Though virtual training and e-learning have made considerable inroads in pedagogy, a common refrain amongst learners is that they miss the human element. The traditional physical classroom setting and face-to-face interaction had many positives, but it could not fully leverage the technological advancement in training. On the other hand, e-learning brought to the fore the advantages of technology. It helps cope admirably with the environmental dynamics and disruption brought about by off-site working. The perceived shortcomings of lack of human interaction and peer-to-peer learning felt in virtual learning were sought to be overcome through technological interventions. Blended learning seeks to bring both worlds on a single platform by offering a balanced mix of traditional teaching with online learning. With economies slowly opening up and covid related restrictions being loosened, this hybrid learning model is gaining increasing attention.
The following table highlights the salient differences between the three modes:
|Interaction||Direct Face to Face(F2F) (tutors, learners, and peers)||Indirect through emails, chats, forums, webinars||Partial F2F, partial online tools|
|Learning||Usually in groups||Usually, solo||Combination of small groups and singly|
|Motivation||Often pushed/controlled and peer pressure||Self-motivated||Mix of motivators and peer pressure|
|Location||Physical, on-premises||Anywhere/space agnostic/virtual||On-site as well as virtual|
|Time||Fixed/regular schedules||Anytime/time agnostic||Both scheduled and anytime|
|Content||Fixed as per course; institution-owned; bulky; not customized||Flexible with alternative sources; chunky; customization possible||Choice of both fixed and variable|
|Teaching||Instructor-led||Usually, self-learning or instructor moderated||Self-learning blended with instructor-led/moderated teaching|
|Delivery||Brick and mortar/On-campus/ in the classroom; not consistent and uniform; teacher dependent||Off-campus; Over the interne; consistent||Combination of classroom and eLearning|
|Engagement||Active engagement; networking||Passive engagement; medium dependent||Allows either mode of engagement/interactive and immersive|
|Teaching medium||Oral with limited audio/video support||A vast array of media||All modes available|
|Tracking and Monitoring||Manual||Automated||Majorly Automated|
|Costs||Cost heavy||Cost light||Medium costs|
From the above, it is clear that almost all metrics, except active engagement, weigh in favor of online learning compared to traditional learning. Blended learning has the benefits of both—experience of the classroom face-to-face engagement and flexibility and convenience of online. Even innovative digital technology tools are available to provide considerable semblance to the engagement of the classroom environment.
The 70-20-10 learning and development model states that 70% of learning comes from challenging assignments and on-the-job application, 20% from peers and developmental relationships, and 10% from theoretical inputs and coursework. Blended learning captures the essence of this model very well. While the distribution of learning methods between classroom and online may not be in exact proportion, what matters is that the participants get to experience the benefits of both. Blended learning encourages the repeated application of learning, and the peer-to-peer interaction supported by engaging digital platforms gives the learners a 360° perspective. Blended learning extends the learning opportunities well beyond the classroom. This leads to better learning and knowledge retention.
Getting the best out of hybrid learning is not as straightforward as it seems. It is not merely a matter of combining the two instructional models—face-to-face and online—in an ad hoc manner. Instead, it requires a thought-out strategy and planning out the right mix of both the learning environments to optimize learning for the participants. Here are a few tips for launching a successful blended learning program:
As with any learning, setting blended learning goals and objectives is a prerequisite to any such program. Means will follow the ends. What is the learner expected to achieve by the end of the course? It is necessary to know both the learner and the instructor. Content, material, design, delivery, and distribution of learning between classrooms and online are metrics that will depend on the course objectives.
Once goals are clearly defined, course design and content development with the help of subject specialists should be drawn up. The course online, inclusions and exclusions, medium of instruction best suited to the subject, learner profile, etc., should be worked out to meet the course objectives. The outline and syllabus will also help the learners understand what they are getting into and assist in course progress tracking. This creates guidance, better acceptance, and engagement.
Allocation of the course between the two learning environments needs to be done judiciously, keeping the learner profile and preference and subject content in mind. Some content is better delivered through instructor-led training, and some may lend themselves better to self-study. Some material is better taught theoretically first to get the fundamentals in place and some may have learned through application. Within the overarching objectives and the level of activities, interactions, group participation, interactivities, etc., planned in the course design, bifurcate the course into the classroom and online learning. Of course, in blended learning, this allocation is only broad guidance; it should not be a rigid structure.
Since blended learning comprises two different learning methods, course and learner assessment may have to be considered for the inclusion of qualitative and observational aspects of the classroom segment of the course. The assessment strategy should reveal the improvements and the shortcomings and whether the training objectives were achieved. Analytics should be applied for data-based decisions on course improvements and fine-tuning outcomes.
If the above suggestions are diligently followed, your blended learning programs will have a higher degree of success. In addition, good planning will help cope with the complexity of a blended learning strategy and mark it for success.
Gyrus can support your endeavors for a learning experience platform hosting immersive, blended learning programs. Our industry-ranked GyrusAim LMS offers unified learning that can effectively manage a classroom, virtual, electronic, and mobile learning to meet your organization's training and compliance needs. Feel free to reach out to us.