Blended Learning: Which Modality for What Content?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Understanding which modality to use for what type of content or training is key to making the blend meaningful to the learner and achieving your desired results. When selecting an approach, you need to consider the content, the audience, and available resources, including technology. Another consideration is risk, which may dictate the modality of compliance training.

Risks are inherent in any type of training. There is a false sense of security in corralling employees into a room to learn something. In spite of being a captive audience, they still choose whether they want to learn or not. It is partially the trainer’s job to make sure what is being presented is relevant to the learner and gives them reasons to invest in what’s being learned. It’s the instructional designer’s job to create a learning program that engages and gives the learner opportunity for practice, assessment, and application on the job. A blended approach is no different; the same elements must be in place for it to be successful.

How will you ensure that learners are completing self-directed activities? Will you have them complete a workbook and upload it to the LMS, or send it to a trainer or coach? Will you require them to pass a test at the end of self-directed learning? Have you built enough interactivity into your virtual instructor-led courses that you force participation, or is it simply a boring lecture that will prompt learners to reduce your screen for an hour and work on email?


Even in this day and age, few companies and organizations take time to actually measure application. Many transformations from classroom to blended learning happen without any sort of baseline measure of classroom effectiveness, so making a comparison is futile. If you are considering a blended learning approach, make certain that you are putting proper measurements in place so you are able to make improvements where necessary and continue refining your efforts. And don’t forget to ask employees about the learning program. They will tell you much of what you need to know to take it to the next level.

It is amazing that in the 21st century many L&D professionals still rely on the classroom for most or all facets of training. Blended learning addresses all the aspects of adult learning that a classroom often misses—practice, application on the job, and assessment of performance steps. In addition, there must be some type of performance support to reinforce what has been learned, which a blended approach can easily achieve.

Here’s a breakdown of blended learning modalities:

Learning Component: Course Content 

  • face-to-face instructor-led or virtual instructor-led (synchronous) 
  • recorded session (asynchronous) 
  • video 
  • e-learning CBT 
  • web-based resource links 
  • interactive PDFs

    Learning Component: Interaction (participant-instructor, participant-participant, participant-coach/mentor) 

  • in person 
  • interactive chat 
  • threaded discussion 
  • email 
  • Skype 
  • telephone 
  • e-learning CBT interactivity

    Learning Component: Practice 

  • live hands-on 
  • role play 
  • virtual lab 
  • simulation 
  • branched scenarios

    Learning Component: Resources (such as job aids and quick references) 

  • printed 
  • electronic 
  • online access

    Learning Component: Assessment 

  • self-checks within e-learning 
  • formal pretesting and post-testing 
  • live demonstrated performance (authentic assessment) 
  • self-evaluation 
  • graded assignments 
  • instructor evaluation 
  • peer evaluation 
  • certification

    Learning Component: Performance Support 

  • coach, mentor, or peer mentor, either in person or virtually 
  • printed, electronic, or online access

    For more on insight into how to develop effective blended learning, check out our complete issue of TD at WorkBlended Learning That Works” (ATD Press, October 2015). In this TD at Work, you will learn: 

  • when blended learning is an effective choice 
  • how blended learning is delivered 
  • key information for making blended learning design decisions 
  • potential blended learning benefits and constraints.
About the Author
Diane Senffner, a recognized leader in the field of e-learning, is CEO and president of Cine Learning Productions. She has her master's degree in adult learning/distance education and more than 15 years of experience creating award-winning courses in both the public and private sectors all over the globe. Diane and her team excel at creating programs that are both engaging and instructionally sound. Diane has spoken professionally for years and has presented to ATD audiences, NASMD Conferences, Maricopa Community Colleges, Hilton Hotels, Destination Hotels & Resorts, and in dozens of webinars as a subject matter expert on e-learning.
Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.