Blended Learning: how to make corporate training effective

That E-learning has changed the way training is a well-known fact by now. Since its establishment, however, two opposing schools of thought have stood out. The former has given full support to online learning, proving itself open to the novelties and countless possibilities offered by technology. The second, however, has distanced itself from it, continuing to prefer traditional learning modes. That is, until attempts were made to make them coexist by making courses that could take advantage of the strengths of both. After numerous attempts, and with the support of increasingly developed technology, the potential of this methodological approach became apparent. Blended learning has thus begun to be talked about.

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Blended Learning meaning

Several decades have passed since the advent of digital education, during which time there has been continuous development of software, hardware and network infrastructure. A technological advancement, therefore, that has benefited the development of many areas, E-learning included.

The spread of increasingly intuitive and lightweight devices, together with the continued enhancement of the Internet, have consolidated their effectiveness. But not only that! In addition to this, they have also enabled training professionals to implement training projects in Blended Learning mode, demonstrating its potential.

But what exactly is it all about?

When we talk about “Blended Learning,” we are referring to a particular methodological approach that mixes classroom training and remote E-learning training and whose adoption has been happening gradually.

At one time, in fact, training tracks allowed a choice of whether to take a course exclusively in-person or exclusively remotely. Alternatively, it was possible to alternate between the two modes without integrating them, such as conducting a theoretical part via computer and a practical part (simulations or exercises) in the classroom.

From analysis and feedback, however, it became clear that courses taken individually on the computer might not always prove 100 percent effective. Some form of in-person coaching or training expert was needed.

As a result, it proved necessary to rethink the way courses were conceived and planned, designing a type of training that would make use of both channels and exploit their respective strengths.

Thus, the first blended-mode courses were born, although they initially suffered from a lack of features such as scalability and traceability. Also lacking was a technology and network infrastructure with adequate power and affordable costs. These are all elements that form the cornerstones of Blended Learning today.

Blended Learning translation

The word “blended” in English means “mixed, blended,” indicating a willingness to draw from the two main areas of training, digital and in-presence.

Its Italian translation is “blended learning,” and although “Blended Learning” is the wording that is in vogue, it is possible that we are referring to this methodological approach using the Italian definition.

Blended teaching vs Blended Learning: are there differences?

At this point the question arises: is it possible to apply the principles of Blended Learning at school?

Distance Learning (DaD) was a recent experience in applying digital to learning in schools, which began as an emergency measure to carry out lessons during the pandemic. Therefore, DaD probably represented the first case in which school education made use of remote training.

Is it, then, blended learning? No, in this way the school has only begun to approach it, despite the fact that digital natives communicate differently than in the past. Indeed, both young and young-at-heart live and grow up in a system in which digital technologies are preponderant. The most obvious thing would be to take advantage of their familiarity with technology, to introduce innovative approaches in their school learning modes as well.

Thus, it arises spontaneously to think about the possible implementation of E-learning’s own strategies in school education as well, taking advantage of the propensity of younger people to know and understand reality through the screens of digital devices

Blended in school does not mean using an e-book instead of a textbook, but rather having a textbook that can go beyond that. Certain publishers have taken this cue and started producing textbooks that include QR codes: by simply framing them, students can access various multimedia content, in-depth E-learning, quizzes and video summaries.

However, in order for teaching to be truly blended as well, technology infrastructure needs to be upgraded. A step forward was taken with the introduction of the interactive whiteboard, the Interactive Multimedia Whiteboard, which allows the lesson to be expanded with the help of external content (locally or remotely) retrieved and edited for the occasion.

We can, therefore, say that the main difference between Blended Teaching and Blended Learning lies in the design.

Blended Learning is an approach to learning that can also be stimulated by an informal setting, and not only in a course structured by a professional. Blended teaching, on the other hand, is the result of planning and therefore requires that specific tools, resources and figures be put in place (something not all educational institutions have).

Blended Learning and corporate training: is it still applicable today?

The recent pandemic biennium can be regarded as a true watershed. On the school front, he introduced the first attempts at distance learning, making its advantages, problems and needs evident. On the corporate side, however, it has accelerated the digital transition, entrusting the network, intranets and online communication with many of the processes that were normally handled in the presence. At the time it was believed that training would become full-digital, but as time went on it became evident that talking about Blended Learning was still possible, to the point that many companies continue to use it to this day.

It should not be thought that the advantage of the blended formula is simply to supplement an in-person lecture with digital insights available to the user. Rather, on the contrary, depending on the specific needs of the company as well as the purpose of the course, there are contexts in which E-learning is used to guide users, while in-presence moments can be used to apply new knowledge in the field.

Without going into too much detail about the benefits, which we will examine in detail in a moment, the pivotal aspect of the blended approach is the centrality of the user, if not from a fully organizational point of view (since classroom lectures will always have defined locations and times), at least for the management of digital material.

