On the surface, blended learning seems like any other learning experience to which an online component has been integrated. While this is true, there is a lot more to what meets the eye, to make a course purely and exclusively ‘blended’.
There are three factors that need to be accommodated into a program to make it deemed fit to be termed as “blended.” These factors can be termed as the 3 I’s of blended learning – Integration, Interdependence and Information. Let’s take a look at these terms separately to understand how they work together.
Integration: The most obvious feature of a blended learning program is that it comprises of two components – (a) face-to-face learning and (b) online learning. There is no dearth of programs that offer both these components together; however, these programs do not qualify as blended learning or BL. E-learning
For learning to be qualified as ‘blended’ the two components must be integrated or connected.
In his chapter on the “Emerging Practice and Research in Blended Learning,” Charles R. Graham addresses the issue of the disagreement among authors regarding the percentage that must be dedicated to face-to-face learning and to blended learning, when integrating the two. While there is a haziness surrounding the exact percentage of time that must be devoted to each of these two components, they must be integrated in such a way that online learning replaces the amount of time spent on face-to-face interaction, considerably.
Interdependence: Online learning and face-to-face learning cannot be independent of each other. In fact, the two components must complement each other in such a way that one form of learning cannot do without the other. In other words, it must be mandatory for learners to refer to both the online, as well as the face-to-face interactions in order to derive optimum benefit from the program.
If learners could gain all the knowledge required through just one of the components, they would choose either one of the two types of learning – which would defeat the purpose of blended learning.
The perfect BL course would have learners gain some amount of knowledge from the online program, and that would be complemented by a face-to-face, and vice versa.
Information: More commonly known as reporting and documenting, this is a way of knowing how much a learner is actually ‘learning’ and ‘gaining’ from the two components of BL. While reports and documents are easily accessible through the online program in the form of a digital footprint, and a lot of hype is created around the success/failure of an online program, it is taken for granted that face-to-face discussions are always a whopping success. It would come as a shock to many that this is not always the case.
In a true, blended learning experience, the outcome from both the components are evaluated and reviewed; only when this is done will it be known how successful each of these components are – as two entities, and as two parts that make up a whole.
How L&D Makes Use of Blended Learning
L&D professionals have found the perfect answer to make drastic cuts in costs and also to save on large chunks of time through the use of blended learning. But the benefits go beyond saving costs and time – it’s the perfect solution to train employees who are on the go or who are located in different countries or even continents. Webinars, teleconferences, podcasts and online self-study workbooks have been used in various combinations to deliver blended learning.
Today, eLearning is considered to be one of the most successful contributors to blended learning. Industries like Pharmaceuticals and Oil & Gas who perpetually have employees on the go, need not worry about their employees’ training anymore. ELearning and mobile learning makes it possible for employees to access their training anytime and anywhere, using a wide variety of devices, offline or online; so they don’t miss out on anything.
Trainers who are running short of time and have to meet training deadlines integrate eLearning with face-to-face interactions – voila! A blended learning course!
All that L&D needs to do is get that perfect blend of eLearning and face-to-face interaction. Once the perfect amalgamation is reached, blended learning takes over and provides the most successful, interesting, time-saving, and cost-effective training.