Benefits, applications and software required
Blended learning has long been a trend and is becoming increasingly relevant. In this article, we explain the benefits of this learning method, the different areas in which it can be applied, what different models look like and what you need to deploy successfully. This will enable you to work out how to introduce an effective blended learning yourself.
What is blended learning?
The term “blended learning” refers to a mix of different forms of learning. The aim is to combine the advantages of analog face-to-face sessions, such as seminars or workshops, with the flexibility of digital learning. The content of analog sessions can be consolidated in digital form or reallocated to enable face-to-face sessions to give more time to practical instruction that requires personal support from teachers or specialized rooms. This not only makes learning more effective for everyone involved, but also offers more flexibility in terms of where and when people learn.
Verband der europäischen Blended-Learning-Akteure e.V. [Association of European Blended Learning Experts]
In blended learning, the various forms of learning are brought together and interlinked in such a way as to take advantage of the benefits of each form of learning and compensate for their disadvantages.
This definition itself illustrates the differences between eLearning and blended learning. While eLearning refers exclusively to teaching and learning via electronic media of all kinds, blended learning combines eLearning with face-to-face learning. Both forms of learning have advantages and disadvantages. The symbiosis between the two forms of learning allows each to compensate for the disadvantages of the other, and enables the advantages of both to be enjoyed.
Benefits of eLearning
- learn at your own pace
- customized learning formats
- flexible timing
- learn anywhere
- saves on resources
- efficient and effective
Disadvantages of eLearning
- lack of personal guidance
- lack of commitment to the process
- technical equipment required
Benefits of face-to-face learning
- personal support
- commitment to the process
- opportunity to go into detail about more complex content
- opportunity to learn in specialized rooms, such as laboratories
Disadvantages of face-to-face learning
- limited use of media
- fixed times
- fixed location
- difficulty making notes of learning
Advantages of blended learning
The combination of different learning methods delivers significant benefits compared with learning undertaken solely through face-to-face sessions or eLearning. Below is an overview of the key advantages of blended learning:
For all learner types
Not all people learn the same way. Some take in more knowledge through listening, others through clear infographics, images, and videos, while others need to experience things themselves in order to remember them. The combination of face-to-face sessions and eLearning means everyone can focus on the most effective learning method for them as individuals. For example, if someone finds it difficult to listen for prolonged periods, they can listen again later, using eLearning to learn in small bites. Those who are more practically inclined can look through the theory on their tablet at home before practical seminars and then consolidate it directly.
Motivation through external monitoring and self-direction
The self-direction required with eLearning contrasts with the external monitoring involved with face-to-face learning. This ensures that learners who find it more difficult to learn independently are also motivated. Levels of knowledge can be compared and adjusted, and teachers can go over new content that would be challenging for learners to assimilate through self-directed learning.
In addition to face-to-face events, blended learning offers the opportunity to decide for yourself when and where to get to grips with new information. Not everyone prefers to learn early in the morning or at a tidy desk. Instead of forcing learners into a fixed timetable that suits neither their individual needs nor their day-to-day lives, the self-direction involved with blended learning ensures that learning is as effective as possible.
Different types of learners require different learning formats. Auditory learners have no problem with an hour of chalk and talk. However, visual learners need to read, look and observe. Haptic learners learn best by touch and trying things out for themselves—they need something in their hands. Communicative learners thrive on discussions with others. If face-to-face sessions are supplemented with eLearning units that use a wide variety of methods, the mixture enables all types of learners to acquire knowledge.
Application of blended learning
In general, blended learning can be used wherever learning is taking place. The areas where it can be most effectively applied, however, are still those where face-to-face sessions used to be the norm and are now being supplemented by eLearning.
In-house training courses at companies
Blended learning is also ideally suited to learning in the course of the working day. Adults have more commitments to their families and/or careers than children and young people. Blended learning can be the ideal solution here, giving people who work the freedom they need to learn. It is therefore not uncommon for blended learning to pave the way for further training that would not be compatible with learners’ lives if delivered solely through traditional face-to-face sessions.
Participating in dual education (apprenticeships combined with vocational education) usually entails learning in the company, at school and at home, and is therefore often associated with significant logistical challenges for trainees. So blended learning has a lot of potential in this context.
Schools, universities and educational institutions
While face-to-face learning is still the dominant learning method in Germany, Google Classroom has long been part of everyday school life in the USA. Almost no activity is more suited to blended learning than teaching and lectures at schools and universities. It uses modern media to help students retain knowledge and makes it easy for them to work together.
Common models of blended learning
The term “blended learning” merely means that face-to-face sessions are combined with eLearning. However, each blended learning scenario is different: Sometimes the focus is on face-to-face sessions, sometimes on eLearning. How these are ultimately interlinked depends on the subject matter and the approach to teaching, and can be decided anew for each course. There is no fixed recipe. Three models have proven effective in practice. But be courageous and feel free to adapt them to your own course:
Why blended learning and microlearning work so well together
Microlearning is a form of eLearning. It breaks down the total knowledge to be delivered into learning units that are as small as possible. We like to refer to this as “snackable content”, because content is delivered in small, easily digestible bites, for instance short videos, quizzes or traditional units taking no longer than 10 minutes. This avoids overwhelming learners while enabling you to bolster long-term learning and helping learners to integrate learning into everyday life in the most effective way. This method combines very well with blended learning, since learners are less inhibited about starting learning—especially where independent learning is following a demanding classroom session.
The 5 components of blended learning
Putting blended learning into practice
Online learning platform
The right software
The best way of organizing blended learning is to use learning management system (LMS). This is a learning platform that brings all the key things together and centralizes training. It networks participants and teachers, allows you to design courses and roll them out in segments, and measures learning outcomes. In addition, it makes all learning material available, enables learners to exchange ideas and allows binding deadlines to be agreed.
If you want to create your own online courses, you’ll also need a learning content management system—authoring software. This allows you to create your own eTraining courses, which you can then roll out via your learning platform. In addition, it’s always possible to buy ready-made online courses or have an agency tailor them to your needs.
Fascinating media and state-of-the-art eTraining
Of course, software isn’t everything. eLearning courses require high-quality media, including for blended learning. Never let yourself be tempted to skimp on the quality of your eLearning—if you do, the blended learning concept will not work and you will lose the advantages of eLearning.
Explanatory videos, for example, are particularly popular and effective. It’s not for nothing that all social media trends revolve around moving images: YouTube, TikTok, Instagram stories. Video content is easier to consume than text. It also appeals equally to auditory and visual learners. These characteristics make videos, VR and gamification, the eLearning media that are currently promote the best recall. Multimedia interaction also enhances your eTraining, supports motivation and makes learning enjoyable.
Clear instruction for learners
When we remember the comparison between face-to-face and eLearning, we notice that the key difference lies in support for learners. So eLearning needs to include features that provide the best compensation for this lack of support. The simplest technique—in addition to networking on the LMS—is clear calls to action. Ensure that learners always know clearly what is required of them and set them clear tasks to guide them through courses and the entire range of training programs. Calls to action should be capable of being acted on immediately and precisely formulated so as not to require more than 1–2 sentences in response.
The bottom line.
Blended learning is appropriate for all learning projects requiring face-to-face sessions and personal support. In this context, blended learning can compensate for the disadvantages of face-to-face learning by combining it with eLearning. This mixture enables learners to consolidate their knowledge on a lasting basis while benefiting from eLearning’s flexibility in terms of where and when they learn. Participants thus not only learn more effectively, but are also better able to integrate learning into their everyday lives. In addition to your teaching concept, all you need to deliver eLearning is a learning management system (learning platform) to organize the (joint) eLearning.
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