“Blended learning, also known as technology-mediated instruction, web-enhanced instruction, or mixed-mode instruction, is an approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with physical place-based classroom methods” (source). In other words, a blended learning approach combines the benefits of online learning with the efficiency of face-to-face instruction, and it has multiple advantages that can improve the overall learning experience for both students and instructors.
First of all, blended learning makes education more accessible, as learners have more flexibility in going through specific information whenever they need it, which leads to more successful learning outcomes, and more engaged learners. Trainees set up their own pace of engaging with the learning resources, which reduces pressure and promotes in-depth learning.
In the formal education environment, this proves to be a major benefit as it leads to a balance at the level of the classroom, for both quick and slow learning, whereas in the corporate learning environment, this is an asset because learners have different schedules and learning styles, and they all should have the same opportunity to gain knowledge and skills, which blended learning makes possible.
Secondly, trainers can have a better understanding of learning styles, they can engage better with the learners, and they have a bigger control over the trainees’ learning progress, as well as their learning paths.
Blended learning is not an universal choice and it does not function the same for every organization. Luckily, there are various blended learning models to choose from, based on the learning needs and outcomes.
As the name suggests, this is similar to a traditional classroom experience, as learners join a live class in the format of a webinar or livestreaming session, and they usually receive some assignments to complete after the live instruction is finished. This would be a good choice for people who are not yet ready to completely change their traditional approach to learning, and the transition can be made smoothly, step by step.
That’s the next step if we are to talk about the learning transition mentioned above, as this model is mostly similar with the previous one, with the difference that learners receive learning resources before each virtual classroom experience.
From our own experience in the learning environment, and from the customer stories we have received, this could make a huge difference in comparison to a traditional classroom experience. We have been working with Barnard College of Columbia University for some years now, and our collaboration has started as a need of PhD Dana Neacșu, professor of Barnard College, who had to deliver some really difficult concepts to both undergraduate and foreign students, concepts that were really difficult to understand.
That’s how she started using Knolyx, as a learning environment where she can deliver learning resources beforehand to students, so that they can take their time to familiarize themselves with the information, thus digesting it easier.
This approach to training is mostly centered around the learners and their own approach to learning. In other words, they can set their pace for digesting information, and they can decide how much of the learning includes live interaction with the instructor, and how much they focus on accessing the available learning resources on their own. This is the best approach for self-motivated learners, who do not need any extrinsic motivation and can manage their training journey mostly by themselves.
Using this blended learning approach, the learners decide how much they want to interact with the instructor and with each other. They can choose between synchronous and asynchronous learning, they have access to learning resources whenever they want, and the instructors are available to answer their questions and to provide feedback, if they decide they need it.
Using this approach, the instructor decides the structure of the learning experience. Trainees are grouped into various teams, and they rotate between individual instruction, live group instruction, and self-guided assignments. This approach to blended learning would be effective for small teams, as it requires an advanced organizational process.
We think that online learning doesn’t exclude the benefits of face to face training, but it encourages organizations to make the most of every learning format. For example, after a 3 day traditional training, organizations can continue the learning process by means of a LMS, uploading learning materials that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere, to boost knowledge retention and to facilitate a more flexible learning, while offering an environment where employees can keep asking the trainer questions for a specific period of time using communities of practice.
Some (final) thoughts
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