Mix it up: Why blended learning works

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All businesses strive for their people to learn, develop and evolve, but may struggle to create a sustainable learning environment for this to actually happen.

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The learning and development industry is set to grow by 16 billion Dollars by 2025 in the US alone and much of this growth will include one-off courses. But, as studies show, sustainable learning doesn’t work for most people. In fact, people only retain 10% – 20% of their learning when online or one-off, which isn’t a great ROI for the billions being invested.

Even though it’s alarmingly obvious that this singular approach doesn’t sustain our long-term learning, or develop environments that foster innovation and skills of the future, we still see the desire for ‘quick fixes’ or one-hit sessions without the follow-through support.

Rather than companies investing in this perennial but ineffective one-off method, they should rethink their learning strategies to include blended learning. Classroom learning coupled with learning through making (doing) and supporting others. 

Our approach at &us bears this out. Part of what we do through coaching is training, but it’s mostly getting into the meat of a challenge with our clients and guiding them through the work so that they learn through doing, in real, relevant situations, meaning that the new skills and knowledge stick.  Our view is that organisations need to think more about taking this approach. 

94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development and 40% of employees with poor training will leave the company within the first year

Creating a culture of learning can’t be done overnight. It’s more than onboarding new information.  It also involves new behaviours and mindsets, bravery, vulnerability, and guts.  And for it to really stick, people need to think about how they will develop and apply their new knowledge, beyond learning the basics.

I believe both individuals and organisations need to be committed for the learning to stick and the investment in training to bear the most fruit. This way we can create a more positive impact on our own learning, and on the new knowledge and skills we bring to our work. 

The importance of investing in people speaks for itself – they feel valued and in return can deliver more to the organisation. In addition, giving time to people to invest in their own learning pursuits is vital because not all learning should sit on the shoulders of the organisation. 

At &us we have the ethos of learning through making, which simply means that you learn and apply as you go. Understanding the theory and applying it in practice, embeds the learnings and gives individuals greater confidence in using their new skills.

For instance, I was fortunate enough to go on a training course in 2021 that looks at the basics of Neuroscience, and how to apply it to individuals and organisations learning to work with agility. Understanding the neuroscience behind the theory helped us understand why the approach we use works, and how to harness this knowledge further to achieve greater effectiveness around engagement and sustainability for client teams. We were then encouraged and supported to apply this learning to real-world scenarios on client projects, cementing the theory through practice.

In addition, we work with clients through role modeling and creating playgrounds that allows them to observe and later integrate this into their learning and real-life scenarios. These techniques of ‘people observing’, ‘role modeling’, and playing as a part of learning  is what  Albert Bandura coined as ‘social learning’.

Blended learning for me extends beyond what training sessions offer. It requires that you take a variety of ways to continue your learning in the classroom, whether coaching from real-life experiences post-learning, follow-up reading, e-modules, group learning, community post learning. It allows for learning to be structured but also flexible. 

The benefits for the individual are: 

  • Faster progress and more tangible growth from training
  • Engagement increases and with that ability to collaborate with others increases – because you are having more engaging conversations, meaningful fun, and you’re practicing your new learning through producing better content, products, services  

The benefits for the organisations are: 

  • Greater, faster ROI from training investment 
  • Greater employee engagement – 80% of people agreed to learn new skills would make them more engaged
  • Employee retention improves through improved job satisfaction and engagement.
  • More ownership and accountability from each person in the organisation, this helps your business move closer to being a learning organisation which is part of developing a stronger culture

Despite the overwhelming appetite for continuous learning, and the clear benefits for both individuals and companies, LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report found talent developers spend just 15% of their time promoting employee engagement with learning, meaning there’s a huge opportunity there.

Fundamentally, blended learning is proven to increase learning engagement, which makes both people and organisations smarter. It also helps to meet the needs of your people and organisation because it gives people the skills, and therefore the organisations the skilled people it needs to thrive in the future.  

So next time you think of doing a one-off learning piece, think about how you want the learning to be supported and maintained: 

Are you meeting the learning needs of your employees with the learning initiative? 

And what more can be done – how you’ll give them space and opportunity to apply this new learning – to make the knowledge sustainable and applicable so that it develops your organisation.

Got questions about how to do this in your organisation? Let’s in touch.