Unlike an E-learning course, in which the fruition entirely follows the user’s time (and place), the advantage of blended lies in the possibility of having moments of confrontation between learners, as well as of verification/clarification/checkup between users and trainers; this makes it possible to clarify any difficulties or doubts.
The opportunity to apply this methodological approach, and especially to do so in a conscious and reasoned way, offers great added value. Alongside it, however, came an all-digital alternative, E-Blended Learning.

From Blended Learning to E-Blended Learning: what has changed?

Earlier we talked about how E-learning is able to grow and adapt in tandem with technology, whether it is improving the use of existing ones or being able to integrate with new ones. Of course, the Blended approach also benefits from these continuing improvements.

In the transition from Blended Learning to E-Blended Learning, however, we go even further.

In fact, E-Blended Learning can be said to be an all-digital variant of the blended approach. And if this sounds contradictory, know that it is not. Basically, we are talking about a kind of implemented blended mode, in which classroom portions are replaced by webinars or online video-conferencing classes.

The discriminator of this innovative blended learning, then, is no longer in-person/remote learning, but becomes synchronous/asynchronous learning. The E-learning portions remain delivered in the classical manner, while the in-person portions are replaced by classroom moments in digital format, webinars or virtual classroom moments that allow comparison and exchange among colleagues in the same course. The place of fruition becomes, therefore, entirely that of the home, or that which the user chooses for his or her education.

The models of Blended Learning and in E-blended mode.

Blended Learning is a methodological approach that, by its very nature, contemplates a wealth of types and options-in terms of the Learning Experience-that need simplification.

For this reason, possible models of Blended Learning have been identified that have, within them, frequent encroachments into E-Blended.

This classification is the result of the research work of teachers and trainers who have devoted themselves to designing Blended courses.

Let us look at the characteristics of the main models, in terms of methodology and user experience.

"Face-to-face" model

As the definition itself suggests, the “face-to-face” model involves the physical presence of the learners and the trainer/teacher. The Blended Learning mode encapsulated in this model lends itself to heterogeneous classrooms in terms of skills and competencies. In fact, it allows those who have already developed some skills to proceed independently in deepening advanced topics, rather than sitting idle waiting for the whole classroom to be aligned.

At the same time, this blended learning model offers the possibility of retracing online training modules, which is useful for users who need to catch up or who have not yet reached the level of learning in the rest of the classroom.


Rotation model

Referred to by some as the “individual rotation model,” this mode of Blended Learning involves two distinct moments: one in-person with the teacher, the other in E-learning mode. The opportunity provided by this model is to be able to go deeper with the teacher on the content on which learners struggle the most. The next step addresses the aspects in which learners are most knowledgeable and is entrusted entirely to digital training moments. Learning subjects, therefore, are physically divided into groups according to the need for learning.

Flipped Classroom Model

In this case, the digital methodology is based on an “online learning – offline application” logic. As the very name “flipped classroom” suggests, the teaching perspective is reversed: one studies first, remotely, and only then experiments and puts into practice in the classroom what one has learned. This particular model of the Blended approach redefines the role of the lecturer, who is seen primarily as a facilitator who stimulates users with questions or input during classroom moments that will be punctuated by exercises, simulations, and tests.

Online traction model

Also known as the “online driver” model, it is the closest methodology to pure E-Learning; in fact, it stipulates that content delivery is exclusively digital. Thus, users are connected from remote locations and access the necessary content and information via online platform. This model, therefore, contemplates both synchronous training-through the delivery of webinars or virtual lessons-and asynchronous training, that is, the possibility for users to enjoy a training module independently in a fully and purely E-Learning logic. While not providing for the physical presence of the lecturer, however, if necessary users can receive support from a tutor to discuss methodologies, information, and content of the course being run.

Flexible model

The flexible model is designed for a predominantly online learning experience, even if the user is physically in the classroom.

According to this methodology, the content is delivered in E-Learning mode, but the lecturer or trainer can intervene to support the user, to clarify doubts, supplement the content with further explanation, provide additional and illustrative concrete examples. This allows everyone to enjoy the course in E-Learning and teachers to focus only on users who require additional support.

Self-Blend Model

The Self-Blend is a concrete example of autonomy in learning management, insofar as the learning experience is enjoyed according to the user’s will. In fact, this model allows for in-depth online study of content already covered in presence and is particularly suitable in the case of additional and in-depth learning or directly for the study of topics for purely individual interest.

HyFlex Learning

Hyflex is short for Hybrid-Flexible, and HyFlex Learning therefore refers to a learning model that allows the learner to choose how the course is delivered. Those involved in a learning pathway can decide whether to follow the same activity in presence or in synchronous online mode. In addition to these two options there is a third, also online, but asynchronous: the learner can choose to address the training content by watching the lecture recording independently at a later time. The HyFlex learning mode offers greater flexibility than the hybrid model, leaving it up to the individual to determine when and how to attend classes.


Benefits of Blended Learning

Exploring the models leads us to shift the focus to the benefits of blended training.

So what are the advantages of Blended Learning?

How can blended learning enrich the educational experience?

