Understanding Blended Learning and Its Importance
The term ‘blended learning’ actually describes the manner in which eLearning is integrated or combined with a more traditional classroom setup, offering independent study. This particular learning approach makes sure that the audience remains engaged and their overall learning experience is productive. The learning strategy is more popular among individuals who have unique learning styles as this strategy caters to individual needs with more flexibility and convenience.
However, to fully and completely incorporate this learning strategy, there are two basic factors which you should consider. While some learners prefer a combination of online settings and traditional classroom, it is important to consider the target segment of catered students. Not every learner is motivated enough to actively engage in blended learning. For such learners, this particular learning strategy is not suitable.
Secondly, motivation is indeed a critical aspect of blended learning strategy in addition to targeted segmentation. Managing this part of blended learning involves planned crafting of the ‘BLENDED’ assessments. The term ‘BLENDED’ here is associated with ‘ASSESSMENT’ to emphasize more on the non-traditional assessments such as traditional examination and tests. This means that developing innovative content is a major factor that must be considered here.
However, developing unique and engaging content and creating a productive environment of blended learning, whether it is on corporate or students’ level, is not always easy and can be quite challenging for many reasons. The development of this learning strategy involves the integration of online course software and its basic know-how by both the targeted audience and the content developer. Similarly, such kind of learning platforms cannot be accessed in the absence of adequate and fast bandwidth WiFi or internet access. This is imperative to get a complete and easy access to the learning material and to learn in a blended learning environment.
In extension to that, blended learning strategy involves the use of right software tools to develop a more engaging and advanced curriculum which is helpful for the achievement of set learning goals.
Blended Learning in Corporate and Academic Setup
An effective learning strategy is not only implemented for the training of students but also at the corporate level. These advanced training strategies help the participants (both students and employees) to fully meet their learning specifications. This allows them to formulate more personalized learning instructions or strategies.
Blended learning allows participants to work with instructors at the facility as well as take assistance from additional online resources while at home. With that, they can also avail the opportunity to communicate with their instructors using various online communication methods, receiving advice and support from the class. The variety of used formats keeps the content engaging and allows more creativity and space for the participants to dig deeper into the subject.
With that, let’s have a look at both of the positive and negative aspects of blended learning.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Incorporating Blended Learning
Every strategy has its own benefits and limitations. The important question is whether the benefits outweigh the limitations. In a corporate setup, professionals like to think of this more strategically such as:
Does the integration of self-paced learning with face-to-face interaction offer any benefit to the participants? Do the efforts worth the rewards?
However, to assist you with that, let’s dig deep into the advantages and disadvantages that come with the adoption of blended learning.
The Advantages of Blended Learning
Round-the-clock access to training resources
Since blended learning involves online and digital resources, time limitations are simply the matter of the past, if you do have a good internet connection. The learning strategy is way ahead than these old limitations. The online resources are always there to help – 24/7. In addition, if your blended learning strategy also offers a public forum, you can also learn from the experience of others and get your solution without the assistance of an instructor.
A personalized training experience
The strongest aspect of blended learning is the chance to receive personalized training by every individual, catering to their learning needs. This means that every participant has different learning capabilities and not all of them are always on the same page in terms of grasping the information. They may choose the path through specific topic areas as they deem right.
Undoubtedly, the face-to-face interaction and various aids to receive timely performance feedback have made blended learning a unique training and development strategy. The overall result of this particular training strategy is to enable every learner to focus on the information and skills they are in need of, without having to attend long unnecessary lectures or going through piles of unrelated information.
Better communication and collaborative learning
Even though with blended learning strategy, a participant can access the resources in the absence of the instructor, it still improves the communication and interaction amongst the participants and also with the instructors. Such online learning solutions offer a great variety of communication tools such as email, news announcements, instant messaging, online grading tool, online discussion, drop boxes, or more. All of these communication tools offer great flexibility in terms of ensuring timely communication. May it be any concern or feedback/evaluation, all of this is now possible instantly and without any time constraint.
