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4 steps to successful blended learning


Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds? With a well-designed blended learning programme, you can.

But it’s not a case of randomly mixing-and-matching learning methods and media.  The programme has to be carefully built, always keeping at the heart of it the needs of the business, the aims of the programme and the needs of the learners.

What is blended learning?

In very simplistic terms, blended learning mixes face-to-face training with digital media using both formal and informal delivery methods along with social learning.

Clive Shepherd’s 2008 definition from the second edition of The Blended Learning Cookbook still holds true:

“A blended learning solution combines educational and training methods within different social contexts for learning (self-study, one-to-one, group), with the aim of increasing learning effectiveness.  It may also mix the learning media used to deliver the solution (face-to-face, online, offline etc.) as a way to optimise the efficiency of the solution. “

“A blended learning solution combines educational and training methods within different social contexts for learning with the aim of increasing learning effectiveness." Clive Shepherd

Why use blended learning?

A well-designed blended approach has many advantages.

It can be fine-tuned to respond to the needs of the audience and the particular learning requirement.  The blend allows flexibility, which is a more effective approach for modern workers and organisations.          

Blended learning enables existing learning material to be reused or updated, making it an efficient option for many businesses.

And of course, a real benefit is that it’s using all the best elements of learning out there, including ‘on-demand’ learning that’s available on devices 24/7. It makes a lot of sense.

The key is to get the design and implementation right.

The 4 steps:

Establish what the needs are – The building blocks of any blended learning must be based on the aims of the learning. What does it look to achieve? And what are the needs of the organisation and of the learners?

Choose the learning methods – Having established the goals, you can now decide on the methods that will best achieve them. It’s at this point that you might discover that you already have some of these methods. They might just need to be refreshed or repurposed for the blended programme. There’s no ‘one blend fits all’, so the blend you choose will be unique to match your specific needs.

Create the content – Finally, you can make the bespoke content that’s aligned to the goals of the learning.

Measure the results – In-built measuring tools within the learning programme will identify learners’ progress. For the business, the clearest evidence of improved performance will be seen in an uplift in the needs area that was identified and targeted at the outset. Has performance improved from the original benchmark?

Sponge and AXA – the perfect blend

Sponge worked with insurance company AXA to develop ‘Inspiring Customer First’. This blended learning approach addressed a specific need – to create and embed an outstanding customer service culture at its contact centre in the UK. Focusing on conversations the company’s insurance advisers have with small business owners, the programme’s aim was to instil customer service skills such as emotional intelligence, personalising calls, and using positive language. Launched in January 2017, the methods and media were designed to meet these needs.

The results were measured by monitoring customer feedback online. After nine months, positive customer comments were up by 113% and formal complaints were down by 24%. The number of ‘3-star calls’ – the highest in AXA’s call rating system – has increased by 114%.

Done properly, blended learning becomes an integral part of employees’ daily working schedule in a way that doesn’t really feel like learning, certainly not in the traditional sense. They can see and understand the context of the learning and the benefits are immediately clear to them. It also helps to embed learning. And, as evidenced in the AXA example, it can quickly deliver impressive, measurable results. Our blended learning programme for AXA is a finalist for the TJ Awards 2017, LT Awards 2017 and The Learning Awards 2018. You can find out more about the project here