The term “blended learning” was originally used to describe a hybrid method that linked traditional classroom training with learning activities, including asynchronous work, typically accessed by learners outside the classroom at their own time and pace.
The arrival of the Internet changed the way people learn. The term “blended learning” also evolved to refer to a much richer set of learning strategies and dimensions, involving a wide
variety of tools and support systems.
Companies wishing to propel themselves forward must embrace a new paradigm in blended learning. Here’s why:
The need for interactivity
“No man is an island,” the poet John Donne once wrote. Today, technology has further revealed man’s innate need to connect with others. We have progressed from handwritten letters to Short Message Service (SMS). Social media like Facebook connect millions of people around the globe. And smart communication applications like Whatsapp, WeChat and Viber allow people to send images and videos across cyberspace instantaneously.
With technology (particularly the Internet) shrinking communication distances and social media permeating the fabric of communication patterns, interactivity has become the norm.
This is highly applicable for learning as well. A glance at the curriculum of top universities will reveal a mixture of online learning, class participation and actual community engagement.
According to an article by James Bradshaw (May 12, 2011) in The Globe And Mail, a one-week study that tracked two groups of first-year physics students at a Canadian university showed that the group participating in the interactive method of knowledge delivery had twice the engagement levels, a 20 per cent higher attendance and vastly better scores compared to the group who attended traditional stand-and-deliver lectures.
This clearly indicates that a blended method of online and offline materials will increase interactivity and engage individuals more effectively.
The need for intensity
With the speed at which the world moves, technology learnt yesterday becomes stale today and outdated tomorrow. It is vital for learning to be intensive such that it can create the desired impact on those who are learning. And blended learning is the leading methodology that achieves this objective much more organically and effectively.
A study by Bersin & Associates in 2008 showed that 91 per cent of high-growth (greater than 10 per cent annual revenue growth) companies use Learning Management Systems, and that 94 per cent deploy virtual classroom or webcasting.
In contrast, just 38 per cent and 56 per cent of all companies utilise these tools of learning. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between intensive multi-dimensional learning environments and financial success.
The need for integration
With business environments becoming increasingly complex and fast-paced, learning done prior to beginning a new task is insufficient. With companies striving to be faster and more adaptable to customers’ needs, blending how knowledge is shared is becoming increasingly important.
The Aberdeen Group’s 2011 research estimated that 53 per cent of organisations are more likely to achieve Best-in-Class results should they leverage on social networking tools for knowledge transfer and learning.
Cutting-edge networking and productivity tools (for example, Dropbox and Google Drive) provide just such an environment. They package together computer-based work, collaboration and performance support tools. They are heralding the “workspace” of the future.
People are different, and they learn best by different means. Training is most effective when it reaches the learner in the way that he learns best. And embracing the varied tools of blended learning allows companies to do just that. It is all about customising training for the masses and being learner-centred all at the same time — a paradox, but an achievable one.
Pedagogies and methodologies have already been re-written and will continue to evolve. Therefore, it is pertinent that companies keep pace with the latest trends in providing and sharing knowledge. Only in this way can companies grow in such competitive and complicated times.