Digital technology has certainly transformed the employee training industry. But those changes haven’t always been for the better.
Many employers have been more than happy to replace in-person training with cheap, convenient online training. Employees can complete these “check-the-box training” programs on their own time and with nothing more than a web-connected computer.
This content is typically delivered completely online with no context, reinforcement, or chance for students to ask questions questions. Because of that, it’s not likely to result in actual learning or any change in behavior.
But when this type of online content is delivered on strategic timelines and in conjunction with the right blend of in-person instruction, it can be very effective. In fact, it could be even be more effective than in-person training alone — and also more affordable.
What is Blended Training?
It’s somewhat difficult to nail down a strict definition of blended training, usually referred to as “blended learning.”
Most people know that the approach “blends” both online and in-person instruction. However, the best blended learning is much more than simply adding a few videos or software tools to your in-person training program.
The real advantage to blended learning comes in when the online content and the in-person content closely complement each other. When used together, online programs and live instructors can create new and advanced learning opportunities.
The best instructors use online material to present dynamic content that can’t be delivered easily in-person, or that could be delivered just as easily by video (freeing up the in-person instruction time for other activities that can’t be done online).
In the educational world, this approach is sometimes referred to as a “flipped classroom.”
Instead of listening to a lesson in class and then working on it at home, students in a flipped classroom review the lesson materials at home (online) and then come to class prepared to discuss and practice it with their peers and instructor.
This approach allows instructors to use their classroom time working directly with students instead of lecturing.
Blended learning combines all the advantages of online-only training programs (students can review the content on their own schedule and at their own pace at home) and live, in-person training (an instructor is available to answer questions, go deeper into subject matter as needed, provide the very latest insights on the material, and ensure that students actually understand the material).
In fact, the live component of blended learning doesn’t even have to be done physically in person. Students can interact with each other and their teacher through webinar technology, or one-on-one with an instructor through a video chat.
This kind of interactive virtual training has come a long way from being a live slideshow with a voiceover and a few interactive elements.
The latest technology and expertly developed curriculum have made Virtual Instructor Led Training an affordable and effective option for employers who have scheduling difficulties, remote teams, or limited budgets.
Best Practices for Successful Blended Learning
In order to maximize the effectiveness and affordability of your blended training, keep the following best practices in mind.
Use E-Learning for Introductions, Reinforcement
Online content is perfect for the basics. Students can go through online material and videos on their own time to get the background information on an upcoming lesson, or get a preliminary understanding of material before discussing it in class.
Online content can also be a good tool for review and reinforcement. In particular, online content can play a key role in microlearning, a technique that delivers info in short bursts at specified intervals over time. Microlearning has been shown to help students retain lessons more effectively for the long-term.
Save The Live Training for Interactive Activities
Practice is almost always the most important part of a training program. It’s what takes learners from passively interacting with the material to actively engaging with it. It allows learners to test out the concepts in real time.
No matter what subject you’re learning, “awareness” only takes you so far. However, the awareness stage is where many workplace civility training programs stop. That leaves employees with the knowledge that certain behavior is problematic, but few tactics for handling that behavior appropriately when they encounter it in real life.
Good practice gives participants a chance to practice responding to scenarios such as:
- Being delivered a report of inappropriate behavior by a subordinate
- Being accused directly of inappropriate behavior
- Witnessing inappropriate behavior as a bystander
The practice they get during training may be what gets students prepared to act when these situations inevitably arise (and the stakes are much higher) in the workplace.
That’s why the best blended learning programs maximize the impact of the live instructor by keeping classroom time exclusively for practice and discussion. This makes the most of your employees’ work time and your budget, since live instructors are usually the biggest part of the training budget.
The Importance of Leadership
Quality course content, expert instructors, and an optimal blend of online and classroom-based learning are a powerful combination. However, it’s worth noting that no employee training program can succeed without real buy-in from organizational leaders.
If employees come to view the training as simply an exercise in compliance or less important than other initiatives, no training you implement will be effective.
The signals that leaders send, both explicitly and with nonverbal communication, can make the real difference in a program’s effectiveness.
Changing behavior and workplace culture is not simple, and it can’t be fixed overnight. Ideally, you’ll be able to work with a training organization whose instructors have deep legal expertise and who have experience tackling thorny cultural issues head on.
If you need help designing a truly impactful civility training program that fits your needs and budget, please contact us at ELI. We work with organizations of all types and sizes to realize long-lasting cultural change.