Are you trying to decide which modalities or delivery methods to use in your blended learning strategy? This article will help you choose the ones that work together seamlessly to meet your learning objectives and engage every learner.
Modality Ideas For Blended Learning
Many Instructional Designers have found that using only one modality or delivery method for a project isn’t effective. People have different learning preferences and it’s not as simple as “Cara prefers visual content, and Jose prefers hands-on practice.” The truth is: learners’ preferences change depending on the information or task they’re learning. How can you meet everyone’s needs, achieve objectives, and stay within budget? Savy Instructional Designers have turned to blended learning because it offers a more efficient learning experience and increased learner engagement, which leads to improved learner performance and measurable results.
If designed properly, blended learning is focused on giving learners more autonomy in how and when they are trained rather than following a strict schedule of activities. Blended learning is flexible, allowing the designer to revise and customize all or parts of the training as needed. Lastly, blended learning is more than just adding technology to classroom training. It builds a seamless learning experience using a variety of delivery methods to offer personalized training that helps them achieve learning objectives and business goals efficiently.
Choosing The Best Modalities
Let’s walk through an example to see how to choose the best delivery methods for your content.
Tonya manages a group of call center employees and is in the process of updating the training after her company announced new privacy and security policies.
Based on testing, the company anticipates some frustration from customers because the new procedures require extra identity verification steps. So in addition to learning the new procedures, Tonya’s employees also need to learn how to handle these complaints.
Tonya used to train employees herself, but with a growing staff and higher call volumes, no one has the time.
She has decided to use blended learning to save time and money and to maintain the human aspect of the training. Now Tonya must choose the delivery methods she wants to use.
Separate “Need To Do” From “Need To Know”
Although it may be tempting, don’t include delivery methods just because they seem fun or interesting. Take the time to organize your content and figure out which delivery methods best support your learning objectives and provide authentic practice experiences.
Start by asking, “What do learners need to do and what do they need to know to do it?”
In Tonya’s case, her staff needs to demonstrate the behaviors associated with the new service excellence process H.E.A.T. (Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Take Action) to handle customer complaints. This is her “Need to Do” content.
However, before learners can demonstrate the behaviors, they need context related to potential customer issues and the meaning behind H.E.A.T. This is her “Need to Know” content.
Choose Your Modalities
Now it’s time for the fun part!
Your options for combining delivery methods are as numerous as the tasks or behaviors your learners need to learn, so don’t be afraid to get creative. There are many options besides Instructor-Led Training (ILT) and eLearning.
We’ll discuss the methods for “Need to Know” content first. In most cases, learners need this content to create awareness and lay a foundation for the “Need to Do” content. However, you may decide to provide them with practice activities right away and let them learn the “Need to Know” content as they go!
Methods For “Need To Know” Content
“Need to Know” content is best presented using images, videos, audio, and text. One benefit of these methods is that they are easily accessible on most computers and smartphones, adding more flexibility.
To help her learners understand the importance of the new H.E.A.T. process, Tonya creates an eLearning course defining the new process, related behaviors, and potential customer issues. She also provides easily accessible links to a poster they can hang in their cubicle defining the acronym H.E.A.T. for learners to refer to on the job. Next, Tonya develops a series of demonstration calls to help her learners identify the behaviors in authentic situations.
Other methods for Tonya to consider:
- Produce a podcast
Use recorded customer service calls for learners to listen to when they are commuting in to work or headed home after their shifts.
- Play a game
Create a trivia game for learners to practice matching customer issues to the correct resolution. This approach aids in memory based on the repetition of knowledge-based content.
Methods For “Need To Do” Content
The methods Tonya chooses for her “Need to Do” content should depend on (you guessed it!) what her learners do! To narrow down her choices, she asks, “How will my learners practice these behaviors?” and “How will they be assessed?” She should use her answers to choose delivery methods that create authentic, risk-free practice opportunities that build on the “Need to Know” content.
Tonya’s learners need to practice using the new process and handling customer complaints. To accomplish this, she creates a series of simulated calls to allow learners to practice the behaviors. The simulated calls are actual recorded calls followed by multiple-choice answers. This allows learners to practice resolving real customers’ issues. If learners answer incorrectly, they receive corrective feedback, which puts them on the appropriate path based on the H.E.A.T. process. Finally, Tonya schedules a video conference to allow learners to role play and assess each other’s mastery of the related behaviors using a checklist.
Other methods to consider:
- Provide guided hands-on experience with a mentor
Learners can listen to mentors take in-bound calls and then practice taking in-bound calls themselves. Mentors provide feedback following each call.
- Develop a chatbot
Chatbots are an easy way for the customer service representatives to get timely issue resolution based on frequent customer questions or issues.
Methods For Discussion And Support
It’s important to give learners an opportunity to ask questions, share what they’ve learned, and discuss any issues they’re having. Similarly, these conversations are a great way to gauge learners’ progress outside of course completion and test scores and to provide coaching if needed.
Since Tonya has a large group of employees to train, she sets up a discussion board on her LMS so learners can ask questions and share experiences. She also gives learners the option to schedule one-on-one coaching sessions with their managers for more personalized feedback.
Another method to consider:
- Encourage journaling
This is a good option for learners who prefer to reflect privately on their experiences. It can also be used to facilitate coaching conversations.
Customize And Revise Your Training As Needed
Tonya’s course will be constantly evolving. She will use data from her LMS as well as learner feedback to find out which methods are working and which ones learners find more tedious than useful. This gives employees some control over their training and ultimately improves the experience by fixing what doesn’t work.
Tonya should ask with a survey:
- What are learners still having trouble with?
- What do they have questions about?
- Which activities are helpful/unhelpful and why?
- What topics would they like to learn more about?
- What topics do they feel are irrelevant to them?
How Do I Get Started?
Part of what makes blended learning successful is the flexibility and sense of control it gives learners. Do what you can to create opportunities for learners to make their own training-related decisions. Provide multiple ways for learners to learn or practice a new skill or behavior and schedule multiple times to participate in an activity. Don’t worry about creating everything at once. Start with one or two modalities and then add more as time and budget allow.
If you still have questions about how to get started with blended learning, go to our website and drop me a line!