The blended learning system can’t be ignored.
It’s another one of those things you can’t help but run into on every website you visit. Like memes and intermittent fasting.
But what is blended learning?
It’s yet another form of education to suit different teaching styles, learning styles, lifestyles, and needs. The 2020s are full of those.
And for good reason, as 94% of employees say they would remain at the same job if the company invested more in education and training.
The short answer is that blended learning is education that’s part-virtual and part-face-to-face. It isn’t fully digital…and it isn’t the ol’ red schoolhouse either.
But there’s a lot more to it.
This article is going to be an extensive, all-in-one guide to everything you need to know about blended learning, its benefits, challenges, different types, best practices, and how you can implement an LMS into your blended learning programs.
All we ask for in return is a few minutes of your day. You can’t really deny that it’s a good trade.
Do we have a deal? Cool.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning definition: “a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching”.
So basically it’s a combination of distance learning and face-to-face learning. But it has an emphasis on synchronous learning, meaning the learner has to attend a class to properly learn the information. Not everything will be recorded for you to watch at your leisure.
The future is certainly virtual, but you really can’t downplay how important instructor-led training (ILT) is. We go into this in-depth here: ILT Instructor-Led Training LMS.
What is a Blended Learning Program?
So that’s the basic blended learning meaning - but how is it different from any other learning program? What do all these different programs mean?
What a Blended Learning Program is
Blended learning programs mesh online and brick-and-mortar sources to create one system. For example, learners may attend an in-person class, then supplement the lesson by doing online coursework, like watching videos, taking tests, etc.
How about we compare a blended learning education to some other systems?
Blended Learning vs Traditional Learning
Here’s a quick comparison between digital blended learning and that aforementioned ol’ red schoolhouse:
See how it’s taking the best parts of traditional schooling and mixing in the benefits of online learning? Why just have chocolate when you could have chocolate peanut butter?
Blended Learning vs eLearning
Alright, let’s do the reverse and compare a blended learning system with a fully digital course. Distance learning really spiked in the past couple of years due to the pandemic, but blended learning programs offer benefits that eLearning alone just can’t.
It can be a step up for many, as it contains a lot of the benefits of elearning:
- Lower costs
- Easy info access: knowledge database, e-notes, etc.
- Safety: less face-to-face contact
- Time to go at your own pace
But with the extra benefits that only in-person learning gives:
- Peer-to-peer interaction
- Group engagement
- Immediate feedback
- Hands-on activities
Blended Learning vs Hybrid Learning
These two are pretty damn similar - but still different.
The key difference is the lack of asynchronous learning with blended learning. Hybrid learning allows students to explore the information in their own way, using their own path to suit their needs.
The blended learning definition entails that the learner has to attend class when class is scheduled and doesn’t watch recorded lectures after they’ve passed, attend classes outside schedule, etc. Blended learning is in-person learning with online supplementation, but it’s synchronous.
Benefits of Digital Blended Learning
Blended learning combines the independence of go-at-your-own-pace distance learning and the engagement of instructor-led in-person learning.
The resulting benefits are a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario for corporate teams:
- Customizable methods
- Flexible learning experience
- Reduces cost of in-person learning
- Increases corporate training effectiveness
- Saves time
- Ability to track and measure progress
- Greater employee engagement and satisfaction
Bllended learning is a win-win for management and for employees. But, you probably want to see what this actually looks like in the real world.
For context, here are a couple of success stories from global brands that have embraced blended learning.
With blended learning opportunities, you can avoid the bad of distance learning while reaping the good.
It also boosts other skills besides the ones being taught. Social skills can’t help but be boosted in a physical classroom, but computer literacy, research skills, and self-motivation build as the learner does the online portions of the course.
Since you can also implement gamification, online assessments, discussion boards, and chat rooms while still reducing isolation and increasing peer support, you can see why it’s popular.
It’s the best of both worlds.
Challenges of a Blended Learning System
You can certainly have challenges implementing a blended learning program…all good things can face adversity, let’s face it. Whether it be the cost of software, adapting your courses to a new system, or putting your own tech skills to the test.
These little obstacles are worth considering:
Cost of Implementation
Earlier we said that a blended learning system could reduce costs – and it’s true!
But you still have to consider the price tag of implementing your course. Buying the right technology and the right software can be confusing, expensive, and sometimes full of trial and error.
But it can be made simple by opting for more all-in-one products, like interactive flat panels (think: giant tablets). And LMS blended learning is a must. All your software needs can be pretty much ticked off the checklist by implementing a good LMS or learning management system.
Lack of IT skills
Wait…how do you access the live training session? Oh no, someone’s on mute. Did I submit my answers to the quiz or delete them?
You really don’t want to spend twenty minutes of an hour-long seminar or workshop ironing out computer issues.
Digital blended learning options are a fantastic way to engage employees – but only if they’re able to use the platform.
When implementing a blended learning platform, it’s really important to think about the computer literacy of your team and the usability of the platform you’re considering.