Certainly, we have seen this in defining models, one opportunity offered by Blended Learning is the high level of customization. Each user of the learning experience can draw from a combination of methodologies, times of use, content blocks, assembled according to his or her characteristics and needs. The ability to access content online also allows for independent learning time management, alternating or supplementing with classroom training.

On the other hand, in-person training moments play an important role in linking the different steps of Blended Learning, as the lecturer provides an opportunity to go over topics to be clarified or deepened, conduct simulations in reference to the topics covered, and most importantly to take stock of the status quo of each individual learning subject.

Not least, the teacher’s work is greatly facilitated by the features of online platforms that offer useful tools for monitoring, checking and updating content.

The Blended methodological approach is also confirmed to be effective in the important moment of user evaluation: immediate feedback to the user in the platform is then sealed in the classroom with the teacher who offers the user the opportunity for confrontation by making the most of the opportunities of presence in terms of empathy and human contact.

How to implement a training course in blended mode

Even in the case of blended training, the heart of the course is in the design. Since it is a blended learning methodological approach, Blended Learning adds an element of complexity: the right dosage in the mix of the different components.

To this end, all the activities required by the needs analysis are confirmed as fundamental: identification of the target audience, objectives, and the level of technology required. These elements allow us to derive the most effective assemblage of elements in the methodology.

Below are the main steps in the process of designing and implementing a pathway in Blended Learning mode:

  1. Analysis of participants:
    • Identify target audiences and analyze their characteristics, skill level, and learning preferences.
    • Also assess the time availability of the participants, their specific needs, and the type of device available to them.
  2. Learning objectives:
    • Clearly define the learning objectives to be achieved by the blended pathway. Ensure that they are measurable or traceable to KPIs and linked to participants’ needs.
  3. Course content:
    • Develop the course content, including teaching materials, online resources, hands-on exercises, and interactive activities.
    • Check with the client that the content is appropriate for both online and classroom training.
  4. Identification of delivery methods:
    • Define which course content will be delivered online and which in the classroom. For example, theoretical lectures could be delivered online, while practical activities could take place in the classroom.
  5. Technology platform:
    • Identify a platform that supports blended training.
  6. Materials development:
    • Creation of teaching materials for online training. Ensure that they are accessible, engaging, and respect the principles of online learning and the logic of instructional design.
  7. Activity planning, roadmap:
    • Establish a detailed schedule for online and classroom activities.
      Considering timelines and deadlines, ensuring a balanced distribution of activities.
  8. Technical support and mentoring:
    • Provide technical support to participants and offer tutoring if necessary to answer questions and provide assistance during the course.
  9. Evaluation and feedback:
    • Implement evaluation methods both online and in the classroom, collecting feedback from participants to continuously improve the course.
  10. Final assessment:
    • Receive a final evaluation to measure achievement of learning objectives and gather information to improve future blended training sessions.

Blended Learning Examples

We report, now, an example of Blended Learning drawn from a real case of one of our clients. Specifically, the project involves a training intervention to increase the skills of HR Teams on two priority areas:

  1. Change management;
  2. Social media management.

The design of the pathway in Blended Learning

In the design phase, we devoted ourselves to defining the target audience of the course, in order to understand the necessary, and fundamental, elements for the design of the methodology and content: individual characteristics, pain points, learning style, activation levers.

Identifying the target users allowed us to define aspects such as language register and tone of voice in order to achieve maximum effectiveness from the blended learning experience.

To define the structure of the pathway, we then identified the following objectives:

  • Improve managerial and resource management skills;
  • Uniform the level of soft skills among HR staff;
  • Centralize the training of HR personnel;
  • Increasing the sense of belonging;
  • Provide guidelines on soft skills.

Depending on the characteristics of the users and the training objectives, the defined Blended structure included a pathway divided into gradually released training modules. In this way, the user can manage the learning phase of the content, the consolidation of the content, and the practice of the acquired skills.

To complement the Blended Learning formula, in-person team coaching sessions were integrated with the asynchronous mode to put into practice what was learned through the E-Learning modules.

Specifically, the structure included:

  • One hour of digital learning (asynchronous, on Client’s platform, designed and managed by Frog Learning);
  • A team coaching intervention, to consolidate the content learned, after each learning experience, lasting about three hours for five subgroups of ten

This allowed us to create engagement and a sense of team in the sessions and to internalize the goals and motivations of the project with the asynchronous part (which will remain available to users in the later stages of the project).

Supplementary activities of the Blended Learning pathway

The structure of the course in Blended Learning then contemplated a series of user activation and promotional launching operations of the learning experience:

  • The design of a communication schedule to promote the project;
  • A launch teaser video to share via e-mail, corporate intranet or app;
  • A personalized e-mail with engaging graphics;
  • Posts for internal and external social.

Learning Advisory

If you found this article on Blended Learning interesting and would like to know more details, we at Frog Learning can walk you through the intricacies of instructional design and address your specific needs.

Through our know-how and expertise, we provide companies with the most effective solutions in relation to their characteristics.

Do you want to choose a dynamic, flexible and highly customizable learning solution for your courses? Contact us and we will design together a training experience for your company with the Blended methodological approach!

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