As COVID-19 has reinforced, blended learning programs can be incredibly effective. We can meet learners wherever they are by providing the learner with a variety of content formats including virtual classes, short videos, quick reference guides, simulations, and more.
Some of us work in traditional environments in which the classroom is the centerpiece of training. Your organization may expect learning to take place with a facilitator. In their opinion, if there isn’t a person in front of a camera, teaching from a slide deck, it’s not “real” training. Sometimes the perception comes from your learners; other times it’s from your leaders.
Your leadership may ask, “Why would you go to the trouble of moving to blended learning?” Because it helps you efficiently serve your workforce. When used correctly, blended learning fortifies the learning experience and helps the learner retain information. And it helps your organization reach an increasingly tech savvy employee base that expects learning to be as easy to access as Google regardless of what time it is or where they are.
Become the training equivalent of Google. Give your learners options, and they will take advantage of those options, especially in the current environment. Provide them with content that can be read or viewed on demand in addition to virtual classroom experiences.
Look for quick wins:
- Is your current program delivered mostly through the virtual classroom? Replace small pieces of classroom content with videos, documents, or simulations. Or provide pre- and post-work in these formats.
- Include virtual classroom activities where learners do research online or discuss in breakout groups before returning to the overall virtual class to share their findings.
- Give learners the opportunity to interact with mentors and subject matter experts within your organization. Organize coffee chats and virtual communities so learners can benefit from informal conversations with more experienced employees.
Start small. If you encounter resistance from the top, start at the bottom with one little group of learners.
As you likely know, shifting your organization’s approach to training is a major change. Resistance to change is driven by fear—often fear of failure or fear of the unknown. To help your organization accept change, try out new ideas on a small group of learners. Get their feedback and incorporate it into the program. If a course element isn’t effective according to your learners, ask why. Refine instead of remove. Tweak instead of make sweeping changes.
Know that one round of revisions will not be enough. Like any training product, a blended learning program is a work in progress. What happens if something doesn’t work? You take it out. You try something else. Don’t give up.
Sometimes it isn’t the organization as a whole that fears blended learning but the trainers themselves.
“You're getting rid of my job!” they’ll scream. “Instructor-led training is what the learners want!” (If all your organization has ever delivered is instructor-led training, how would learners know that’s what they prefer over everything else?)
It’s natural to fear change. Blended learning necessitates a change in the learning professional’s role. Those on your team who see change as exciting will dance. Those who fear technology will hide. But as this year has shown, change happens regardless of whether we ask for it. And the change to blended learning is spreading across the entire learning and development industry.
Building the acceptance of change starts with your own team. Introduce your team to blended learning elements and give them time to embrace it. Give them time to become good at it. Remember that trainers are learners too, and they need time to adapt to new responsibilities. Give them time not just to become competent but confident. Enthusiastic even. Get the buy-in of your immediate team and let their love of blended learning motivate change in your organization.