You want to schedule a meeting with your sales team. But your simple meeting request is met with, “I am out of the office that day,” “I am traveling to a sales call” or from the meeting facilitator, “I am having a hard time finding an open conference room to train.” In-person training can be challenging to coordinate multiple schedules and to justify costs associated with it.
One the other hand, online training can leave employees feeling disconnected from a group exercise or left with unanswered questions. This leads to frustrated team members and an unsuccessful training session. That’s why more and more companies are now implementing blended learning training.
Blended learning tools for training success
Blended learning is simply a hybrid of classroom and online training. It can take the headache out of the scenario we just gave. And likewise, the headache of the drawbacks of a solely-based online training program. Blended learning gives you options and flexibility. So what blended learning tools are available today? How can you make the most of your blended learning training sessions? Here are some top tools we recommend.
1. Use learning management system partner
If you don’t currently use a learning management system (LMS) partner, it’s time to find a provider. LMS companies can build your training system to support both in-person training and online training. Once your system is in place, an LMS provider will help you create personalized training experiences, reduce training costs, and track employee performance/skill development. Plus, your employees will learn smarter and be more engaged during the training process.
2. Educational games
People of all ages play video games. But besides recreational fun, games are a great way to infuse your training with new life. Gamification in training is another blended learning tool to keep employees learning and remain an active participant during a training session.
There are four different types of games you can implement.
Serious game or educational games come in the form of quests or legends and are under a general theme. Some theme examples are movies, T.V. shows or casino games. Employees are divided into teams that compete against each other using their mobile devices. Everyone receives instructions on a general screen and results are given in real-time.
Audience response systems
Sitting through a classroom-led presentation can be boring. Instructors try and reach out to the audience to make it more interactive, but how many in the room really interact during a given session? Maybe five at the most?
That’s where audience response systems (ARS) can be a great blended learning tool. All employees are given a tablet during the training session with a pre-installed ARS app. The instructor then asks a general question or polls the attendees and everyone responds by typing in their answer on their tablet. Answers are calculated in real-time and then can be displayed back to the audience in a graph format. Employees stay engaged, data can be collected for future training use, and everyone leaves training feeling like their voice was heard.
FAQ cards is another great blended learning tool. They can be used as part of your training workshops in sales or customer service scenarios. What you can do is role play with your team and each card of the FAQ app can present a challenging situation. A participant would then open the card, read it, and act out the scenario given.
Since repetition has been shown to work well in memory retention, it is great to incorporate during training. Interactive poster apps are one of the blended learning tools that can solidify key messages for takeaway.
Basically, participants scan a QR code of a poster or a brochure for example. Then, they are granted access to more information on the training subject matter. Once they memorize this material, participants are then tested through quizzes on what they have learned. It’s a fun way to memorize key information through gamification.
3. Digital badges
Digital badges are another great blended learning tool to consider implementing. They can be used in a few ways. One is it can help designate one type of course from another; making it easier for employees to locate within a learning management system. Secondly, digital badges are a motivator for employees to successfully complete a course or a series of courses.
Basically, you can assign different course with badges and track to see which employees are earning the most badges. Not only is it a great analysis tool, but digital badges can be used to award top performers.
Some companies to check out for digital badges include Credly and Badgr.
4. Formative assessment tools
Formative assessment tools are a great way to track how your blended learning program is running and how your employees are performing. Specific examples include how assignments are submitted, surveys or polls are taken, and tests are administered. These basic capabilities can be found in most learning management systems today. However, to get the most accurate assessment of how your program is performing and functioning, it’s a great idea to look for outside apps to integrate within your LMS.
Here are a few formative assessment apps to consider:
- FlipGrid: Creates prompts to start discussions and offers employee conversation via video
- Formative: Gathers and acts on employee feedback and tracks their growth for any employee subset on any type of device. Creates multiple types of questions including true/false, multiple choice, show your work, short answer, drawing or essay formats
- Quizizz: Builds personalized quizzes or searches through those made by others. Quizzes can be assigned via mode or for use in asynchronous settings
- Turbonote: Chrome extension that allows employees to take notes and reflect as they watch a video
- Kahoot: Creates, plays, and share fun learning games
- Answer Garden: A real-time learner participation, online brainstorming, and classroom feedback tool that allows you to see employees’ big concepts and takeaways
- Padlet: An online virtual bulletin board to collaborate, reflect and share links and pictures
Webinars are a great way to bridge the gap between in-person training and online training. It is a happy medium and therefore an ideal fit for your blended learning environment. Employees can ask questions, message peers, and webinars can be recorded for employees who can not attend the day of.
