Learning Thursday #5: Overcome Your Blended Learning Phobia
Learning Thursday is a blog series that features a new L&D article every other week along with discussion points. Read and then share your own ideas by commenting below! Check out the last Learning Thursday here.
I wrote this week’s article for InSync Training’s “50 Modern Blended Learning Blogs” series. The discussion questions are: What is the biggest hurdle you’ve faced when implementing blended learning? How did you rise to the challenge?
Blended learning programs can be a beautiful thing. Need to cover a global workforce? Use virtual classrooms to engage learners everywhere. Can’t get employees to leave their desks? Bring learning opportunities to their desks in the form of short videos, quick reference guides, and fun simulations. Mix learning content together to create interactive training programs.
But wait, you say, it’s not that easy. My organization has expectations.
Your organization may expect learning to take place in person. In their opinion, if there isn’t a person in front of the classroom, teaching with an apple on their desk, it’s not “real” training. Sometimes the perception comes from your learners – other times it’s from your leaders. Either way, it will take time to change your organization’s collective mindset.
You may ask, “Why would you go to the trouble of moving to blended learning?” Because it helps the learner retain the training. It helps you serve your workforce efficiently. And, it helps your organization reach an increasingly tech savvy employee base that expects learning to be as easy to access as Google.
Become the training equivalent of Google. Give your learners options, and they will take advantage of those options.
Start small. If you encounter resistance from the top, don’t start there. Start at the bottom, with one little group of learners.
Converting your learning program is a major change. Resistance to change is driven by fear – often fear of failure, or fear of the unknown. To ensure your organization accepts blended learning, address both fears up front by trying out your program ideas on a small group of learners. Get their feedback and incorporate it into the program. If a course element isn’t effective according to your learners, ask why. Refine instead of removing. Tweak instead of making sweeping changes.
Know that one round of revisions will not be enough. Like any training product, a blended learning campaign is a work in progress.
What happens if something doesn’t work? You take it out. You try something else. Don’t give up.
Like any part of training, blended learning programs require a willingness to add, delete, and refine. Edit before you roll your program. Collect feedback from learners. Refine more.
Is your current program delivered entirely in the classroom? Look for ways to replace small pieces of classroom content with videos, documents, or simulations. In the beginning, spend as little as possible. Use free or affordable content until you build up your organization’s confidence in blended learning.
Other ways to replace small pieces of classroom content include:
- Start with the obvious, the easy, and the accessible. How much do YouTube videos cost? Nothing. Add them to your classroom experiences to give the learner variety. Are there quick reference guides or internal communications you can repurpose into learning? Into the LMS they go. Free compliance training from government agencies make perfect, ready-made material.
- Look for the little victories. Include activities where learners do research online or do scavenger hunts around the office, before returning to class to share their findings. Rather than accomplishing it all in the classroom, find ways to deliver content in other ways, before and after class. Look for ways to cut material out of classroom training and replace with other resources.
- Add mentoring elements to your learning program. Look for existing resources in your organization – supervisors, SMEs, and experienced employees, especially those seeking a promotion. Look for topics in your program that can be reinforced through coaching and one-on-one interactions. Reward those who teach others by making mentoring a line item on job performance reviews.
Sometimes it isn’t the organization as a whole that fears blended learning. It’s the trainers themselves.
“You’re getting rid of my job!” they scream. “Classroom training is what the learners want!” (If all your organization has ever delivered is classroom training… how would learners know that’s what they prefer over everything else?)
It’s natural to fear change. Blended learning necessitates a change in the trainers’ role. Those who only know classroom training will be required to learn new skills, such as e-learning development, LMS administration, and technical editing. Those on your team who see change as exciting will dance. Those who fear technology will hide. But change is real and necessary. Change happens regardless of whether we ask for it. And the change to blended learning is spreading across the entire learning and development industry.
Duncan Welder IV, Director of Client Services for RISC, Inc., shared a personal experience in Corporate Training Tips & Tricks. It is a great example of the new role of the learning professional in this modern approach:
“When I was in grad school, we had to complete a group class project. (This was for instructional video if that places an age on me.) We produced a recruiting film for the High School for the Human Sciences, a new magnet school for people with an interest in health care professions. Again, it was student developed and overseen by a professor, but it rendered a final piece for the school that would have normally been a capital expense if it was something they could have done at all. It’s not a bad idea to reach out to an educational or instructional technology program nearby and see if they can assist.”
Building the acceptance of change starts with your own team. Introduce your team to blended learning elements, and give them time to embrace it. Give them time to become good at it. Remember that trainers are learners too, and they have to be given time to adapt to new responsibilities. Give them time not just to become competent, but confident. Enthusiastic even. Get the buy-in of your immediate team, and let their love of blended learning motivate change in your organization.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve faced when implementing blended learning? How did you rise to the challenge? Comment below.
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