What is blended learning? Definition, meaning, and everything you need to know!

 If you have been searching for e-learning methods and best practices, you might have heard about blended learning. Blended learning can be defined as the combination of traditional learning methods with modern ones. Let’s take a deeper look at the definition and meaning of blended learning. We will also explore blended learning models, techniques, and how to apply them to your organization.

Blended learning definition and meaning
Caroline
Written by Caroline Communications
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Updated on
Reading time 7 minutes

What is blended learning?

Blended learning is a style of training in which employees learn via electronic and online media, as well as traditional face-to-face training [1].

Blended learning is a style of training in which employees learn via electronic and online media, as well as traditional face-to-face training

To put it simply: it combines the best of both training environments and supports synchronous and asynchronous activities.

During face-to-face training, the instructor supports the employee by giving context and explanation, and facilitates discussion among the participants. The online part of the blended learning approach makes it possible for participants to do exercises and assignments at their own pace, in their own time. This supports the information intake and helps participants to prepare for or process the face-to-face training.

Blended learning is also known as hybrid learning, web-enhanced instruction, and mixed-mode instruction. It can take place in school classrooms and in professional settings.

Benefits of blended learning

Multiple studies have shown that blended learning can be an effective training approach for employees. Moreover, it has its benefits for the instructor too:

Benefits for employees

  • Better preparation and feedback. Because employees complete assignments independently, they start their mutual lessons with the same knowledge level. This encourages valuable discussions and actionable feedback.
  • More flexibility. Every employee has their own learning style. If they can set their own pace, it facilitates their information intake. They have more time to grasp difficult topics, for instance.
  • It’s more fun. The variety keeps employees motivated [2]!

Benefits for instructors

  • Well-suited for large groups. You can reach a big audience in a short time.
  • Better overview. You will see employees that struggle with the course material. You can assist them with extra explanations or assignments.
  • Both types of learners are satisfied. The technology fans, and the non-technology fans.
  • It cuts costs. Like travel expenses, location rental, etc.

Read more about the advantages of blended learning.

Blended learning vs. flipped learning

The terms blended learning and flipped learning are often used interchangeably. But they aren’t the same. Blended learning is the overarching term for all training methods that combine online and offline training activities. Flipped learning is a specific form of blended learning. The instructor asks learners to view short e-learning modules at home or in their own time to prepare them for their in-person classroom training. This allows learners to use online modules to learn foundational concepts and lessons, so they can attend in-person sessions with specific questions. For blended learning in general, the e-learning modules can be used to prepare or to process training. These examples will make it clearer:

Flipped learning example

A sales consultant is learning English as a second language so that the organization can expand its sales activities worldwide. He is given an online course that he needs to complete before attending his first day of face-to-face training.

Blended learning example

A sales consultant is learning English as a second language, so the organization can expand its sales activities worldwide. During face-to-face training, he gets explanations of specific grammar rules. Afterwards, he needs to complete online assignments to review concepts that were just taught in training.

Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of flipped learning.

Blended learning models

Multiple blended learning models were developed to provide organizations with different possibilities [3]. Here are some examples:

Face-to-face driver

In this model, learners must prepare activities on their own to prepare for the face-to-face training. Examples include online courses and assignments that the learners have to complete before or after the in-person training. Flipped learning ties in with this blended learning model.

Rotation

In this model, learners cycle through different learning activities. Learners can either attend lectures with an instructor, work together in groups, or work on their computers. They rotate these stations throughout the day. Rotating activities make learning more fun and engaging for the people involved. But it also requires them to participate in the learning process at the same time.

Computer labs

In this method, participants work on their computers while the trainer supervises. It works well when there’s a computer lab at the office. It is also a good choice if the company prefers to keep an eye on their employees during the training.

Blended learning might be a good solution for people who are always in a hurry

Online driver

‘Busy’ is a standard answer people will give when you ask them how they are doing. Blended learning might be a good solution for people who are always in a hurry. They can learn part of it in their own time, and the rest during face-to-face training. It’s even possible to watch a lecture on your computer while you eat dinner! That's not something that can happen in a traditional classroom. Motivation can be a problem in this scenario. The learners can feel more motivated if web-based learning is combined with face-to-face meetings, with other participants or the instructor.

Blended learning best practices

Setting up a blended learning strategy is entirely different from designing a face-to-face training or online course. You will need a holistic mindset to ensure it all fits together effectively. These six best practices will give you a kick-start [4 and 5]:

  1. Start from scratch. Do not try to adapt a current course to a blended learning approach. Restart and begin with the basics. Ask yourself questions. What is your goal? What material do you need to achieve this goal? Which topics could be online, and what should be trained in a face-to-face setting? What technology do you need?
  2. Take into account your employee's preferences. Set up a survey to find out their preferences. In this survey, you could research their needs regarding online discussions vs. face-to-face discussions, the ideal length of online instructions, video vs. audio. The outcome helps you to define which tools you need.
  3. Make it memorable. Take a look at each piece of your training and see how you can make it engaging. Can you make it personal or give your material an emotional hook? Should you add videos to your training material to make it more lively? Also, balance the instructional events and online activities. If you thoughtfully spread them, it will help solidify the content in long-term memory.
  4. Focus on your outcomes, not on a specific technology. The technology should support your goals and fulfill the learning outcomes, not vice versa.
  5. Evaluate the program with a pilot. Is it your first time? Start with a small test group and evaluate your training program actively. For example, send out questionnaires to find out what was holding your employees back. Or shadow them to see the obstacles in real life.
  6. Prepare your employees. A blended strategy will be new to many employees. Give them instruction on the new approach. This could be with an email, a face-to-face meeting, or an online course.

Blended learning and Easy LMS

Do you want to take the training of your organization to the 21st century? If your organization already uses traditional training techniques and methods, you may consider switching to a blended learning model. Yes, you can have the best of both worlds! Easy LMS gives you the technology needed to make the transition. Don’t worry, it’s very easy to use!

Create fun and engaging courses and tests that can be used with all the blended learning models. Not sure about it yet? Read about the advantages and disadvantages of blended learning.

Useful resources

  1. Blended Learning Toolkit
  2. Sage Journals 
  3. TeachThought
  4. The eLearning Coach
  5. eLearning Industry

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