No matter what size your company is, you know growing and training your current employees is a lot cheaper than hiring new ones. To translate this into dollars, a U.C. Berkeley study, found it costs $4,000 on average above salary cost to hire a new employee. This figure rises to $7,000 for replacing management-level employees and professionals. And, the Center for Economics and Business Review has found that this cost increases even more for small businesses. Plus, the more you can help your team gain new skills, the more motivated and prepared they will be to excel in their current roles. And the less likely they will be to submit a two-week notice. The issue is how do you choose a learning platform that works company wide? This is where the benefits of blended learning and learning management systems can help.
Online versus classroom learning
But before we get into how effective blended learning can be for your company, let’s talk about online vs. classroom learning in general. If you are using a more traditional classroom setting for training, you may have considered moving to an online environment with the constant technological advancements of today. Or maybe you are finding your online platform, has some drawbacks and is missing a more traditional in-person approach. This is the main benefit of blended learning. You can have both. Before we discuss – why consider blended learning, let’s talk online and classroom learning.
Online benefits and drawbacks
E-learning is simply learning to utilize electronic technologies to access curriculum outside of a traditional classroom. In many corporate learning and training programs, this would be completely virtual. So what are the pros and cons of online learning?
Advantages of online:
- Central learning platform: Your company can store all the tools online and in one central place. This cuts down on lost lesson plans, files being accidentally deleted, and streamlines an organization.
- Saves time: Administering courses or training sessions online, is a lot easier than locating a classroom and coordinating an instructor and a timeslot that works for all employees.
- Flexibility: Being able to access courses when you want them is a huge convenience factor for employees. Plus, employees who are remote or work on the road a lot, can use their own equipment to continue their learning easily.
- Active learning: Vendors that offer LMS’s with message boards and chat rooms increase employee engagement and offer a more interactive environment. This leads to better company discussions, promotes faster learning, and increases employee engagement.
- Repeat what you don’t understand: In a classroom setting, everyone is expected to learn at the same pace. E-learning allows employees to go back to a part of the course they don’t understand. What may take one employee an hour to complete, may take another half an hour. This flexibility allows everyone to learn at their own pace.
Disadvantages of online:
- No human contact: Some employees learn better with face-to-face instruction. This is obviously missing in an online environment.
- Security: Companies need to think about keeping employee information confidential and safe from a hacked system. This level of security can be costly and time-consuming to insure.
- Ensuring work accuracy: You hope you have honest employees, but really an employee could have someone else take their course for them. It’s hard to tell sometimes if employees are doing the work themselves.
- Ways of learning: Some employees will do well with a multiple choice type of quiz and others will do better with an essay format. Usually online will choose a simple way to assess across all employees. This may not give an accurate representation of who mastered the lesson and who did not.
- Theoretical learning: Did you learn more in a college course or in an internship? If you said internship than you can understand this online drawback. Learning solely online gives you scenarios, but no “real-life” ways to implement what you have learned.
Classroom learning benefits and drawbacks
Classroom instruction takes a more traditional approach to training and employee development. Just like you would sit at a desk and listen to a teacher in school, the same is true for classroom training on the job. So what are the pros and cons of using more of a traditional approach to learning?
Advantages of classroom learning:
- Human interaction: Some employees will do better when they have an instructor standing in front of them. They can ask questions, engage in conversations, and ask for further explanation.
- No distractions: When you are online learning, you may have a co-worker come to your desk with unrelated questions. Or maybe you login from home after hours and you encounter family distractions. Sitting in a classroom for an hour gives you undivided attention.
- Promotes team building: When employees take courses in person, it adds a sense of comradery. Everyone is going through this together and peers can help each other out. Plus, breaking off into small groups during these training sessions will help learn the material in a different way. This breaks up the monotony.
- Course material better in person: Not all subject matter is easy to learn online. Sometimes classroom learning is better. For example, a course where case studies are used. Employees giving their own real-life experiences can create scenarios not found in an online course.
- Unrelated course answers: When an employee is studying a subject matter, this may spark an unrelated work question. The instructor and/or the other employees can answer these questions strengthening that employee’s learning level beyond what is being taught.
Disadvantages to classroom learning:
- Time off work: Everyone has different deadlines. Finding a time to gather all employees into a classroom can be difficult. Plus, some employees may resent the hour they need to sit in a classroom versus tackling that never-ending inbox.
