Posted on 17th April, 2019 by Kathryn Nixon
Blended learning programs often involve a range of both digital and offline components. But how can you manage, track and measure your blends—as well as ensure you provide a high-quality learning experience? Find out how a learning ecosystem can help in this blog.
Blended learning involves delivering a range of different learning activities, normally over a period of time. For example, a blended program might involve eLearning, face-to-face training, videos and on-the-job activities. The delivery of this content could be spread over days, weeks or months and can be delivered in a linear or more exploratory, asynchronous fashion.
Perhaps due to this increased complexity, during our recent webinar on blended learning, we received a range of questions on how to manage, track and measure blended programs.
- What platform should I use to manage and deliver my blended learning?
- How do I ensure I give my learners a great learning experience?
- How do I track effectiveness and impact?
In the rest of this blog, we’ll explain why a learning ecosystem can address these common concerns.
What Platform Should I Use to Deliver My Blended Learning Program?
The Learning Management System (LMS) is likely to be many people’s first thought when considering this question.
Some LMSs do provide functionality that allows L&D teams to track and manage common elements of a blended learning solution. This normally includes the ability to set up and register participants on workshops and webinars, as well as areas to capture progress with on-the-job training.
But while an LMS can be a useful base for managing more traditional blended learning programs, it’s unlikely to be the only tool you’ll need—especially if you’re planning on delivering a wide range of different blended learning activities.
What you’re likely to discover is that you’ll use a variety of tools and platforms to effectively deliver your blended learning programs, for example:
- Authoring tools to create eLearning and other digital content
- Platforms to host and deliver your digital content—this could be an LMS, LXP, intranet or online portal (many organizations have more than one)
- A social learning platform, internal social network or collaboration tool
- External content platforms—such as YouTube, Vimeo or SoundCloud
- Webinar software
- On-the-job training and workshops
So in truth, the answer is that it’s very unlikely that a single platform can meet all of your needs. But by building a learning ecosystem, you can integrate all the different tools you require in a seamless way that will deliver the best experience for your learners—and deliver valuable insights back to the business.
How Do I Ensure I Give My Learners a Great Learning Experience?
You’re probably thinking that by using a wide range of platforms, it’s going to be difficult to deliver a good learning experience.
You might envisage your learners logging in to your LMS for one thing, then going to the intranet for another and then perhaps going to YouTube to watch a few videos. That could all make for a very disjointed user experience.
A learning ecosystem uses connectors such as APIs and plug-ins to smoothly link together your blended learning tools and platforms and enable the sharing of data. This creates a cohesive and connected experience across a number of smartly integrated platforms. When combined with Single Sign On technology, it doesn’t matter if your learners are accessing two platforms or ten within a blended learning program. To them, it will appear as if they’re going to one place for everything they need. This front-end for learners could be a custom portal or through an enterprise tool, like SharePoint.
How Can I Track the Effectiveness and Impact of Blended Learning Programs?
With a simple learning program, you might only be tracking one or two learning events, say an eLearning course and a face-to-face workshop. In contrast, with a blended learning program, your learners may be jumping in and out of a range of different learning activities.
If you’re curious about really understanding the impact and effectiveness of your blend, you’ll want to track the effectiveness of the individual components in the blend: what’s working and what may be missing the mark as well as how your program is meeting business needs. You may even want to understand the impact of combining different elements in different ways—for example, the order or pace at which content is delivered.
The way to get this really deep level of understanding is to harness the power of xAPI in your learning ecosystem. xAPI allows you to track learner interactions at a much more granular level across all of the different activities they complete as part of their blended learning journey. So rather than just completion or pass rates, it can show learner activity like:
- How long a learner watched a video for
- What content they revisited
xAPI can pull in learner data from all the elements in your ecosystem and can draw data from platforms and systems your learners use in their roles. It can also, crucially, capture other business data and KPIs that track the performance of your business in different ways.
This enables you to make the link between the learning they’ve completed and improvements in job and business performance. All of this data can then be collected and analyzed in a Learning Record Store (LRS), an essential component of your ecosystem.
Building Your Learning Ecosystem
Building a learning ecosystem from scratch can take time, but it’s likely you already have the essence of one in place with the tools you’re currently using to deliver learning.
If that’s the case, then you can start joining together your existing tools and platforms together smartly and understanding which new ones you need to integrate to effectively deliver your blended programs.
This involves defining a technical plan for connecting your technologies and collecting the valuable data that will give you the insights to drive the future effectiveness of your blended learning.