In Part 1 of this 3-part series, I introduced the persona of an “eLearning Champion” who, according to me, is a lover of both learning/training as well as technology. They channel this love into championing the cause of eLearning and its various technology-based cousins to further the effectiveness of training, ultimately enhancing the performance of our people. The article also covered the aspects of how organizations are using classroom training and eLearning in various ways today. In this article, I will deal with the two methods of integrating eLearning into the overall training strategy.
Method 1: Blended Learning
Blended learning is learning which is a mixture or amalgamation of ILT, eLearning, and performance support in the digital form. It seamlessly integrates technology-enhanced learning or eLearning into your overall training strategy. A mixture of these three will give you the maximum impact as far as learning effectiveness is concerned.
A close second is to blend digital classrooms with physical classrooms. But the best way to fit eLearning into the overall training strategy is to use a blended approach.
Example Formats For Learning
- Instructor-led (classroom)
- On-the-job training
- Live eLearning classes
- Bulletin boards
- Online communities
- Web learning modules
- Online resource links
- Video and audio CDs/DVDs
- Online self-assessments
Performance Support Systems (EPSS)
- Help Desk systems
- Print job-aids
- Knowledge databases
- Performance/decision support tools
Looking at these different formats of learning should give you an idea of the many variations available for us to come up with a blended learning solution. There is on-the-job training, virtual synchronous  and asynchronous training, self-based eLearning, and there is performance support in the digital form.
How To “Blend” eLearning With Classroom Training
There are essentially 2 ways of concocting an effective blended learning solution.
1. Pre-Post Method
This method is also called a “flipped classroom.” It is a simple method where a certain portion of learning (comprising concepts, principles, theory, models, processes, and so on) is moved to the eLearning mode of delivery; and skills development, application, modeling, demonstration, coaching, and mentoring are dealt with in the classroom with face-to-face interaction with the trainer and the other learners.
Another variation of this method is to deliver a pre- and post-test via eLearning and keep the rest in the classroom. Certain learning technology tools and tasks can also be blended inside a classroom. Web trips and online polls taken on mobile devices/apps with results displayed on a smartboard are some examples.
2. Job-Task Analysis Method
The first method is more of a “guesstimate” approach, where a training manager relies on his experience and gut to apportion different methods. In the job-task method, a more vigorous analysis is done that results in the blended solution. The method starts with breaking down a given job into its constituent tasks which are then categorized into 4 buckets: tasks that are frequently performed, tasks that are important to the performance of the job, tasks that are difficult to learn, and finally, tasks that are associated with risk (tasks, that if performed erroneously, will result in damage to the individual or the organization or both).
The next step would match these categories of tasks with the appropriate methodologies available. For example, a task that is infrequently performed and does not pose a risk can be addressed by a job-aid. A task that is difficult to learn and important can be in the classroom, and so on. At the end of the process, a comprehensive blended learning solution appears.
At CommLab India, we have actually designed a “blended learning” online tool that can perform the above operation very quickly and accurately.
Method 2: eLearning Curriculums
The second way you can integrate your eLearning into your overall training strategy is to “think curriculums” instead of standalone eLearning courses. Think of a series of eLearning courses that cover a larger subject. These smaller pieces of eLearning can fit into the classroom, on-the-job training, or as digital performance support.
Designing and developing curriculums will save you a lot of time, effort, and money. Planning for and developing curriculums rather than standalone courses, has the following advantages:
- Props up the Forgetting Curve
As I have shared in the first part, learning is a process with disparate steps. eLearning curriculums increase the impact of learning in the context of a learning journey. We can use these different pieces of content at different stages of the process to prop up the Forgetting Curve and support learners throughout their learning journey.
- Makes the best use of SME’s time
It is a given that SME time  and involvement are at a premium in most organizations. With eLearning curriculums, we can make the best use of the Subject Matter Expert’s time to design a string of courses rather than calling them multiple times during the development of a series of standalone courses.
- Optimizes effort of IDs
eLearning curriculums optimize the time of Instructional Designers. There are many aspects of the design process that will be common for all modules and can be reused. For example, the GUI, the overall learning strategy, graphic/visual treatment, audio strategy, engagement strategy, and so on, can be done once and used across the modules in the curriculum.
- Achieves faster rollout
The time and effort to design and develop a curriculum of ten 30-minute modules is not much longer or greater than for a 30-minute standalone eLearning course. As mentioned earlier, a great deal of output gets reused and therefore, it is easier to maintain the momentum and achieve faster rollout.
Whether as blended learning or eLearning curriculums, eLearning provides a great advantage to the training manager. It doesn’t have to be used in a separate silo—it can be used both in blended solutions and in eLearning curriculums for a better ROI.
The walls that used to separate classroom training and technology-enhanced learning are no longer valid. These walls have become so porous that you really don’t know whether it is a technology-enhanced session or a classroom session because we use a lot of human interaction in technology-enhanced learning and a lot of technology in the classroom.
In my next and final article of this “eLearning Champions” series, I will be writing about how to link eLearning (or for that matter any learning intervention) with business results. The article highlights the importance of performance-based learning objectives. Stay tuned!
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