A new method of online learning that is gaining momentum is Blended Learning. This approach recognizes that the ways people learn differ greatly among individuals. Blended Learning encompasses a variety of tools to create flexible, rich learning environments that stimulate learners and maximizes the potential for learning. These tools include online or distance learning technology, textbook and hard copy resources, online media and multimedia content, searchable databases and the Internet, electronic whiteboards, video, and lectures, delivered in person or online. A study* conducted by the Thomson Corporation discovered that:

  • Blended model learners were 30% more accurate in task performance than learners in traditional non-blended learning environments.
  • Blended model learners performed tasks 41% faster than learners in traditional non-blended learning environments.
  • Blended model learners were 159% more accurate in task performance than learners receiving no instruction.

As the acceptance of blended learning accelerates, the development of resources for this hybrid online offering will accelerate as well.

Benefits of Blending Learning Solutions:

  • Reduce time for training
  • Dramatically reduce training cost
  • Increase time and productivity on the job
  • Increase business skill set and enhance care
  • Provide unlimited scheduling alternatives
  • Define career paths

Reasonable cost of entry - infrastructure has never been so inexpensive.
The costs of both computing power and Internet access have plummeted. Your organization can acquire a dedicated computer system with multimedia capability to support blended learning AND have Internet access for testing and accreditation for as low as $2,000-$2,500 per year. And with broadband access penetration to homes doubling every few years, it's a good bet that your learners could easily access rich content delivered online from the convenience of their own homes.

A central computer that can be accessed during breaks, during mealtimes, or before, during and after the workday, can augment the training experience. Surveys confirm that employees exhibit higher job loyalty when they feel the organization invests in outside resources to make work-skills augmentation easier.

Keys to Driving a Successful Online Learning Program

Creating a successful online learning program can appear daunting. Here are a few components to help you design and implement your program.

  1. Seek executive sponsorship

    For training to be successful, executive sponsorship is a must. Employees must know that they are expected to keep current and to advance their education. But, are they led by example, and are they rewarded for it? Performance evaluations and discretionary bonuses can be tied to training to reinforce its importance. The leadership aspect is important. Showcase your commitment to leadership and learning by including management in some of the classes and by utilizing employee communications materials to communicate the importance of learning initiatives.

    Part of this communication should reinforce that learning is a benefit. One of the fastest ways to demonstrate that your organization is investing in its employees is through training and education. When you give the green light for your employees to improve their skills, you empower them to aspire. Reinforce this by taking the focus off of learning/licensure/accreditation as requirements. Emphasize instead the benefit and power of career development and the flexibility that your organization delivers its employees as they seek training and education.

  2. Benchmark others and seek outside expertise

    Discovering how similar organizations approach their learning programs can be a good place to start. Talk to administrators of organizations to find out what's working and why. Read industry articles on case studies and seek out their participants for informational interviews. Talk to content providers who have expertise integrating content with technology in varying environments and their customers.

  3. Think like your learners

    To teach, you must first learn about your employees and their needs. It's important to understand the constraints and desires of your staff. How much time do their positions and their outside lives afford for training? The better you understand their mindsets, the more successful your training program will be. Tailoring education and training programs to the needs of employees helps engender loyalty.

    A blended program that offers online access - within the walls of the facility - and off site - helps students learn with the knowledge that their sponsor understands the factors that influence their everyday lives.

    These factors may be discovered by involving your audience. Solicit feedback throughout the process. Try to involve staff in the development of initial course criteria. Conduct focus groups to learn how and where they like to learn. Allow them to sample materials and use technologies that are being considered for materials presentation. And continually conduct surveys to implement improvements once programs and courses are rolled out.

  4. Make learning familiar and enjoyable

    Your courses can exhibit a brand that has your organization's stamp on it. This way they are presented as a part of the overall education program and follow a dedicated system of learning. Each class can be a logical extension of the previous one and lend familiarity to the next. By avoiding static presentations and maximizing current events and real-life situations you present relevant contexts for learning that stimulate students.

  5. High quality content

    Perhaps too obvious is that the content of training and education courses must be of the highest caliber. This component is absolutely critical. Students are too often disenchanted by rudimentary content that may be tiresome or demeaning. Choose content from respectable publishers with proven experience delivering blended learning.

  6. Use ROI to help justify

    In any industry, cost is a constraining factor. Proving ROI can be difficult, so ask vendors of technology solutions and content how they stack up. Some will have data to support them. And remember the quote at the top of this guide - that saving student time is a key cost reducer. Make sure to calculate how much student time may be wasted in commuting.

  7. Reuse, reinvent, update

    Coursework content and course delivery systems must be updated to reflect current studies, knowledge, and requirements. An online system allows fast, easy updating of materials without incurring high costs of print material and long lead times for production. By implementing change based upon your survey results, you can quickly demonstrate commitment and responsiveness to learner's needs.

For additional information:

    Career Education and Academic markets contact:
    Delmar Cengage Learning
    5 Maxwell Drive
    Clifton Park, NY 12065

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