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High Impact Learning Blends: Answering Questions From L&D Professionals

LEO Learning ran a webinar fielding questions from a range of learning professionals on the topic of high-impact learning blends. Our learning experts covered everything from ‘what blended learning looks like in 2020’, through to how to design a blend and assess your learning technology requirements.

This blog post highlights a few key topics discussed by our learning experts in the webinar. You can explore the full discussion by watching the on-demand recording: Future of Learning 101 Panel Session: High-Impact Blended Learning.

What Does Blended Learning Look Like in 2020?

Blended learning as we know it has undoubtedly changed as the technology around it has allowed design-thinking and strategies to flourish. Ten or 15 years ago, there was a recognizable pattern, arguably born from organizations adapting to the digital birth of distance learning.

This would often take the form of:

  • Pre-work in the form of eLearning
  • Instructor-led follow-up
  • Digital follow-up tasks or tests.

But technology has changed the boundaries of what is possible, consequently refining our definition of what a learning blend should do. In 2020, we see blended learning as different modes of learning, designed into a learning journey. It’s not so much about the channel in which the learning is delivered, but more about focusing on the learner outcomes it needs to serve, and then working backwards to find the right blend of modes (and content, channels, media, etc.) to meet these learner requirements.

Blended learning is about user-centered design which is then enabled by technology.

Minecraft: The Perfect ‘Real-Life’ Example of a Blend in Action

The world of workplace learning is always looking at how we naturally learn in everyday situations. It helps focus on learner motivations and natural behavior, and was a key theme at the 2020 Learning Technologies conference.

This led to our panelist Tom observing the different modes his children use while completing a task (building a castle) on the video game Minecraft. These included:

  • Facetiming their friends
  • YouTube tutorials
  • Paper guidebooks

Each mode served different purposes. Facetiming friends allows for asking questions and validation (social learning), YouTube offers video guides from SMEs, whilst the guidebooks offer a detailed reference point, useful for step-by-step technical assistance.

The point here is that yes, a blend of modes and technologies was used, but the fundamental principle is that each served a unique purpose. This acts as the basis of an effective blended learning strategy, and reinforces a core message: don’t think about blends in terms of finding ‘the right mix of delivery modes or technologies’, but rather what are the different learner requirements.

RECOMMENDED READING | 'Blended Learning: The Definitive Guide'

How Can You Design an Effective Blend?

This leads us neatly on to how to design an effective blend, a popular question, and clearly a challenge faced by many of our webinar attendees. While this topic has many elements that we could cover in detail (we have over 45 Learning Designers at LEO), the foundations of a good blend starts with an ‘Inquiry’ phase, consisting of:

  • Gaining insights
  • Discovery
  • Establishing requirements

This approach helps focus your strategy on user-centered design, allowing you to document what the problem is, and what your blend needs to address. It also sets the context of your starting point by exploring your existing learning environment. What is the learner appetite? What is the current infrastructure? Are there technical restrictions to consider?

A note on the technical restrictions. You may have three separate systems that would ideally be integrated, but you can still start by working with what you have, collecting data from each system. Integrating your learning technologies and ecosystem can come later, as this often has factors outside of L&D’s control, which shouldn’t stop your progress.

Alex points out that she has seen many organizations benefit from this approach. Marking up meta tags on content can dramatically increase a learner’s ability to easily search and find valuable resources and information that is already stored. Likewise, optimizing existing reporting features from your LMS can open the door to analyze learning data that may already be captured, but is seldom used due to it being ‘burrowed away’.

You can discover more about the inquiry and design phases on our LEO Transformation Model to fuel your approach to designing the perfect blend.

What Technology Is Required to Support Blended Learning?

The answer to this question, of course, varies according to any number of factors, including your learning goals, size of organization and your existing infrastructure.

It’s important to remember that while blends can be offline, we recognize that many organizations already have a Learning Management System (LMS) in place. These can offer great support in terms of tracking, data capture, and providing the structure for the overall learner journey.

Interestingly, we’re frequently seeing alternative systems and platforms that can support a blend being used, such as Sharepoint and Slack. Combinations of systems, portals and platforms may be used to store and access different types of learning. Recognizing that older learning and content may be curated in various locations, the focus can always come back to the learner, ensuring they can access all resources from a single location.

The rise of ‘next-gen’ learning technologies is shaking up the learning technology market. LMSs are starting to bridge the gaps between systems and overcome long-recognized experience issues, while Learner Experience Platforms (LXPs) offer a user-centered approach and are often xAPI enabled.

The positive news is that both existing and new technologies support blended learning by focusing on delivering high-impact blends that put user experience at the heart of workplace learning.

You can hear Ella, Alex and Tom discuss these points in full by watching the recording of our the webinar ‘Future of Learning 101: The Panel – High-Impact Blended Learning

They also explore other topics, including:

  • What are the benefits of blended learning?
  • The importance of line manager buy-in, and how to get it
  • How do you sell the benefits to learners?
  • The role of video in a learning blend
  • The potential role of AI

Discover the other blended learning questions our L&D explored in our webinar recording.

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