For example, let’s say you’re planning to train a group of people who aren’t used to navigating new systems. It’s important to consider,
- How you can educate them on using the learning platform
- How you’ll handle any inevitable questions or technical challenges
- Whether the platform you’re using is intuitive and easy to navigate
This is where Tovuti really shines as an LMS. Our streamlined, easy-to-use platform helps employers to tackle the barriers caused by clunky programs – or a lack of IT confidence.
Now, blended learning opportunities offer more engagement when done right.
But you gotta be on top of your game, alright?
If you don’t pay attention to this, your learners are going to end up disinterested and distant. It’s essential to interact with each one so the class doesn’t feel like a daily chore.
Try throwing a little more collaborative work and group problem-solving into your lessons and don’t just focus on the hard facts. Incorporate some interactive content for learner engagement - gamification, quizzes, and dialogue simulations might be good places to start.
You probably already have a course in mind, right? Maybe it’s a really great one - but it probably isn’t already implemented to one of the blended learning models, so the problem arises to transfer it to a brand new system.
It might be worth your time to completely redesign it. Sometimes you end up with a bigger problem trying to make an old lesson fit into a new layout. It takes less time and effort to sew a brand new blazer than to rip apart an old dress and mend it into one.
It’s tricky to make sure your lesson is taking hold in a learner’s brain.
When so much of the lesson is distant and digital, you can’t be sure anything is really sticking and taking hold. And you don’t want students coasting through without retaining the information.
Tracking progress with assessments and analytics is great. Offer an online assessment for learning management systems, which can take the form of questionnaires, tests, surveys, and more.
The Digital Divide
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the same tech. This is what we call the “digital divide” or the “digital gap”.
Depending on personal, economic, or social circumstances, tech and tools will vary. Some learners may have laggy laptops and some may even share tech with household members.
Implementing an LMS into your program makes the gap a little narrower by making some of the required tech an easy-to-use, easy-to-run piece of software that’s accessible to everyone.
Oh, and did we mention?
Content creation, engagement, progress tracking, technical learning curve, and more can be solved with a great LMS like Tovuti.
Types of Blended Learning Models
There are many blended learning opportunities that all fall under the blended learning umbrella. Depending on the individual's needs, they all have uses and benefits.
A scheduled, fixed rotation between digital and in-person learning. This provides structure while also allowing for adaptability and a diverse range of learning experiences – AKA, less boring, more fun.
Here are some examples of what that might look like in a corporate setting:
- Record a video demonstrating to employees how to complete an important task. This is especially useful when demonstrating software or administrative processes to new employees. You can make the videos interactive and entertaining for maximum engagement.
- Encourage collaboration and discussion by grouping employees together to discuss a challenge or task that they’ve covered in online training. The process or relaying information and sharing stories will help them remember and contextualize new information.
- Testing employee knowledge is a specific, scalable, and actionable way to measure how they’ve retained new knowledge. You can identify who might need extra support, and who can be rewarded for their hard work!
- A combination of the above learning experiences will provide leaders with much-needed context to conduct personalized coaching sessions with employees.
The Flex Model is mostly online but with a brick-and-mortar location where employees can access additional support and education.
Employees have a personalized, flexible schedule (Flex, remember?) where their leader provides in-person support via tutoring, group projects, and group instruction.
Sometimes you’ll see heavy face-to-face support implemented and sometimes you’ll see minimal contact. Different combinations kind of define “flexible”.
A La Carte model
The A La Carte model enables teams to take an online course with an online teacher as well as an in-person class. Think when you order a la carte at the bistro, right?
Teams may take a course entirely online to complement other in-person experiences. Generally, the teachers are different, too. One instructor does the face-to-face teaching and another instructs virtually.
Enriched Virtual model
This one’s all in the name: virtual learning enriched with in-person contact.
The student completes online coursework, only meeting face-to-face with an instructor intermittently and as-needed.
Similar to the “flipped classroom” blended learning model, but the balance between in-person and digital contact is a little different. You aren’t going to have fixed, daily meetings at a brick-and-mortar location as you might with Flipped. It’ll be a little more infrequent.
Let’s do a quick sum-up comparison. You know. For skim-reading’s sake.
Best Practices for Blended Learning
Now let’s check out some of the best practices your blended learning academy, training, or group can use.
Then your program can go major league.
Focus on improving learning outcomes
Digital blended learning has been shown to overall produce better learning outcomes for learners and your course can, too. Focus on solid content, good communication, and watch your analytics to really see it in action.
Measure the impact of the learning process on the business
Keep an eye on your own learning objectives. Does your training give measurable gains to the business as a whole? Keep track of hard data like cost, time-saved, and reduced number of negative incidents.
Maintain a balance between online and on-site learning
That’s what blended learning programs are all about, right? Keeping a balance between on-site and digital will keep your teaching effective, engaging, and efficient.
Make it more personalized
Personalize, customize, and white-label your course to your business or school. Making it fit in comfortably will be less jarring for learners and it’ll end up being more customized to them, too.
Even if you purchase a premade course, you can take a moment to make it yours.
Take a collaborative learning approach for increased engagement
Taking the time to collaborate on group efforts, or even just collaborating with an individual student, will boost engagement and interest. Completing activities and projects together will keep energy high and aid knowledge retention.
