Training Skills Series: Blended learning

Guest post by Ken Burnett, VP/Director of Training and Business Development, Bank of American Fork

This series is written from experience and is part of Bank of American Fork’s training program. The program embraces the philosophy that training is a skill-based job, and managers need to learn specific skills to be successful.

We’ve all been to that two-hour lecture-based training that has some good information, but is mainly torturous. As training professionals, we need to design courses that are interesting and change behavior.  Learning simple blended-learning techniques can help you design that way. 

Wait!  You don’t need to give up if you work in a small organization without a lot of resources.  The bank I work at has about 320 people, an intranet, an online learning authoring tool and a simple video camera.  If you have some of these you have all you need to implement a blended learning strategy.  Making blended learning decisions should be part of the design process.  Before developing a blended learning strategy, be sure you have worked through:

• The role of training in context of the business.

• The goals of the program.

• The objectives of the learning intervention. 

The role of training in business context describes the management of the organization’s feelings toward what you are training, its importance to the organization, and provides focus to the training.  For example, if you are training about professionalism, a couple of videos that demonstrate what not to do would help provide examples to the class and illustrate the importance of professionalism.  As another example, if you are doing a training class on your organization’s policies, you could train the knowledge portion using an online learning approach with a simple proficiency test at the end, and the interaction portion in the classroom. 

Another step in the process to help you choose the type of media for your training is to look at the goals of the program.  If the goal is to increase sales, be sure that the media you use will help you reach your goal.

The objectives of the learning intervention are the most critical factor when you’re developing a blended learning strategy. It is key to match the appropriate learning strategy that best increases the learning transference.  For example, if you want learners to be able to perform a task, you should provide training that:

• Provides the knowledge to perform the task.

• Teaches the skill using behavior modeling or discovery learning.

• Tests the outcome using proficiency testing to ensure performance.

The “knowledge” training could be online self-paced, paper-based self-paced, or a job aid.  The “skill” options may include video vignettes (YouTube quality works well for these), classroom role-plays, on the-job-training or self-paced online scenario-based systems training to model the behavior. The “tests” could be online tests, manager observation/certification, peer observation or production outcome (“Was the task done successfully?”).  A program that uses the various learning approaches discussed previously will keep the interest of the learner and facilitate effective learning.

Blended learning is breaking the learning into chunks and then fitting the right media to the content.  It takes a little longer, but the outcome will be a better program—it will result in greater learning transference and hold the interest of the learner.

The following is a simplified table of some learning options. 

Disclaimer: These are based on my experiences as a trainer. If you have additions, clarifications, etc., I’d love to hear from you!)

Ken also wrote a series for manager skills. What other business skills do you want to know more about? Tell us in the comments!

Ken Burnett is vice president/director of training and business development for Bank of American Fork. He is responsible for training more than 300 employees on a variety of topics, including coaching and feedback for dozens of senior managers within the organization.

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