Best Served Blended: Balancing Blended Learning with a Training Management System

This three-part series is all about effectively deploying a training management system in your business. Part 1 introduces the essential considerations when building a training program, Part 2 explores the nuances of blended learning, and Part 3 discusses how to employ instructor-led training in a training program. Enjoy!

When I was in 4th grade, I got a brand new Mac. It consisted of two large, beige boxes with all the style and sexiness of Zack Morris’s phone, but I could not have been more excited. Unfortunately, that wave of emotion crashed quickly.

Turns out, having a computer meant having to do the same math work on the chalkboard and in Number Munchers (in between rounds of dying of diphtheria in Oregon Trail, of course). I had been given the computer as part of an initiative to promote blended learning, but it provided sparing additional education beyond how to type.

Unleashing educational technology to support classroom learning back then presented problems just as it does now for corporate team training. Innovative learning and training is catching fire in today’s world, but implementing and leveraging a learning management system often feels like an uphill battle. This dynamic often leaves businesses on a polarized end of the training management spectrum. Either they stick to the status quo of instructor-led training facilitated by training administrators or they lean hard in to elearning content and take a primarily web-based approach.

However, there’s a beautiful, rarely navigated space at the center of that spectrum called blended learning. When utilized correctly, it can be a game changer to business line impact. Here’s a common misconception:

Educational technology + instructor led training = blended learning

But that math isn’t actually correct. It’s a bit more complex:

True blended learning = ∫ (educational technology) (instructor-led training)

For those who aren’t mathematically inclined—blending learning requires integration, not addition. To clarify, let me provide an example of effective and ineffective approaches to blended learning.

Ineffective:

Arthur works in Customer Support at Company X. He is responsible for the onboarding and ongoing training of 100 employees at his location. Company X has a software application that allows training administrators to develop elearning content.Arthur builds an online course called “Expectations for Handle Time” that shares company standards and best practices. He assigns it to the new team members the morning of an instructor led session at 2pm. They are asked to review it prior to the meeting, as well as follow along on their screens as he walks them through the information in the training.At the end of the session, the team is given 15 minutes to take a quiz online that assesses their comprehension. If a new team member doesn’t score above an 85%, they will have a supplemental 1-on-1 meeting with Arthur to review the material.

Effective:

Tracy works in sales at Company Y. She heads up enablement, and outside of ramping new employees, she’s also responsible for keeping the team up to speed with product and process changes. Company Y has the same learning management system as Company X.

It’s Monday, and Tracy just left her monthly meeting with the product team who plans to release a new feature next Thursday. She builds elearning content explaining the details of the new feature and assigns it to the team to be completed by Friday. She ends the assignment with a quick quiz on the main takeaways and asks the team to flag any questions they have before they meet to discuss the new feature on Monday. In the meeting, Tracy addresses her team’s questions and gives a full demo of the new feature.

After the meeting, she sends another assignment to the team asking them to record themselves giving their demo of the new feature. Tracy reviews each team member’s demo during his/her regularly scheduled 1-on-1. After all reviews, she finds two stellar examples and shares them with the rest of the team.

Both Company X and Company Y are utilizing educational technology and instructor-led training, but here’s why Company Y will see better business line impact than Company X:

  1. Company Y is integrating, not adding. By knowledge checking and asking her team to flag questions, Tracy is able to dig in on the most difficult concepts and move from basic information already shared in the elearning content to the more advanced information she possesses as a subject matter expert. The two forms of training are complementary, not duplicative, and allows Tracy’s team to level up faster. In short, she’s not keeping them in Training 101—she’s making sure they progress to Training 201.
  2. The team at Company Y has control of where, when, and how they work. Learning styles are real, people. Control of pace, location, and presentation can be the difference between someone “getting it” or not. Granting freedom with elearning is critical to blended learning—and to individual success.
  3. Company Y is leveraging its most valuable resource – its top performers. Doubling down on learning styles, Tracy decides to share examples of top performers crushing the demo. This is engaging and informative for their teammates and capacity building for Tracy. Speaking of capacity building…
  4. Company Y is more efficiently training its people. With Tracy utilizing blended learning, she is able to provide foundational understanding with elearning and tackle tougher concepts in person. Training becomes intuitive, woven in to day-to-day activities, rather than being perceived as time away from progress.

The good news is that Company Y is not an unattainable utopia. Just like any process or behavior change, moving from one polarized end of the learning spectrum to the center will undoubtedly come with objections and pains. However, even incremental adjustments, 1% at a time, may result in great rewards.

Wondering where to start? Try moving one of the more basic instructor-led training to elearning. Ask for feedback or questions on an online course prior to an in-person meeting. Encourage a top performer to share her secret sauce. You may just find learning and margaritas have something in common—they’re best served blended!

Do Better Work with Lessonly’s training management system

Lessonly is powerfully simple training software that helps teams learn, practice, and Do Better Work. Forward-thinking companies across the globe use Lessonly to build onboarding and ongoing training that fuels employee growth and business progress. Learn more, and demo Lessonly today.

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