Similarly, unlike traditional classroom, blended learning offers a good collaborative environment for participants. This substantially increases collaboration amongst the learners and between the instructor and the learner, which makes blended learning strategy one of the best online training platforms. As the learners use many collaborative tools such as blogs, online discussions, instant messages and others, they are able to collaborate with each other in a better way and in fact, in or out of the training room.
Track participants’ skill and performance development
If you have incorporated right tools into your blended learning course, you can easily track down the data in terms of participants’ eventual performance improvement. This learning strategy makes data tracking a lot more convenient and quick. It helps in eliminating the cookie cutter approach of grading exams. Instead, it offers a better evaluation option of online assessment that comes with a built-in grading rubric with an additional benefit of immediate feedback.
This modern learning strategy can easily track the material accessed by a participant. It also shows at what time and for how long they reviewed the material. All of this, especially in a corporate setup, can easily be done digitally and this provides the track record of employees which are then further used to take their promotion and development decisions. In fact, nowadays many organizations use this opportunity to determine activities which are more effective and the ones which need improvisation or modification to fully meet the objectives or performance goals.
Cost-effective training strategy
Every business strives to make strategies that are both smart and cost-effective and blended learning is just one of these strategies. As you incorporate more and better online options in the blended learning program, it not only saves the traveling cost but also the cost of missed work. That is, as you integrate the events of your training program in an online setup, it not only eliminates the limitations of time and place but also reduces travel cost for both the instructor and the participants.
There is no need for any instructor to be present at a location and also there is no need to rent out the training space. Similarly, the same advantage can be availed considering the availability of content on an online platform. The courses can be expanded and updated in just a fraction of the time because there’s no need to worry about the printing of course material like in the case of the traditional classroom.
The Disadvantages of Blended Learning
Here is the list of things that can be challenging as you incorporate blended learning into your training program.
High maintenance cost
Incorporation of advanced technology in your blended learning projects such as infrastructure setup and devices are at times costly. In a corporate setup, this is especially true for bigger organizations having various departments or a large workforce. But if you compare this cost with all the other benefits that come with blended learning, this is not only a short-term expense but it will eventually be quite beneficial in the long run.
In order to achieve the learning objectives of your blended learning program, the content developers use the technological tools and resources that are easy to use, reliable, and up-to-date. All of this is possible if participants have strong internet connectivity as this has a meaningful impact in terms of overall learning environment and experience. That is why incorporating this learning strategy depends on technological feasibility, and in case of technical issues or inadequate technical accessibility, the objective of this advanced learning strategy is unachievable.
Also, since blended learning is about technological dependence, there is a limitation with regards to technical skills of both the instructors and the learners. Students and instructors who are not tech-savvy can face a great barrier in terms of smooth interactions. The participants will face difficulty in accessing the course material; therefore, this learning strategy must come with adequate technical support.
Wastage of offered Resources
This is in connection with the limitation discussed in above point. That is, if the learners or students are unaware of technology used in the online learning course, there is a chance you won’t get the desired results. Similarly, if the provided technological tools are inadequate and not in relevance to the course material, then this will also be a wastage of resources without improving ROI.
The bottom line
Like any other learning strategy, blended learning also has positive and negative aspects. In today’s world, the learning and working environment offer unparalleled opportunities for online training facilitation just by adopting blended learning approach. This learning strategy can be applied to any program which holds on to the values of traditional learning and incorporates digital media with that. The approach is a lot more efficient, effective and appealing to individuals than anything that has been ever before.
Hence, to achieve your learning objectives in the best possible manner, the content developers have to incorporate the technological and other relevant aspects wisely in the learning content. After all, blended learning creates more engagement amongst the learners, increases the rate of retention in organizations, keeps learners more motivated, provides the best learning environment and facilitates both the personal and professional development programs.
Indeed, it has the values of traditional learning and at the same time, it offers great feasibility by leveraging technological advancements to save time and money both. This learning strategy has now given rise to many learning platforms globally and is now one of the most adopted learning tools.