Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Using eLearning in a Blended Approach

By Shelley A. Gable

In listing the benefits of eLearning, training folks often cite its flexibility – it’s available on-demand, allows learners to progress at their own pace, is easily deployed to a geographically dispersed audience, etc.

eLearning’s flexibility can be especially handy when it’s included as part of a blended learning approach. Below are a few ways I’ve seen eLearning used to complement other delivery methods in projects I’ve worked on.

-1- Pre-work for instructor-led training
A few years ago, I helped redesign an existing public speaking course for supervisors. The original version took place entirely in the classroom and taught the basics through application. The redesigned version assigned an eLearning lesson as pre-work to introduce the elements of a presentation. Learners were also instructed to outline a presentation, accounting for each of the elements they learned about in the eLearning lesson. This design allowed the classroom portion to function more like a workshop.

Learner feedback to the blended approach was overwhelmingly positive. Each time the original version was taught, some learners wished that more time had been spent on the basics, while others felt that it should be skipped entirely. By teaching the basics in an eLearning lesson as pre-work, learners could spend the time they needed on that portion of the training.

WARNING: While all this sounds good...only use eLearning as pre-work if you’re confident the audience will actually complete it (ideally, if you have a way to hold them accountable for completion). I worked on another training project shortly after, which also included eLearning pre-work. Due to heavy workloads, very few of those learners actually completed it, which threw off the instructor-led portion of the training. A good lesson learned for me regarding learner analysis.

-2- Flexible activity during instructor-led training
When a trainer is responsible for facilitating a class with several learners, finding time for one-on-one coaching can be challenging. However, if portions of that training work well as eLearning, then a trainer can keep a class independently productive by assigning eLearning lessons while also pulling aside learners for one-on-one time. While I’m sure there are situations where this might not work well, I’ve seen this approach be successful several times.

-3- Introductory instruction for on-the-job training (OJT)
A while back I was tasked with designing new employee training for a customer service department. It was a small call center with high turnover, which meant that they generally only hired one or two people at a time, but did so frequently. Before I came to the party, new employees were trained by spending seven hours a day observing and practicing with mentors on the job and spending one hour a day talking through the procedure manual with a supervisor. The company did not have dedicated trainers or structured instruction. After a week of training, supervisors crossed their fingers in hopes that new employees learned all they needed, and those employees were expected to perform independently on the phones. Performance metrics were low and attrition within the first three months of employment was high.

In the new training design, policies and procedures were introduced with eLearning lessons, which included knowledge checks and quizzes. OJT was structured to reinforce what was learned from the eLearning lessons each day. While training still lasted a week, early performance metrics improved dramatically and attrition decreased. Plus, supervisors found that the eLearning lessons were handy for remediation and refresher training.

What else?
These are blended examples I’ve personally worked with, but I know there are plenty of other ways to flexibly use eLearning in a blended approach. So now I pose my usual question: what are some other approaches you’ve designed?


  1. As a ID student, I am embarrased to say that I have used technology minimally in the past. This blog provides practical strategies for incorporating elearning. As a teacher, I want to create a culture of collaboration and excitement, making “process” of learning worthwhile and challenging. I want students to question what they are learning and to consider how the information will benefit them in their work. Blogs such as this provides user friendly tips.

  2. I'm ashamed to admit that I just came across this comment. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. It affirms the idea that we're all in this field to inspire and help folks learn. Please stop by the blog again!


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