- Technology is lacking: Usually, in a classroom setting, employees are listening the majority of the time. They are taken away from computers and other tools they utilize on a day-to-day basis. So the process is not as authentic as it should be.
- Large teams: If you employ several employees and you want all these employees to take a course at one time, this can be a challenge. The more employees who attend a training course, the longer it takes to complete and sometimes the less employees are engaged. It also makes interaction and team bonding harder.
- Strain to budget: Classroom training can be costly. You need to find a space to host the course, an instructor, and pay for any classroom materials. Even if you have most of this covered onsite, you need to factor in the time taken away from work hours.
- One learning style: A classroom course has one set curriculum. Although this can be varied with what materials are used, there is one message to all employees. When you have 20 personalities in one room, this style of learning may not work for everyone. Some people learn with timed quizzes, others in small groups, and some prefer a lecture where they can take notes. This won’t work with a one size fits all classroom approach.
Why blended learning?
As you can see there are benefits and drawbacks to both classroom and online learning. So why not use the best of both in your training approach? How? Use blended learning. Simply put blended learning utilizes an online format with an element of employee control over pace, time and path of learning. This blended approach fixes the negatives of both traditional training and online training.
For example, take Yelp. They believe that it’s important to have company-wide training, but that their employees should have the final say. So at Yelp, employees formulate individual training plans versus instituting a one size fits all approach. Blended learning does the same. Focusing on employees while incorporating both online and classroom training.
Benefits of blended learning
This approach works well for companies like Yelp, but will it work for yours? Let’s look at some of the advantages blended learning has for any company regardless of industry or size.
No one or company for that matter wants to spend more than they have to. Blended learning keeps costs in check. Choose a vendor who can house all your training content in one central area whether it’s classroom or online material. This will save you time that can be better spent growing your business’ revenue. Plus, if you employ people nationally or globally, they can access files from their home offices in an e-learning format. But you also have the ability to budget for in-person training where it makes the most sense.
Certain subject matter lends itself to e-learning. And some subject matter is best learned in person. Using a blended learning approach, you can choose when to use which method. It also allows you to get creative with your learning content. Seek out an LMS vendor who can help you create interactive quizzes, onboarding flows, and build courses. Keeping learning fun and different will lead to better employee retention and engagement.
If a subject is complex, it may make sense to have an instructor-led class. Employees can ask questions and engage in small group discussions to break up the subject matter. On the other hand, topics that are short or relatively simple are better suited online. Employees can easily access key files and even take a few short courses in a single session.
Focus on employees
One of the benefits of blended learning is shifting attention away from the company and to the employees. Everyone learns at a different pace and everyone learns in a different fashion. Blended learning lets you create a learning platform to fit everyone’s needs. Choosing an LMS vendor who can offer this blended platform will also afford you some unique features. For example, you can customize content if you have global employees. Or if an employee takes an instructor-led course and needs additional assistance, you can offer follow-up training materials online. And you can offer different courses depending on job title. A computer programmer may prefer an online tutorial whereas a graphic designer may learn better with peers in a classroom.
Improves soft skills
In the digital age we live in, an employee may go an entire day without much co-worker or manager interaction. One of the advantages of blended learning is it breeds interaction. Employees in an online course enter group chats. In a classroom setting, an employee may share how they plan to use their training on the job with co-workers. Communication is key in any organization. And fostering this communication both virtually and in-person will only strengthen your company and team members.
Just like you dreaded getting a high school math teacher using the same tired 20-year-old lesson plan, employees feel the same in on the job training. Using an LMS vendor who offers a reporting feature allows you to tweak, change, and assign new learning content as you see fit. You can instantly tell what’s effective and what’s not. With a blended learning strategy, you may find an in-person approach is better for a certain course. Or an online course is not being retained when applied on the job.
Is blended learning effective?
You may think this all sounds great, but will it work for me and my company? Do other companies really use it? The answer is yes. According to the 2016 Brandon Hall Group Learning Strategy Study, 61 percent of organizations said blended learning is important or critical to their business and also said they were effective or very effective at improving individual performance.
The blended learning advantages are numerous and really combine the best of online and classroom learning. Plus, with employees citing training as the most important learning opportunity for job satisfaction above mentorship, tuition reimbursement, sabbaticals, and international fellowships, it’s important to take notice. Satisfied employees equal less costly turnovers and more company income.
Are you currently using a blended learning approach in your company’s training? If not, are you considering shifting to one? Please comment below and let us know your thoughts.