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What instructional designers need to know about blended learning

I’ve been in corporate training for well over a decade. Even back in my early days as an instructional designer, we tried our best to have various training methods. Granted, back then, much of the diversity was about the many ways in which you could use PowerPoint effects for presentations. However, we still went to some trouble to incorporate videos and make the practice sections as interactive as possible.

Read more: Why video training content is better than PowerPoint today

Of course, those were also the very early days of e-learning, so most training programs were face-to-face. Facilitators always improvised or used to throw in an engaging activity if the trainees seemed bored.

Technology is a great help when it comes to blended learning

The possibilities offered by the newest learning technologies are amazing. Instructional designers have infinitely more options today than there were some fifteen years ago. Games, videos, discussion boards, interactive simulations, Virtual Reality, and many others are good examples of technology-supported content for blended learning experiences.

Blended learning has many facets. One of them is the combination of face-to-face learning with online modules. In the context of globalization and the growing number of remote employees, learning professionals need to find new ways of delivering content.

Self-direction is a good motivator

We know that adult learners cherish independence and self-direction. Offering blended learning opportunities allows them to create the experience they want, even on an already set learning path with objectives that have been established to match their job roles and organizational needs.

They can learn at their own pace and have an extensive library of on-demand content, which offers the flexibility employees need. It will be much easier to reach their goals if they can choose how to reach them.

For instructional designers, this means constantly creating and curating relevant content.

Read more: What L&D professionals need to know about curating learning content

Personalized learning experiences are most valuable

One of the most common misconceptions about blended learning and flexibility is that a personalized learning experience is equivalent to custom-built content.

It’s not.

Sometimes ready-made or tailored learning modules are necessary as part of the training journey. Offering blended learning options doesn’t mean providing links to quality materials and letting the learner choose.

The role of L&D specialists is very important as they have to monitor progress and offer support. They are best informed and equipped to determine the most appropriate course of action for each learning request or knowledge gap.

Read more: How to create highly personalized learning paths for your employees

New hires can greatly benefit from blended learning

Onboarding is an essential process in any organization. Yet, the onboarding practices are often obsolete.

Many companies still have extensive induction programs containing very relevant information, but so much of it that junior employees can’t internalize most of it. In the understandable desire to cover all bases, L&D professionals make the mistake of adding massive cognitive overload and losing employee engagement from day one.

Read more: How to handle information overload in instructional design

It's far more effective to onboard employees slowly by giving them information at a steady pace for the first one to three months. This will allow them to process what they learn and allow them to inquire further if they need to.

Onboarding should be less about company policy, compliance, and dumping information on the new hires and more about the people and what they truly need.

Read more: 3 Ways in which onboarding is key to employee retention

SMEs need to play an active part in organizational learning

Subject Matter Experts are very valuable; that’s universally acknowledged. The way their expertise is being put to use, however, is sometimes lacking. Of course, SME involvement in the company’s projects is good for getting quality results, but their extensive knowledge should also be shared with the rest of the organization.

They are often overwhelmed with the number (and the importance) of projects they work on and are not playing an active role in organizational learning. Learning specialists should reach out to SMEs and ask them to facilitate online workshops, speak in videos or podcasts or allow junior employees to shadow them.

Coaching and mentoring are also very good both for the company and for the people involved.

Read more: Harnessing the power of SMEs for successful workplace training

Closing thoughts

Blended learning is not just a sparkly new concept in L&D (it’s not even that new) but a necessary development of corporate learning. It entails tending to the ever-developing needs and expectations of today’s learners in a very dynamic and challenging business environment.