Blended Learning

Blended learning is a broad and imprecise field that makes it difficult to define. However, in most cases, it is considered to be a form of hybrid learning that combines online and offline instructional methods.

Understanding blended learning

Blended learning is a combination of online learning and more traditional forms of face-to-face learning where each serves to enhance the other. Indeed, in a typical blended course, instruction that occurs in a classroom is reinforced or supported by activities that take place in an online environment.

For teachers, blended learning is an approach that enables them to cater to all types of learners. Students who prefer to learn in a structured environment will appreciate direct interaction with an instructor, while those who prefer to learn alone will find the semi-autonomous nature of learning online more to their tastes.

While schools and universities are the most obvious institutions to benefit from blended learning, businesses with diverse workforces can also use the approach to cater to a mix of learning styles.

Types of blended learning models

Some of the models of blended learning include:

  1. Flipped – where teachers prioritize active learning in face-to-face classes by distributing resources and materials before the class takes place. For many organizations, this occurs in a learning management system (LMS).
  2. Face-to-face – in this case, traditional classroom instruction is supplemented with technology so that students can learn at their own pace. 
  3. Flex – the flex model describes students that learn via an LMS and choose the direction of their study. Teachers are present, but in more of a mentoring capacity to answer questions when required.
  4. Enriched virtual – where most of the coursework is completed online and supplemented with face-to-face online webinars led by an instructor. Note that attendance at these webinars is at the discretion of the student.
  5. Self–blend–motivated students who want to delve deeper into a subject can use the self-blend model. Here, face-to-face instruction is augmented with additional content such as white papers, video tutorials, case studies, and industry blogs that are conveniently organized under an LMS.

Examples of blended learning

In the final section, we will describe some real-world examples of blended learning in action.

Sales

Blended learning in the context of sales training may comprise the following elements:

  • Important topics such as CRM, negotiation skills, and effective communication are offered via mobile-based videos. Gamification is also used to maintain student engagement.
  • Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) encompasses scenario-based discussion and role-play situations. Best practices, aids, and guidelines are made available as downloadable resources.
  • Simulated environments where role-play situations are explored in more detail and incorporated into VILT or face-to-face sessions.
  • A flipped blended learning model where students attend face-to-face classes and raise issues encountered while completing online exercises.

Healthcare

In a course to train healthcare professionals, a combination of learning methods was used to teach the skill of cannulation. In layman’s terms, this is the intravenous delivery of fluids, blood, and antibiotics to improve patient health.

Below is a list of learning outcomes and their associated instructional styles:

  • List the main veins in the forearm – online.
  • Name the primary components of the cannula. This is the thin tube that is inserted into the body – online.
  • Learning how to correctly insert the cannula – classroom.
  • Provide cannulation to patients – the bedside (mentored).

Compliance

Compliance training by its very nature needs to be rigorous, strict, and standardized to ensure the necessary outcomes are met.

How might this look in terms of blended learning?

  • Immersive learning is important for compliance training since most of the content will be learned by the student on their own. For best results, a self-paced style that incorporates micro-learning, scenario-based learning, and gamification is ideal.
  • To maintain student engagement and increase learning, various concepts, scenarios, and important case studies can be used to demonstrate the impact of non-compliance. This can either be a virtual or face-to-face training session.
  • Webinars run by business leaders can also be useful to add a human touch to the subject of compliance and clarify any trainee questions.

Key takeaways:

  • Blended learning is a broad and imprecise field that makes it difficult to define. However, in most cases, it is considered to be a form of hybrid learning that combines online and offline instructional methods.
  • There are various blended learning models which educators use to disseminate online and offline content. These include flipped, face-to-face, flex, enriched virtual, and self-blend.
  • Blended learning is useful in limitless real-world scenarios. These include non-compliance training, sales training, and training for healthcare professionals.
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