“Blended learning” has become a buzzword in the learning and development world. Everyone’s talking about how they can implement blended learning in their training programs.
But what, exactly, is blended learning? How is it different from elearning? Does it have enough benefits to justify the cost of implementation?
We’ll take a look at these questions and then point out a few things to keep in mind when you develop your own blended learning approach.In the end, you’ll be able to decide whether you should combine in-person and online trainings. (Though you can probably guess the answer already.)
Let’s start with a common question:
What’s the Difference Between eLearning and Blended Learning?
Most trainers, teachers, and learners are familiar with electronic learning (“elearning”). It’s any type of learning done digitally—usually online.
So how is blended learning different?
Blended learning is any approach that combines traditional classroom or in-person training with self-paced online learning.
That could mean that you supplement regular seminars with self-paced online sessions. Or that learners can attend classroom trainings once they’ve reached a specific point in an online learning track.
Blended learning is very flexible. If you’re using the tools available to provide the best experience for your learners, you’re probably already using blended learning.
If you have an idea that doesn’t quite fit into the definition of blended learning, that’s fine. It’s all about adapting different methods to foster learning.
Benefits of Blended Learning
Blended learning is gaining momentum in the training and development world. But is it just hype? Or are there real benefits of blended learning that HR managers and trainers should know about?
Here are a few studies you may be interested in:
- Pereira, et al. (2007): Blended learning resulted in higher grades and more tests passed
- Maloney, et al. (2015): Blended learning is more cost-effective after three years
- Lothridge, Fox, and Fynan (2013): Blended learning provides “affordable, accessible, high-quality” training
- Eryilmaz (2015): Students rated a blended learning approach more effective than a traditional approach (possibly due to active cooperation)
- Means, et al. (2013): Blended learning was significantly more effective than face-to-face instruction
Experts have also weighed in on the advantages of blended learning. Multinational corporations that instituted elearning methodologies to supplement their traditional trainings reduced costs by 35–60%.
Karen Peters and William J. Rothwell point out that “Blended learning combines the best of both instructor-led and e-Learning worlds to accommodate the full range of cognitive, affective and psychomotor learning domain needs.”
In short, research shows that blended learning is more effective and cost-efficient than in-person training. And experts are confident in its continued importance in the training and development field.
It’s worth noting that not every study has found blended learning to be more effective than traditional instruction.Lim, Morris, and Kupritz (2007) found no significant difference between blended and online-only delivery.
In general, though, research and expert opinion agree: blended learning is an effective way to impart knowledge.
And because it uses elearning methods, it also inherits elearning’s advantages: flexible scheduling, mobile learning, the use of video, and so on.
A Note About Costs
“That’s great,” you might be thinking, “but those benefits come at significant cost, don’t they?”
Maloney et al. (2015) state that there are significant upfront costs to implementing a blended learning approach, and their study only showed a savings in cost after three years.
Of course, the savings keep accruing after those three years.It’s easiest to implement a blended learning approach if you’re already using some elearning solutions. If your company is using an elearning solution, all you need to do is plan a blended course.
If your learning and development program is completely in-person right now, you may need to make an upfront investment (in the 2015 study, the company paid AUS $40,000 to get started).
But that means you can invest in a system that works equally well for traditional and blended approaches. And that will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
(If you want to see how Continu can help you create a cost-effective blended learning environment, schedule a free demo!)