Collect employee feedback and preferences
Assessments and surveys will help you collect feedback for your blended learning training and help you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
And don’t be afraid to ask, too. Good communication makes a solid training program.
Incorporate practical-based learning
A better understanding of your lesson and better knowledge retention can be gained through practical learning. It’s the difference between reading about a souffle and putting on an apron and making a souffle.
You’ll remember a lot more about souffles if you had to make one yourself.
Actually having a trainee sit down and make a call (even if it’s to a fake client!) will do way more than just talking about calls.
Blended learning training
It’s a good idea to make sure your learners know how to participate in LMS blended learning. It could be something brand new to them and they most likely won’t know what they’re doing.
A good resource would be our Comprehensive Glossary: eLearning Terminology as a start.
Clear expectations and communication
Absolutely essential is setting clear expectations for each student – you want everybody to know their goals so they can complete them smoothly.
Communication is even more important than usual when your course is taking place partially virtual and partially in-person. So ask questions, be concise, and make use of any and all communication features in your software.
Evaluate the course with a test run
You can evaluate your blended learning training with a small prototype or pilot. This helps you determine its effectiveness, how everything falls together, and possible hiccups in the system.
Which Features to Use in LMS Blended Learning
Now, we keep telling you to use a learning management system in your blended learning group. But now we’re going to get specific.
Here are a few that’ll help take your blended learning program to the next level.
1. Course management
Delivery, management, editing, and creation of courses are a must. And a course builder for learning management systems will make your job a lot easier.
Besides using built-in course authoring, you can also use Tovuti to upload and edit your own content including videos, PowerPoint, PDF, and more.
2. Social learning tools
Drive your education further with dynamic, engaging social learning. Tools like forums, communities, group leaderboards, and badges will:
- Foster healthy competition
- Make training fun and approachable
- Ensure better knowledge retention
- Encourage better team building and cooperation
And that’s just the virtual side of things. Imagine the collaboration and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing when you combine these useful tools with in-person projects and group activities.
Build custom reports on learner performance, events, payments, transactions, subscriptions, and more. This is a tool that can really help track learner progress in a blended learning system.
Reporting helps you manage a blended learning program carefully and monitor crucial information. Nothing’ll slip by you.
4. Webinar integration
Tovuti allows you to hold a blended learning conference or virtual meeting via third-party integration to ensure quick, seamless processes. Tovuti has its own Virtual Classroom feature to host webinars, but they can also be facilitated through:
- …and more
5. Learning paths
Learning paths help you keep track of where your learners are in blended learning programs. Create checklists that include courses, activities, assessments, and much more. Dynamically assign or unassign courses based on students’ completion of milestones.
Checklists give you the power to create as many custom learning paths as your learners need and one learner may have multiple learning paths at once.
6. Virtual classroom
Virtual classrooms give the ability to share webcams and screens, upload presentations, and use emotes to react and raise your hand, which encourages students to interact with each other and the instructor. And Tovuti’s virtual whiteboard allows users to write and participate in real-time.
That way, the engagement doesn’t stop after the brick-and-mortar class.
You don’t always have the time or mental capacity to root through your spreadsheets to get your technical data, but nonetheless, it is important.
Our user-friendly analytics dashboard lets you monitor your organization’s performance at a quick glance, getting crucial info on learners, finances, and efficacy so that you stay in the loop.
Data doesn’t lie.
Nerd reference for the win.
Once you really get your blended learning program rollin’, you might find you use more LMS features than you’d think on a daily basis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does Blended Learning mean?
The blended learning definition is a learning program that’s a fusion of elearning and face-to-face learning. It isn’t just traditional in-person learning, but it isn’t full-blown virtual education either.
You can read even more about it on a blended learning website, like Tovuti’s blog.
What is an example of blended learning?
A learner might attend a class, then go home to complete additional coursework online. Or they may attend a virtual class, then follow it up with a trip to a brick-and-mortar computer lab or library.
Any one course that incorporates both in-person and virtual learning is blended learning education.
How does blended learning work?
It depends on the course design and blended learning models used. It could be a mainly elearning-centered Enriched Virtual model or a more traditional Rotation model with fixed schedules.
Your blended learning program can be endlessly personalized to suit the needs of your business.
How do you implement blending learning?
One of the first things is choosing a learning management system. That will get the ball rolling and help you start planning and decision-making for your blended learning training.
LMS blended learning will help you start course design, event management, and more. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of Tovuti’s implementation timeline to help you out.
What is blended learning? We think we answered that damn well today.
Mixing these two educational methods - virtual and face-to-face - is a winning combination. The human touch in education is still vital, but it’s unmistakable that digital learning is the future. 33% of college students complete at least some of their curriculum completely online.
It has challenges to overcome, but cost management, IT skills, and monitoring student progress won’t be any problem if you’re ready for it…and LMS features like assessments, reports, and being really user-friendly are going to eliminate most of the challenges before you begin.
So review blended training models to find the best fit, put those best practices to practice (ha ha), and watch our demo today to start your next training session via learning blended.