A couple tips of to make your webinars part of your key blended learning tools are to schedule them far enough in advance to avoid schedule conflicts. Also, send out a few reminders with an outline of what will be discussed before training day. That way employees are prepared to ask questions and can anticipate the subject matter better. After your webinar has ended, be sure to ask employees for follow up on how the training went and if there are additional questions that were not answered during the session.
When you first hear the word “blogs” you may think they are a vehicle to improve workplace communication externally. But blogs can also be beneficial in blended learning training internally, for employees.
Every employee’s skill set is different and usually different by department as well. Employees who do not deal with the latest technology or more seasoned employees may resent online training. In their eyes, new technology is hard to navigate and time-consuming for training purposes.
A way around this is to introduce blog writing as a blended learning training exercise. You can start by breaking your trainees into groups. Then task each one to write a blog about a key business problem and how they would solve it step by step.
There are so many free blogging platforms today and they are easy to use. So employees do not need to have graphic design or HTML experience. A few free blogging sites are WIX.com and Network Solutions.
Not only will this help improve employee and team communication skills, but it will also help your tech-shy employees feel more comfortable. And who knows, maybe one of these employee-created blogs can make your internal or external blog feed?
The worst part about training is you teach your employees new skills and then they soon forget these skills once they return to their desks. Or, worse, they convert to their old methods. In order to avoid this situation, you want to teach skills, but more than teach skills, you want these skills retained and used by your employees.
That is where simulations come in. Simulations reinforce what was learned and help with changing employee habits. In order to begin, you first want to teach employees key skills in whatever format you want. Then, you want to set up a simulation highlighting these key skills along with any pre-existing knowledge your employees may have. This will help tie new skills with what they are already using.
Simulations should be around 10 minutes to fit with busy schedules and keep employee attention. Also, make sure these can be performed in-person, but also via mobile for contractors or sales staff that are traveling frequently. And each simulation should only focus on one key topic or task to avoid sensory overload. Simulations are a great way for employees to learn from one another and reinforce new skills.
8. Social media pages
Some other great blended learning tools are social media pages. Employees often sift through personal Facebook or Twitter accounts so why not make them part of training? For example, you could create a LinkedIn page for a certain sector of employees. Add posts periodically and invite trainees to add comments or feedback. Or start at YouTube channel and post webinars, presentations, and tutorials.
Social media pages are also a great way to keep training top of mind for your employees. For example, you can gain insight into how your training program is doing. Try posting a poll on a Facebook page on what training employees would like to see in the future. And you can use the calendar feature to post upcoming training sessions.
9. Case studies
Case studies are a great way to train employees whether in the classroom or online. If you are teaching several new concepts, it’s easy to forget what was taught once back on the job. But with case studies, employees are taught concepts and then immediately asked to apply these concepts during training.
In order to implement case studies in training, you’ll first want to come up with some real-life scenarios Then, you can share these scenarios with your employees. Working in groups, attendees will work to solve each issue at hand. If in a classroom setting, ideas can be written on large pieces of paper taped to the wall. Or if you are working virtually, ideas can be shared via virtual message board.
10. Story mapping
Story Mapping was invented by Jeff Patton. He has been using this technique to design software products for several years now. Basically, story maps look at a product or feature from a user perspective. This same technique can be a useful blended learning tool. You want your employees to always think in terms of how your product or service is used by your customers.
So using a visual map, employees will plot the customer experience at each stage. For example, if attending a blended learning course, the steps you may take are:
- Be informed about the course by an instructor.
- Discover the course.
- Take the course and be engaged throughout the course.
- Finish the course.
- Go back to work and apply the new skills of the course.
What techniques or tools work for you?
We’ve given you 10 great blended learning tools to take your training to the next level. But we are curious about what works best for your company. If you currently use a blended learning environment for your training, what tools or activities are the most successful? What feedback have you received from your staff about these tools?
Please comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to learn what others are doing well.