘the right mix’ of interventions leads to blended learning (or hybrid learning). With the 100-year life on our doorstep, the decreasing half-life of knowledge, and knowledge-intensive jobs, blended learning can support learners most efficiently and effectively.

Learning has transformed. Think about all of the moments you learned something recently. Anything. Big or small. Then consider how many of those learning moments were digital or online. Good chance you use technology to learn. Probably combined with interactions with others. It’s a golden combination and shows that learning today happens with the help of technology.

That’s blended learning, you should do it too.

1. The Benefits

What are the benefits of blended learning? (backed by science)

Sure, blended learning is nice and all, but does it actually work? It does but only when you use it in the right way.

According to research by Dr. Will Thalheimer on the topic of e-learning and blended learning, it’s NOT the learning modality (i.e. e-learning v.s. classroom) that matters but it’s the learning methods that matter.

Blended learning tends to outperform classroom learning by relatively large magnitudes, probably because the e-learning used in blended learning often uses more effective learning methods.

Blended learning is not just about efficiency, but also about learning more effectively. Blended learning really helps to learn better.

To achieve this effect, the right blend should be a logical consequence of a good analysis of the performance issue(s) to be solved and the characteristics and context of the learner.

Check out Ger Driesen’s blog about the benefits of blended learning »

2. How to start

How to start with blended learning

If you’ve never designed and delivered online learning before, it can be a bit of a puzzle to figure out where and when to start.

One of the most important questions to ask yourself before starting is: ‘Is blended or online learning a solution to my problem?’ If it’s not, there’s not much point in creating a blended learning course.

For example, a quick cheat sheet to help phone operators remember which questions to ask might do a better job than creating a training programme for it.

You can start with online learning in various ways. Rather than going all-in, start with something simple first. Identify one learning need or one performance gap.

Many organisations jump in and pick a tool to get started. Don’t. It’s better to have a good look at what the actual problem is, before picking a tool.

Want to take your first step? Check out this blog: if training is the answer, what is the problem.

What are the specific skills and job roles you need, and what role should technology, or a technology platform, play? You’ll find the answers in this podcast.

(or read the related blog post)

Once you want to look at tools for blended learning, check out this blog to learn about some blended learning features.

Can’t start small? Then, spend time getting feedback on every step of your development. Set up pilot groups, test your course elements and spend time with senior stakeholders.

And when you think a learning platform or LMS will do the work for you? It won’t. The tool will deliver what you have created, and it will help you to ‘create’. But you first need to think about the design. Design first, content second.

3. How to design

How to design blended learning

Once you’ve identified that blended learning can solve your problem, you can follow these steps to design and deliver your blended training course.

Here are the necessary steps to follow to design a blended training course:

Step 1. What should my learners achieve?
What should the learner know or do after this specific training? That decides the topics you will discuss in your training.

Step 2. How should I assess the different topics?
You’ll have to assess the newly acquired knowledge or skills before you can conclude that your training worked.

Step 3. What structure should I apply?
Think back on your learning goals, topics and assessment: is there a certain structure that you can apply to the course?

Step 4. Which learning activities would fit best?
The next step is all about designing which learning activity you want to use per topic or learning goal.

Step 5. Test your blueprint.
The basis for your course is ready. You’ve done most of the thinking, now it’s time to put it into practice.

Step 6. Design the content.
After you have fine-tuned your blueprint based on the feedback that people gave you in step 5, it’s time to start designing and developing your content.

Step 7. Start building!
Build the designed and developed learning activities in your learning system, make a scenario for your face-to-face session.

Step 8. Test and pilot.
No learning programme has been spot on from the get-go. Everything needs some fine-tuning based on user feedback.

Step 9. Let’s go live!
You have learning goals, a structure, learning activities (off- and online), searched and created the right content and piloted. Let’s go live.

Check out the blog by Roy, one of our learning experts, where he details out these nine steps to design blended learning.

4. Examples

What are examples of blended learning

Blended learning can be used for various purposes, be it certification and compliance training, onboarding training, exam training, skills training, product training, etc. Let’s look at some examples.

When you follow the design principles of blended learning, you might think that everyone gets the same results. The reality is that there are so many different learning methods and learning interventions you can use that there’s not a single blended learning course that’s identical to another.

Here are a few (blended learning) examples:

A training provider like 112BHV, who trains In-house emergency response officers, created a fully adaptive course that helps people only go through content they don’t know yet (perfect for recertification).

“Thanks to adaptivity you learn and focus on what knowledge had slipped or what you don’t know yet.”

And there are training providers who add an online training and test before an in-person training takes place, making sure that participants have already mastered the theory and more time can be spent on practising (take a look at this case on how fire-fighters are trained).

Creating ‘the right mix’ of interventions leads to blended learning.

“The various functionalities in aNewSpring, like lessons, tests, MemoTrainer, coaching and discussions, allow us to create the successful blend of learning activities for our participants.”

Not yet ready to start but you’re curious about blended learning?

Read the interview with the trainer of the year who explains how he uses blended learning. (spoiler: he combines different learning styles to meet the needs of participants).

“I combine different learning styles to meet the needs of the participants.”

5. Tools

Tools (within aNewSpring) you can use for blended learning

The key to successful blended learning is to find the right blend of learning methods and learning activities. Technology can help a great deal with this.

Online learning is more effective when the environment and the content are attractive. Give every blended training course its own look & feel that fits the topics. Use images and embed videos from Vimeo and YouTube or upload your own.

Which types of questions you use and when also play an important role: multiple choice questions, multiple response, hot spots, hand-in assignments, fill in the blanks, etc.Experiment with creating different types of questions and content, and ask participants about their experiences so that you can continue to improve the blended training course.Other tools you can use are related to social learning. According to the 70:20:10 rule, people learn 20% from and with each other through social learning. When your participant starts a blended training course, you can have them create their own profile, ask them to write a short introduction, let them use a forum or even have them create an introduction video through the online video creator tool.

The application of knowledge by participants is important for training providers. That’s why there are many things you can do to support this. Present a specific situation and ask participants to answer through open questions, use hand-in assignments (which can be reviewed by instructors), let participants write a report and have others review it.

It’s a cliche to say ‘the possibilities are endless’ but in the case of blended learning, there are a thousand ways in which to create a blended training course. See some possibilities, check out this blog on some of aNewSpring’s blended learning features.

With so many training providers already using blended learning, combined with scientific evidence showing that it helps someone to learn better, you might think to yourself “Why have I not gone blended yet”? Well, that’s not a very useful question to ask.

The better question to ask is “What will I start with?” Start small by having your course participants introduce themselves using the built-in video tool or develop a simple pre-course test to get an idea what your participants already know. Alternatively, go all-in move all of your content online so that you can use the face-to-face time for group assignments and facilitation only.

“Change is the end result of all true learning” – Leo Buscaglia

Over to you.

Think you are ready to start with blended learning for the training you’re delivering but just not sure? Not a simple question, but we’re here to help!

We’ll provide you with resources and advice that fit your needs at this moment.