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Blended Learning Fixing the mix

2002 NIIT Ltd. All trademarks acknowledged.

Introduction
Many training mangers are asking the question - What is the best strategy for learning?
Is it Instructor-led or eLearning?

Both the options have their own advantages. While Instructor-led training offers rich
interactivity, eLearning has advantages in cost structures. This realization is increasingly
being felt and organizations are opting for hybrid learning, which is also referred to as the
blended approach.

Deciding the right hybrid learning solution is very critical. NIIT has developed a phased
approach that uses all tools available to deliver effective training. NIIT in its 20-year
history has pioneered many adult learning innovations and is working to create the future
of learning. Our learning solutions are customized to our client's specific learning
objectives, based on their unique business practices and initiatives and tailored to their
diverse audiences.

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Right Hybrid Learning


Let us begin with choices that we have in selecting a hybrid or blended model for
learning. These are:
-

Selecting the media for delivery: As a trainer one needs to carefully analyze
which media is best for learning. These options can be classroom trainings, WBT,
CBT, chat, email, Webinars etc.

Selecting the mode for learning based on the learning style or need: With many
tools at the disposal, there is a need to ascertain what is the best method for a
particular or target audience. One can choose from synchronous community based
learning to that of asynchronous self paced learning.

Training Delivery Options


Delivery Method

Primary Strength

Primary Weakness

Relative Cost to
Develop/Deploy

Instructor-led training

Familiarity and
interaction

Ability to scale and total


cost of delivery

Low/medium

Test-based training

Portable, universally
available

Timeliness, no
interaction or feedback

Low/Low

High-bandwidth
Internet (HBI)

Strengths of ILT plus


scalable, high-quality
video capability

Technology not
universally deployed

Low/High

Low-bandwidth Internet
(LBI)

Strength of HBI, plus


common technology

Some technologies are


dependent on Internet
traffic, some shift in
classroom metaphor

Low/Low

CD-ROM

Engaging, can be highly


interactive to a range of
learner, disconnected

Time to develop, hard to High/ Low


update

Web based training


(WBT)

Like CD-Rom, but


easier to update and
deploy

Time to develop, must


be connected to the
Internet

Technology based
training

Source: IDC, 2000

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High/low

We need to blend the two options keeping in mind various factors like:
-

Scalability
Culture
Type of Content
Cost
Learning Effectiveness

Let us look at these in detail:


Scalability

With most of the corporations going global, there is a need to create the training
that can be administered to an audience that is dispersed and large. Any learning
framework should be able to address how it can be scaled to meet this need. We
need to study the scalability that is offered by the learning solution.
The following study of IDC compares delivery options with scalability.

Scalability of Delivery Method for Metacharacteristics


Delivery Method

Ability to Scale

Ease of Update

Instructor-led training

***

Test-based training

**

**

High-bandwidth Internet (HBI)

**

**

Low-bandwidth Internet (LBI)

***

***

CD-ROM

**

Web based training (WBT)

***

***

Technology based training

Scale: Less = * More = * * *


Source: IDC, 2000

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Culture

One of the important issues is the learning culture of the audience, which is
based on the learning culture of the organization. Some issues that impact
the decision are:
- Since most of people have spent more than 16 years of their life in
traditional classroom training, they think that the only way to learn is going
to class.
- It is felt that sending a group of people to a training program provides a
unique opportunity for team building and sharing of the organization
culture.
- In addition, some managers are less tolerant to employees spending more
than half an hour of effort in learning on the web. On the other hand, they
are comfortable with employees being away from for days office on
training program.

These issues are tough in nature and require a phased approach for the
organization to adapt to eLearning. While everyone recognizes the benefits
of eLearning, there is a need for the hybrid approach to learning.

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Type of Content

Let us take soft skill courses as an example. One phenomenon said to be


helping propel soft-skills content is the growth of so-called blended
approaches to deliver behavior-related learning, which combines eLearning
with Instructor-led training, either in a real or virtual classroom. Blended
learning answers the shortcomings of eLearning in illustrating subtle
differences in social behaviors and in teaching social skills such as
teamwork and acceptance of diversity.

