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Creating An Incredible Blended Learning Offering [Interview With An Expert]

As the hype around blended learning continues to grow, we thought we'd sit down with an expert to  learn what it's all about, and hear what advice our guest would give to training providers currently in the consideration phase.

Interview with:

Image of Jan Jilis van Delsen

Jan Jilis van Delsen

Managing Director

aNewSpring UK

 

The Interview

Hi Jan, thanks for joining me today. Perhaps you could start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your role?

Yes, certainly! I've been a trainer for several years and subsequently have worked in the eLearning and learning technologies sectors. It's made me a big fan of blended learning. Because of my 20+ years’ experience in this area, I've got plenty of insight and can share many examples of organisations having gone through digital transformation projects.

That's great - perfectly placed to answer some of these questions I have lined up for you then! One I've seen come up time and time again is: "What advice would you give me, as a training provider that’s considering introducing blended learning?"

I'd say, start small and think big. As a first project you should not try to achieve everything in one go. Create a small course, receive feedback from your learners and other stakeholders and make improvements.

Although you might start small, think about what you need in the coming three years. Buy relevant tools that can grow with you. Usually this means a learning platform that is easy to use for your staff, supports a variety of training methodologies and integrates well with other systems.

That makes a lot of sense - think it's all too easy to try and do too much, too soon! If a training provider decides that now is the time to go ahead and introduce blended learning, what are some of the benefits they can expect?

In short: The benefits differ per company but you should expect a combination of the following: you can differentiate your business, lower your cost of delivery, scale up easier by reaching a larger audience and improve quality of training delivery.

To satisfy most audiences, training companies offer three forms of delivery. Classroom, self paced eLearning and blended learning. Classroom delivery is great because the instructor can pay attention to the individual learner and there is the opportunity to network with your peers.

eLearning delivery can easily be scaled up and gives a consistent message. It is also cost effective to deliver and can be personalised. However, eLearning does not recognise the question mark in the learner’s eyes. Only an instructor does that. (Until we add Artificial Intelligence; facial recognition that is).

With blended learning you add instructor lead elements in the learning journey. This creates a much better learning experience and training outcome.

Many training companies already have an online presence but are now moving to a blended strategy. Most directors of training organisations now realise that a sustainable and mature online presence is needed to compete in today’s world. This is not new, COVID-19 accelerated this trend.

Sounds like there's a lot of opportunity there. When introducing a blended learning strategy, would you say there's anything in particular training providers need to watch out for?

Yes, definitely. Some training companies do not pay attention to the instructional design of their blended course content. They just use a standard eLearning course and add the instructor. That will not give you a great learner experience. It is worth thinking about the changes you might have to make to your existing content to make sure it works in a blended way!

Another question I see come up quite frequently is - how hard is it to set up blended learning, or rather, how fast can we be up and running?

That's two questions!

As mentioned previously though, it is worth spending time beforehand on the right design of your blend. If you need some help with this, have a look at this free course (or this one!)

Once you decide on the structure, it is a matter of creating the course (you might re-use some existing materials such as workbooks, PowerPoint slides, assignment templates), which will enable you to build a course very quickly in your chosen platform.

I guess it would also be remiss of us not to discuss technology - as this is what helps to ensure our blended learning strategy is a success, right? What technology is available to training providers to support blended learning?

Technology can help you as a training provider to create and deliver the learning, and there is technology to help the student learn. This combination will help you differentiate your business.

Unfortunately, many training companies choose a Learning management System (LMS), which was designed to help HR departments deliver training to internal staff. These systems are not designed for you as a training provider. Look for a system designed for training providers and that can help you create and deliver your training and can help your students learn. Of course, aNewSpring is such a system 😊

Indeed. I think it's naïve to leap at an LMS, with other systems that might be better suited to a hybrid training model. A training management system would compliment aNewSpring's system well, I imagine!  And when discussing technology, we must also discuss cost. How much does it cost to implement a blended learning program?

Typically, there are three types of costs:

  1. Time of your staff to design and create the learning journey
  2. Creating materials. This can be as simple as shooting videos, creating images or a Subject Matter Expert (SME) writing texts
  3. The platform that will enable you to create and deliver the content

Normally  it will take an upfront investment to get started with online and blended learning. That’s why I recommend starting small and then scale up.

I've also seen a fair few providers unsure if their training model would suit blended learning. Would you say blended learning works for every training organisation? How would a provider know if it will work for them?

Blended learning will work in most cases. It’s the type of blend that differs for every organisation. Some topics are 80% theory and others 80% practical. Learning a theoretical concept can be done mostly online. The instructor lead part also helps you differentiate your training business. (use videos, classroom or webinars in that case).

For training professionals that have got to this stage, and are thinking, "this could work for us", do you have examples of some really effective blended learning programs?

Here are a few examples of blended learning in different sectors:

Railway maintenance: Creating an appropriate mix of activities for 'on-the-job' learning

Retail: Creating an effective onboarding journey

Finance: Modernising learning delivery by introducing online components

That's really useful. Finally Jan, for those still on the fence, I guess one key question we still need to answer is - what’s the risk to a training business of NOT pivoting to a blended learning approach this year?

Online and blended learning have been growing for the last 20+ years into a mature sector and delivery method. Adoption is now accelerated by COVID-19. If you still have doubts, here are some resources to take a look at.

Fosway recently conducted some research on digital learning realities, and the market as a whole.

The Learning and Performance Institute is also a great resource for training companies -check out this course for online facilitators.

Thank you for joining me today Jan - some excellent advice there that I've no doubt will prove invaluable for training providers considering that next step towards blended learning. If you have any questions for Jan, please feel free to contact him directly or comment below, and we'll do our best to answer them!

If you would like to learn the '5 strategies to blended learning success', sign up for the Blended Learning Masterclass on 26 November at 3pm GMT, where we'll be speaking with Jan about how to get up and running!

blended learning webinar cta

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