Adapted from our recent ebook ‘Making Blended Work: 5 Key Elements of Effective Blended Learning Design’, this article explores the importance of factoring in the way that people naturally learn, both in and outside of the workplace.
It can be easy to approach workplace learning as an entirely new entity.
However, in order to design truly effective blended learning journeys, we have to look at how people are already learning. One of the reasons that blended learning is so effective is that it includes a variety of ways to learn and participate as well as to contextualize and personalize the experience.
Ultimately, you can set as many learning and business objectives as you like. But without a real understanding of how your people already learn, where will it get you?
Opportunities to Practice Are Key
One of the most important parts of any learning process is the opportunity to put your theoretical knowledge into practice. Learning about something from an eLearning module, in a classroom, or a conversation with your line manager is one thing. But you won’t really know how well the information has sunk in until it’s time to take some action and your learners have had the opportunity to adapt their learnings to brand new situations.
On top of that, putting learning into practice early on in the learning process actually improves information retention and transfer of learning into the workplace. Muscle memory and repetition of tasks are incredibly important to move information from our short-term to our long-term memory and keep the information ingrained in our behavior.
Whether you’re training a colleague to restock items on a shop floor, a bank employee to detect financial crime, or a sales team to improve its client relation skills, it’s important to combine the practical with the theoretical in any blended learning program.
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Scenario-based learning taps into the brain’s natural inclination towards narrative and storytelling. This type of learning allows for that practical action discussed above, but in a low-consequence, safe environment. Take our sales team as an example. Scenario-based learning could be used to improve product knowledge and help them choose the right solution for their fictional clients’ needs. This allows the salesperson to practice these skills without the risk of losing prospects.
Branching scenarios can also be a great option to consider, although this will depend on your budget. Shallow branching, if you’re on a tighter budget, can still be effective, allowing for decision-making opportunities and for learners to see the outcomes before returning to a central narrative thread.
They can, however, get fairly complicated quite quickly to allow a deep exploration of a topic. Deep branching scenarios can absolutely be worth the investment, as they work on learners’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as well as encouraging them to make informed decisions under pressure. Branching also allows them to follow the culmination of their choices through to the very end to see one of multiple outcomes.
See Branching Scenarios In Action
A great example of a branching scenario from the world of popular culture would be Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Watch the short video below to get an idea of how the branching scenarios work.
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Knowledge-Sharing and Social Learning
One of the most important elements of a blended learning journey, whether fully digital or with in-person elements, is the opportunity to collaborate. People already learn from each other. In almost any work environment where you interact with your colleagues, one of the most common sources of information is the people you work with. Make the most of this.
Designing for collaboration will look different depending on how digitally-led your blended learning program is. If you’re managing blended learning at a distance, virtual whiteboards like Miro or MURAL are excellent tools for collaboration and can allow for much wider participation than in-person workshops and group activities. Breakout sessions are also really valuable, regardless of the environment, as they allow your learners to work in smaller groups to achieve a shared goal. You can also incentivize engagement with learning and collaboration through competition.
Learning games also provide some great ways to learn socially, either through collaboration, competition, or sometimes both.
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Buddy Systems and Mentoring
People seek to learn from each other. Learning through stories, from elders, and through communal teachings, has been part of our societal structures since humans first formed tribes. It’s a natural way for people to learn, and in the workplace, employees will automatically seek guidance from others.
Introducing a buddy system and/or mentoring makes that integration easier. By giving your learners a specific person or people to go to, it encourages this very natural way of learning with the added benefit of direction and clearer behavioral reporting.
Including a go-to person or people for your learners will allow them to make the most of their blended learning journey in a way that feels supportive and less obviously tied to their training. It allows for opportunities to discuss how the things being taught work in the real world and in their specific role. This opens up the chance to really tailor the learning application. This does need a bigger commitment, though, of at least 3-6 months for it to be effective.