In the area of training, changes in teaching methods over the last several years have been marked by the multiplicity of approaches such as the so-called blended learning. As I noted in my post on May 4, 2009, following the results of a survey conducted on behalf of Demos on the use of e-learning in the CAC 40 and SBF 120 "this method (...) is relatively recent, with 44% of respondents saying they use it only for less than two years."
Blended learning is defined as a combination of face to face training and distance learning, but we still need to know how to get the optimal mix between these elements. The proliferation of approaches suggests that a degree of uncertainty surrounds the actual value of answers to this question so far. It is therefore necessary to step back and take a better look at what is happening today in the field of blended learning. As part of the ongoing reflection underway at Demos on our experience as designers of the transmission of operational knowledge, Denis Reymond suggests two existing approaches: layered blended learning and completely mixed blended learning. In a future post, he will analyze the implications of this opposition on the position of the trainer.
Determining the best form of blended learning is part of the job of our instructional designers, whose role is primarily to identify and then to arrange the keys to a successful training experience for our customers. This analysis is constantly stimulated and revived by the results of our projects, and through the sharing of best practices among our teachers. It can provide empirical answers to fundamental questions, and so help improve and enrich our practice as designers of learning experiences.
The following case study from two finished projects shows us a comparison between two identical trainings, but with significant differences in performance. The subject of both trainings was the annual assessment:
• The first training was for a large international group, which Demos was in charge of the face to face training, the e-learning part was undertaken by a competitor.
• The second training session involved a subsidiary that we had sent the request to develop an e-learning module specifically tailored to its needs.
For both trainings, it was expected that training in e-learning precedes the face training. A third time was then possible to return to the e-learning module. The sequencing phase of the training was well founded on the principle of a round trip between what is already known and what has been learned:
• Step 1: e-learning. Knowledge representations and generic forms specific to the company (representation). This representation combines the first unit: the common, "what I already know » and the individual,» What I do not know. "
• Step 2: face to face. Integration of knowledge in situations and testing. Rework of what has already been learned of the first representation. Testing, role-plays.
• Step 3: e-learning. Improved understanding of the whole (re-representation).
Both operations were launched with a strong communication plan. By scrutinizing the utilization rate of e-learning modules, however it turned out that only 66% of training participants had at least read the e-learning module. This rate could fall even lower, posing a huge problem for successful face to face training.
Here we can compare the situation for both trainings. In the case of the group, the decision was taken by the trainers to condense the training in one day. The result of this solution was unsatisfactory in many respects: first, the format had become exhausting and indigestible to the participants, and secondly, they regretted their choice of not using the e-learning module. The failure of e-learning has been complete in this case of layered blended learning.
In the case of our subsidiary, the situation was very different. Indeed, the trainers had spent five days to develop the content of e-learning module, and did not intend to address these questions again in the face to face training. They then explained that participants could learn more about the points made by consulting the e-learning module. This attitude led to further enhance the training for those who had already completed the e-learning part, and thus were able to establish relationships between elements of face to face and elements seen elsewhere. The training experience here was that of a true mixed blended learning. In the case of the subsidiary, the rate of use of e-learning module has quickly climbed to 80%. In addition, the use of this module was recurrent and suggested that it had become, in a short time frame, a reference for all employees of the subsidiary.
Blended learning can be compared to the art of how to make a sauce with a hand mixer: the right conditions must be met for such a cognitive device "to take" within an organization. In a future post I will discuss the crucial role played by the posture of trainers in the success of blended training experiences.