Our Thinking

Blended Learning and Systems Training

Jennifer Kerwin

What’s the best way to teach a large group of employees how to use a new internal system?

A. In-class training with hands-on practice
B. Complete user guide in PDF format
C. e-Learning modules
D. A blend of all the above

For a large group of employees with varying skill levels, the blended learning approach is the ideal solution.

Blended learning (mixing different learning environments, presentation types and media) addresses the various learning styles of your audience. It’s an excellent approach for adult education and corporate training. By offering content through in-class training, e-Learning, documentation, job aids and on-the-job training, you empower the learner to access the information in ways that suit their learning style.

Often blended learning is used to optimize in-class and one-on-one training time by providing foundational content (e.g., terms, regulations, and process steps) through e-Learning courses. Classroom time is then used to teach deeper concepts and complete practice exercises. This technique works well when there are many facets to the subject you are teaching and also reinforces technical training.

Content Management System (CMS) Training Scenario

Let’s say we need to teach 100 members of an organization how to use a new Content Management System (CMS) for an external website. In this scenario, let’s also assume that the learners have varying levels of computer skills. They are going to learn to use the CMS to update specific web pages, but their usage will be sporadic (varying from once a week to once a month). Here is a blended solution that meets the needs of the various learners and offers reinforcement for their ongoing use of the CMS.

  1. Conduct in-class training sessions where you introduce the new CMS, explain why it is important to the organization and show learners how to use the main system functions. Use this time to give examples about the best ways to use the CMS. Provide learners with a safe environment to practice using the CMS in a training mode or simulated version of the system.
  2. Create an online user’s guide that reinforces the in-class training and acts as an on-the-job reference. This is ideal in cases where the system users may not be required to access the program all the time. The guide can be created using a tool like WordPress or saved in a PDF file.
  3. Develop short (2-3 minutes) e-Learning modules that address how to perform system-specific tasks. This type of e-Learning module acts as a “mini” training session. They are a quick way to refresh a learner’s memory by reminding them how to perform the task. You can even create links in your online user’s guide that launch these modules. This way, users can read about the task and then watch the module to see how to perform it.

The components of blended learning must to be rolled out simultaneously. After completing the in-class training, employees can be given system access, the user’s guide and the e-Learning modules. The practice time in the classroom and access to these training materials will help users feel confident with the new system.

The training materials also support those employees who are responsible for answering questions about the new system. Whether that responsibility lies with your training department, IT or dedicated help desk, they will be able to direct users to the online user’s guide or specific e-Learning modules when questions arise.

Blended learning for systems training also offers advantages for maintenance and systems updates. If system functionality changes or new functionality is added, making updates to an online user’s guide and revising an e-Learning module requires less effort and coordination than conducting another round of in-class training.

Not every system’s rollout will require a large training initiative, but when you are teaching a large group of users and need to establish ease-of-use and compliance quickly, blended learning is the way to go.

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