I can’t seem to read a training journal, magazine, or conference abstract lately without hearing about blended learning. It seems that everyone is in search of the holy grail of the perfect mix of classroom and online, real-time and anytime, instructor-led and self-service learning.

What is the perfect mix? Well, it depends. Most specifically, it depends on:

The Nature of Your Learning Goals

Some types of learning goals (e.g. complex technical skills, human interaction skills, intense behavioural change) are best handled in face-to-face real-time learning environments. Others (e.g. knowledge attainment, grasping new processes, compliance issues) may better be handled asynchronously online. The best situation is one in which both modes support what happens in the other. For example, self-paced online modules could prepare learners for intense face-to-face role playing sessions in order to maximize the efficiency of these real-time events.

The Nature of Your Learners

When blending learning modes, much will depend on the nature of your learners. Where are they? Are they centrally located or geographically dispersed? What are their ages? What is their experience and comfort with technology? What are their learning styles? Answers to these questions will have a significant bearing on the kind of blending that is necessary and practical.

The biggest mistake when blending different training modes is to stack them together without any thought to real integration. This can lead to disjointed and/or repetitive training programs.

Getting the right mix in blended learning is a lot like cooking. You want all the constituent ingredients complementing each other, rather than over-powering each other, and fighting for attention.

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