Following the release of our ebook ‘The 5-Stage Model of Hybrid Learning: What It Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It’, we caught up with our virtual and hybrid learning expert, Principal Consultant Geoff Bloom, to get a closer look at this increasingly important topic in the world of learning & development, and how it differs from blended learning. Read the short Q&A to find out more about what hybrid learning is, how it differs from blended learning, and tips for getting it right.
Q: How would you define hybrid learning?
Geoff Bloom: I would define hybrid learning as being a live event where you have people in different locations, including some people in the same room/physical space and some online. One of the things at the heart of hybrid, the essence of it, is that it’s something that needs to be delivered live.
Q: What’s the difference between hybrid learning and blended learning?
GB: Blended learning uses a range of delivery formats, for example, video, eLearning, live events, assignments, etc. Hybrid can have elements of blended learning, as you can, and should, use different formats and media in the event. The essence of hybrid is that it’s geared around a live event or series of events. The two things can come together.
Successful live events need variety. They will include a blend of media and activities. You could have a quiz, a survey, or a video before or during the event. You can record the live event and make it available afterward.
Ultimately, the two are closely connected but don’t always have to overlap. You can have a blended learning event that involves hybrid and a hybrid event that includes a blend. Similar to blended, hybrid doesn’t have a set list of rules or one set way of doing things.
A hybrid event could be quite short. For instance, if you had an expert who was based hundreds of miles away but is only needed for half an hour, it’s far more cost-efficient to have them join virtually. Equally, a hybrid event could last all day, covering a range of different learning modes and activities.
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Q: Would you recommend hybrid learning for the workplace? If so, why?
GB: It’s another tool in the armory. Where I’d say we’ve used it effectively, is where we’ve had people in multiple locations and wanted to bring them together for a couple of hours, where several rooms of people are sharing presentations and media online. Physical breakout rooms are in different places but all communicated online.
Hybrid can be nerve-wracking as the facilitator. It can feel like a high-wire act if you’re doing it on your own. You’d want to do a hybrid event with more than one facilitator and a producer. The producer can help attendees with any technical issues or by fielding questions, as well as alerting you to technical issues you aren’t aware of as the facilitator.
While it’s not necessarily cheap, hybrid learning is a cost-effective learning format. And it can be an advantage if your facilitators are in different physical locations. If the internet goes down in one place, another facilitator can keep things going. Plus, you don’t need everyone connected all the time. You can bring people in and out of the session whenever you need.
There are limitations when running hybrid in multiple locations. Pulling people out of retail or customer-facing positions, for example, is easier for an hour rather than a whole day. In-person training tends to be infrequent, longer events, while hybrid is more flexible. It can work with a wider range of job functions and removes travel and venue costs.
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Q: What are the biggest challenges or limitations of hybrid learning?
GB: The biggest thing is the technology. It can be daunting and can fail you.
Time can be your enemy as well. If you have a very discursive group—a chatty group in the classroom—you have to be disciplined in time management. Although people online can use the chat features, you have to make sure everyone gets a chance to contribute.
Another challenge is that you can lose the room without realizing it—people online could be on their phones or checking emails. You also need visibility of people’s contributions. This involvement and engagement is what makes live learning delivery special. But there’s the risk of losing that part of the audience.
You have loads of tools you could use, but another risk is trying to use too many. You can cognitively overload people with too much information and too many tasks. This could move you towards hosting multiple sessions.
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Q: What top three tips do you have for running a successful hybrid session?
GB: Firstly, always make sure you have a contingency plan. For example, have polls set up on two separate software instances.
Secondly, run events with two facilitators. I’ve run an event where my internet failed about three minutes in and my co-presenter was able to run the event while I was out of action for nearly 10 minutes.
Finally, if you can, include tools like whiteboards, Office365, or Google Workspace in your session. These tools are self-documenting and can help you avoid hours of transposing or transcribing photos and notes of the session.