Taking a modern approach to blended learning | Everything you need to know

Gary Stringer
February 1, 2021
July 20, 2023
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Everyone knows what blended learning is these days, right? You take the offline and the online and you mix it all up. Not quite! We all thought we knew what a blender was, until those big bulky beasts were replaced by little kitchen ninjas.

And something similar has happened with blended learning. It’s gone beyond its humble beginnings of supporting what you do in a classroom with what you do online, becoming something much grander. It’s time to go on our own blended learning journey…

Traditional blended learning: combining offline and online

None of this is a slight on the traditional idea of blended learning, which still has an important part to play – after all, you just can’t replicate some of the benefits that come with face-to-face training. The original premise was to support classroom-style interactions with accompanying resources that could be accessed online.

Why? If you’re a learner, it’ll help you gain a more comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand. What’s learnt in person can be reinforced or built upon with online resources, whereas just learning it in the classroom puts you at risk of the forgetting curve and lost knowledge. On the other hand, if all learning is solo and self-led, you lose the power of Q&A, brainstorming and socially bouncing ideas off each other.

Creating a more traditional blended learning journey

It’s much easier if you’ve got a platform that helps you manage everything in one place, a way to manage the face-to-face event and connect the right people and resources to it. In HowNow, you can create custom learning pathways that link online and offline experiences, where your learners already live.

Here’s a great example. Say you’ve completely redesigned your brand identity and you’re hosting a face-to-face session to talk everyone through it. You’re already saving yourself time and hassle because you can create an event in HowNow and assign everyone in your Marketing group to it.

Assinging events to a group in HowNow

Next up, resources. If there’s anything that your attendees should know before the event for a better session and all the resources they’ll need after to deliver on what you cover face-to-face, create a course that combines the two. Set a deadline for viewing the pre-event content, add the event to the pathway and follow that up with all the resources they might need. You could also attach the most important resources to the event, like so:

Attaching materials for an event in HowNow

One temptation or pitfall to avoid would be simply uploading any slides or videos directly as they were in your face-to-face session. Otherwise, you’re breaking all the rules of microlearning. Say you’ve covered everything from the tone of voice to the brand values and styling guidelines in that session, uploading that as it is puts the onus on your employee to sift through it all for what they need.

If you create a single resource for each specific topic, anyone in your team can just search for that and find a quick and easy resource to remind them of which words they definitely shouldn’t use and the hex codes for your brand colours.

Synchronous and asynchronous learning: so everything’s online?

We’re writing this in early 2021, when the idea of face-to-face learning doesn’t feel like a particularly realistic prospect. That’s where the idea of an entirely online blended learning approach comes into play. Synchronous learning would be any online course or content that happens in real-time, like a live webinar or discussion, while asynchronous is the on-demand content that supports it.

The principles are similar to the offline and online dynamic. Real-time classes and webinars all offer opportunities for engagement, direct feedback and building a rapport, whereas the on-demand resources give people autonomy to reinforce and learn more about the topics at hand.

Creating synchronous/asynchronous learning pathways

One thing that people typically overlook in this approach is the group of people or cohort of learners. If we’re all learning the same thing and have the online platform to collaborate, why aren’t we learning socially or harnessing the power of peer-to-peer development?

The 70/20/10 rule states that 70% of what we learn comes from knowledge and 20% from our peers. And this model of blended learning is perfect for that! Create a group for the relevant learners, group them into one course and give them the power to collaborate.

Let’s use the re-branding example again. Say we all attend an online brainstorming session around our new brand slogan and messaging, and the next step is for us all to present our best suggestions. If we’re all in the same group on HowNow, we can upload our content as a Nugget, share it with the rest of the group and enable the discussion feature in order to get feedback from each other.

Organising everyone on the same course and in the same group has plenty of other benefits too. If that brainstorming session leads to a list of key criteria or a loose brief, attach that or leave it as a comment on the event. Enable the discussion feature and use it as a way to capture any ideas or feedback directly after the event.

Using different content types for a better blended journey

If you’re using a learning management system (LMS) for your blended learning, you’re limiting yourself! If learning is a buffet, an LMS is like filling your plate with the same item over and over again.

Your typical LMS limits you to SCORM files, videos and documents that you upload yourself. Using an intelligent learning platform lets you fill your plate with a mouthwatering feast of content, from plenty of different sources.

If you’re giving people more autonomy over how they learn, it makes sense to create more freedom around content types too. And if you think about how people learn in their daily lives, they jump between podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, books, magazines – the list goes on.

That’s why we curate and bring together all these types of content from your favourite sources, it caters to a wider palette and lets people replicate their typical habits as they learn. Why, because our lives are already a blended learning experience! We might listen to a podcast on a walk, watch a video as we commute somewhere or read a quick article on the porcelain throne. It’s about having a platform that gives you all of those options, plus the option to filter between them!

Various content types in HowNow

The thing we haven’t covered yet is that this all makes it easier for people to learn in the moments where they are most motivated and the information is most crucial. With all the different elements of online and self-led learning experiences, it’s easier to find the knowledge you need outside of classrooms and webinars.

At HowNow, we believe that people can’t truly learn in their workflow, unless they can find that knowledge everywhere they’re already working! Whether that’s their inbox, Slack or Teams, as they search in Google, the apps they used to speak with customers – wherever.

We’ve got a little bit of all those blended ideas in our on-demand product demo!  So if you want to see how this all works asynchronously, you’ve just got to click this link or the image below. And of course, we’ll be happy to discuss any points or questions with you after!

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