Blended Learning or Classroom Training – Are Both Equally Effective?

The North American Council for Online Learning defines it this way: “Blended learning means many things to many people, even within our relatively small online learning community. It is referred to as both blended and hybrid learning, with little or no difference in the meaning of the terms among most educators. In general terms, blended learning combines online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to personalize learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student to student across a diverse group of learners.”

Blended learning is the perfect training solution for:

• Students who want the convenience of learning online

• Employers who need to minimize employee time away from the work station

• Independent trainers seeking additional revenue by increasing student volume

A recent study from Ithaka S+R reveals that blended learning platforms produce the same results as traditional classroom style training, but in some cases they actually perform better. This particular study focuses on blended learning in higher education and public universities. Another study from Kyong-Jee Lee and Curtis Bonk, The Present State and Future Trends of Blended Learning in Workplace Settings across Five Countries, found similar results. This study was conducted with 674 training and HR development professions from five countries. The study results show that blended learning will become a popular delivery method in the future of workplace learning in both Western and Asian countries. A study conducted by the United States Department of Education found that instruction combining online and face‐to‐face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face‐to‐face instruction than did purely online instruction (Evaluation of Evidence‐Based Practices in Online Learning, 2010).

Blended learning formats are time saving. The results state that students who took a blended learning course spent about 25% less time to achieve essentially the same learning outcomes as traditional format (classroom only training) students.

Blended learning formats can save money. According to the study, blended learning offers significant savings in compensation costs, with the degree of cost reduction depending on the exact model of blended learning used. Productivity may also get a boost if students complete their online learning more quickly than they do in a traditional classroom setting. According to Training Magazine, corporations save between 50-70% when replacing instructor-led training with electronic content delivery. Opting for online training also means that courses can be pared into shorter sessions and spread out over several days or weeks so that the business would not lose an employee for entire days at a time. Soft skills, industrial skills and safety, health and environmental compliance training are being conducted online and organizations are beginning to reap the monetary and qualitative benefits of implementing online training solutions for their employees.

Blended learning can help if you’re tight on space. You know how tough it can be to schedule a large room for an entire day. Having part of the training take place online keeps students or employees at their desks and out of high-demand, high-traffic common areas like overbooked meetings rooms.

Remote employees? No problem. If your workforce is spread out over multiple locations or you have staff that telecommutes, blended learning makes it easier to schedule the online content portion of their training.

A blended approach to training can also encourage employee engagement in the training. The online learning environment allows students to begin applying knowledge during the course of learning and classroom training fosters more group involvement, team building and team problem solving during the learning experience. Classroom training also allows for real time instructor to student interaction to answer specific questions and receive hands-on training.

Technology in the workplace is increasing daily. As emerging technologies become more accessible and new generations of learners who grew up with technology enter the workforce, blended learning options might not simply be a nice thing to consider. Rather, blended learning may become a mandate if a workplace wants to remain competitive as well as attract talented and creative workers who want viable options in their working and learning lives.

About the Author

Kristine Rice, Director - Customer Loyalty with HSI.

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