Creating the perfect online blended learning approach with microlearning

As L&D faces increasing demands to deliver greater value to organisations, more quickly, with fewer resources, the popularity of the blended approach continues to rise.

Blended learning is not merely a cheaper version of traditional training; digital learning technologies, when used alongside the wide range of traditional classroom-based training, can enhance knowledge acquisition, building skills, and, ultimately, personal growth and productivity. This will help to ensure that learning and development is transferred back into the workplace, which is essential for delivering ROI.

Despite this research, 56% of learning is still delivered via traditional means, whilst 22% is via online tools only. Only 22% of organisations deliver their learning strategies through blended learning solutions [1].

How to create the right blend

Blended approaches have almost unlimited variations.

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It typically includes an amalgamation of:

  • Face-to-face interactions such as classroom training
  • Role-playing
  • One-to-one coaching
  • Digital experiences including e-learning, video, online discussion groups, podcasts and game-based learning
  • Bite-sized modules

Every learning situation is unique so there is no secret formula for creating the perfect blend, but our six top tips will help you to consider what the right balance of face-to-face and online learning interventions is for your specific organisation.

1. Know your learners

Consider the end users themselves when considering which learning technologies to implement. A young call-centre team will have very different requirements and desires to that of a legal firm. Also consider their locations – if you have a disparate workforce you may need to build more digital learning into the mix so that training is accessible anywhere, anytime.

2. Make the training relevant

You will already be aware of the importance of making every element of the blended approach relevant to the learner - however, this can sometimes be forgotten in prioritising the organisation’s learning goals. Keep your learners at the heart of your mission!

3. Embrace formal, informal and social learning

The rise of social networking tools have opened up new horizons for learning by enabling knowledge sharing, collective learning and greater collaboration. The use of social media tools need to be learner-driven and part of the individual’s natural workflow – you cannot enforce fun! This said, 61% of learners are now motivated to learn online using technologies that will enable them to network and work with others.

4. Make every element count

Each component of the blend should have a clear business case. They need to be viewed in the context of the overall blend and learning objectives, promoting a clear pathway to the organisation’s mission, aligning with the individual’s function in achieving these goals.

5. Leverage the expertise of a partner

Creating an effective blended approach requires the careful analysis of your learners’ needs, the business’ needs, technology, content and other factors. A true partnership approach between learning provider and an organisation’s L&D department can pay huge dividends in delivering an effective blend.

6. Compelling content

Blended approaches can give learners greater control over their learning pathway by empowering them to select the ideal learning mix for their personal needs and role, resulting in greater engagement. Successful blended learning programmes create the link between learning and training needs, and are underpinned by a clear learning strategy.

Make it micro

Today’s workers want a consumer-grade learning experience that reflects the way they learn in their everyday life. One of the biggest challenges for L&D is creating content that modern learners can quickly consume and juggle with their workload.

Microlearning has become the latest trend, replacing traditional long-content with shorter bursts of high-impact learning. Its power lies in the way it caters to the ‘on-the-go’ culture that modern learners are accustomed to in their search for specific knowledge.

With 69% of learners considering content that is timely and relevant to their work/life balance to be essential for a smooth and successful online learning experience [3], it is evident that much of its appeal is in its intrinsic ability to address the challenge of reduced attention spans. With only 5 to 10 seconds to grab the attention of the modern learner before they opt to click away [4], it is imperative that your bite-sized information is engaging and relevant.

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What can microlearning be used for?

Bite-sized learning comes in many different formats such as short explainer videos, blogs, mini-games and small pieces of instructional design delivered in a media-rich format. The term is mostly associated with the use of short, focused learning nuggets, typically no longer than 3-5 minutes.

Designed to meet a specific learning outcome, the rich media format makes the learning more memorable, ensuring better retention rates. It is suited to a whole range of training needs apart from particularly complex subject matter involving a number of different subject topics or concepts.

Usually designed for multiple remote devices, from PCs and laptops to tablets and smartphones, it can be used for both formal training and informal learning, making it an increasingly valuable component of the modern learning blend.

Much of the rise of bite-sized learning is due to the proliferation of smartphones enabling just-in-time training delivery and performance support. The rise is also being driven by it being cheaper to build than fully fledged traditional e-learning courses, quicker to deploy, and easier to update. These ‘nuggets’ of information can be used in a flexible way, either as stand-alone assets or integrated as part of a blended approach.

Given that behavioural habits take time to embed, a stream of microlearning can help reinforce learning while supporting the learner through the critical time-frame of change, which could last at least six months in many cases.

It is worth remembering that behavioural change is a process, not an event, and that complex behaviour change is best learned gradually through the modification of simpler behaviours. Microlearning helps to support the learner in managing the content they need to master in concise pieces, supporting learners through every step of their learning journey.

Much more than the latest trend

Bite-sized learning is proving to be an effective technique when used as part of a blended approach. It can help to improve workforce productivity, efficiency and performance. Supporting behavioural change, it meets the expectations of today’s learners and gives people the opportunity to build their knowledge at a time most convenient to them.

As we enter the age of customisation, this approach offers more scope to personalise content to suit a variety of audiences. The ability to customise content provides an easy way for L&D professionals to make their blended programmes more innovative and appealing to today’s modern learner.

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[1] Towards Maturity. ‘Learning Benchmark Report, 2016-2017’

[2] Towards Maturity, ‘Unlocking Potential: Releasing the potential of the business and its people through learning’, 2016

[3] Towards Maturity, ‘The Consumer Learner at Work’, 2016

[4] Bersin by Deloitte, ‘Meet the modern Learner’, 2016

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