There is no doubt that blended learning has a lot of benefits, notably: flexibility in terms of time and travel, easier tracking of learning activities and wider platform availability. A simple definition for blended learning is to combine face-to-face learning methods in an impactful way with various online learning activities. The purpose is to find a way to merge the two learning approaches in the most effective, efficient and engaging manner. Despite some limitations in terms of learning retention and social interaction, blended learning offers a variety of benefits when properly implemented. Facilitators and learners can equally benefit from blended learning. A high-level blended learning environment offers flexibility and a variety of learning opportunities. When technology is leveraged in the right way, facilitators are able to connect with more learners, find the right approaches to identify and address learning needs, and come up with creative learning curricula.

Some of the benefits of blended learning include:

Learners acquire resourcefulness

Through the use of digital technology, participants explore different ways to engage in critical thinking, to be innovative, and to cultivate problem solving and communication skills. Participants also get the chance to build their digital literacy skills, critically analyze data, and become more resourceful. Using technology can also shift the dynamics in the relationship between the trainer and the participant.

Collaboration is encouraged

Blended learning encompasses online group interactions. Often during online learning activities, people are grouped together and encouraged to conduct an activity as a team. This provides an opportunity for employees who do not work in the same physical offices to collaborate together virtually and develop their ability to tackle challenges as a team.

Blended learning provides flexibility 

Participants often have time constraints due to other responsibilities. Blending online and face-to-face learning offers them a choice and provides flexibility in terms of scheduling, content availability, self-paced learning and other aspects. It is also a more empathetic approach to learning, where adapting to different learning styles is possible. Blended learning creates a deeper connection between the learning approach and knowledge retention.

Blended learning is aligned with diversity and inclusion objectives

Digital inequality is a very important issue that should be taken into consideration when it comes to blended learning. Inequality can exist in terms of:
  • Access to an internet connection
  • Access to the equipment and tools needed
  • Digital literacy
Addressing digital inequity is extremely important. Disparities in the above mentioned areas create a dilemma and aggravate the digital divide. Blended learning can be a great approach to managing these barriers in an inclusive manner. It can be an opportunity to build digital literacy skills or to provide options for people who do not have access to the needed tools.  In light of the above, during the past eight years, ighcc has been studying how to maximize the efficiency of online and blended learning for our programs in the EMEA region. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our demand, and thus pushed us to further explore areas of efficiency in this domain.

During the implementation we have learned the following:

  1. Participants have a limited attention span in front of the screen: After one hour and a half, the participants’ retention rate will start to decrease and after two hours of consecutive attention, the majority of the participants will start becoming disengaged.
  2. Engagement and gamification (including games in the learning activities) are key components in the success of these learning activities: We do that through case studies, articles and videos that require a response from the participants, thus keeping them engaged throughout the whole learning activities.
  3. People have different learning paces: Some people prefer to finish their assignments in the same day, while others might work at different timings, depending on their prime time, especially when working from home. For that reason, we provide participants a week to submit their assignments for each module.
In our design, each day of face-to-face learning is substituted with a week of online learning. That week comprises of a one hour and a half live virtual session with a facilitator, followed by about four to six hours of self-paced work that the participants will have to complete at their own pace (detailed in the next slide). Our project managers work around-the-clock to ensure a smooth learning experience through troubleshooting, follow-up and support. Another method we are currently exploring is a guided lab instead of self-paced activities, which consists of cracking a case study in groups and debriefing it together. When designing blended learning solutions, every detail counts. Being proactive, keeping the learner in mind, and providing a variety of techniques are all essential steps in ensuring a long-lasting positive impact. As with every transformation, potential challenges will arise when shifting to blended learning. But these challenges can be overcome by: planning ahead, being agile and empathetic, and always trying to leverage technology to the learners’ advantage.  

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