Efficiency of Delivery Method for Content Types


Delivery Method

Informational

Procedural

Behavioral

Conceptual

Instructor-led
training

**

**

Test-based
training

***

**

**

***

High-bandwidth
Internet (HBI)

**

**

***

**

Low-bandwidth
Internet (LBI)

**

**

**

CD-ROM

***

***

**

***

Web based
training (WBT)

***

***

**

**

Technology
based training

Scale: Less efficient = * Most efficient = * * *


Source: IDC, 2000

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Given below is a decision point summary that is suggested by Rick J. Valdez, Director of
Instructional Design, Click2learn, Inc.
Application Table
Key:

**

Apply

Feasible, but not necessarily best use


Synchronous
ILT

ILT

Classroom

Virtual

Asynchronous
WBT

CBT

Print

Audio

Video

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

Large audience

**

**

**

**

**

**

Small audience

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

Performance Outcome:
Recall and simple application
Complex application,
analysis, synthesis, etc.
Content Stability
Stable content
Dynamic content
Content Structure
Structured content
Unstructured content
Audience Size

Audience Proficiency with


Technology
Proficient with technology
Not proficient with
technology

**

Participant Collocation
Collocated
Not collocated

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

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Cost

Combining different delivery modes has the potential to balance out and optimize
the learning program development and deployment cost and time. Various options
have different cost structures. Let us look at each one of them:
- Instructor-led training: Even though the development costs are low, the
delivery cost is high. The variables that affect the cost are building
infrastructure, executive travel that will be required for attending the training.
- CD-ROM: The development cost is high with low delivery cost. However
upgrading the content is very expensive and is not considered feasible
- Web based training (WBT): The development cost is high with low
delivery cost
- Low-bandwidth Internet (LBI): With the use of tools like Webinars, chat,
discussion forums and expert answers, the development cost and deployment
cost are minimized.

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Maximum Learning

Contact sessions with a human expert are effective for learners in

through Effective

specific situations.

Integration
For instance, the Instructor-led classroom sessions need to be
pitched somewhere close to the lowest common denominator of
the audience. This is because of two basic factors. One, the
content covered needs to be periodically expanded to include
prerequisites that people do not know. This is the breadth of
learning to be covered. If you do not include prerequisite
learning that many in the class are unaware of, you run the risk of
alienating learners during the class as they are unable to catch the
concepts that are built on top of the prerequisites.

The second issue deals with the pace of learning. If you aim to
cover things much faster than the lowest common denominator in
the audience, you run the risk of leaving a lot of participants
gasping for breath unable to keep pace with the class. This is true
not only of a physical classroom, but also of a virtual classroom.
Similar issues of effectiveness plague e-chat sessions for learning,
where the usefulness of a chat session for participants depends
upon how closely they identify with the questions being
answered. In fact, this would be true of all online, synchronous,
event-based, and relatively non-interactive mass media.

We use two methods to deal with these factors effectively. One


method of dealing with heterogeneous knowledge profiles of the
audience is to ensure homogeneity of the audience to the relevant
extent by making them go through self-paced learning and
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assessment on the relevant material so that people are prepared


for the class in advance. On the other hand, a method of dealing
with the differences in pace that the learners can cope with is to
let each one operate through an individualized learning plan so
that the pace is selected by the learners and they are motivated to
stay in step with their plans.

When we talk about maximizing learning from one-on-one


sessions, two other factors play a critical role. Here, because a
single individual is in question, audience diversity is unimportant.
The first factor has to do with meta-cognition. How well are the
learners prepared for the one-on-one session, how aware are they
of their own progress, how well do they understand the stated
purpose of the session. The Learning Plan takes care of this
requirement adequately.

The second factor deals with the learners specific remediation


needs. This is taken care of by the assessment driven nature of
the personal consultation and the open acceptance of the fact that
the learning plan might be revised if needed during these reviews
of learners progress. These also provide opportunities for
reflective follow-up and sharing by the learner of the generic
problem solving or collaboration strategies they are employing in
their work. Any new insights are shared during these sessions
and the tutor takes the responsibility of sharing them across the
community. The fact that these can be conducted on the Web if
required makes it possible to have them more frequently than
physically possible.
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NIITs Learning Framework


Keeping the above principles in mind, NIIT has developed a phased approach in
imparting blended education. This methodology offers a unique learning solution with
multiple delivery formats ILT, WBT, and Online Training. The advantage of this
framework is that the student gets the best of all delivery formats Interactive sessions
(ILT), Self Paced Learning (SPL) sessions and simulated practice tests (WBT), and vast
online resources (Online Training).

First, we check which level or phase your companys current training program is in and
then continue from that point.

We could also takeover your existing program or create a new training approach for a
specific business unit or profit center.

For example, if one of your divisions needs only instructor-led training (ILT), well
provide you with that. Or if youre company is looking to complement ILT with
eLearning, and then well help you move into blended learning. And if your
organizations training is already online, well help you build a lifelong online training
model.

The phased approach model is scalable, quick and economical. It doesnt aim to replace
your training methods but to optimize your training returns. It also helps your
organization move up the training ladder without disrupting your current schedule.

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Enhancing learning effectiveness through Hybrid Learning: As learning is extended,


learners get an opportunity to practice their skills in real life situation. This insures that
learning is rather permanent in nature as depicted by the graph below.

e
od
Tm
IL
re
Pu

Learning effectiveness

NIIT l
earnin
g fram
ework

End of contact session

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Time