A ship without sails: Why single source is integral to blended learning

September 29, 2014 Monica Kraft

What's your reaction when you hear about climate change? Is it a predictor of worldwide Armageddon? Have you begun saving up for a boat in advance of rising sea levels? But, global ecology isn't the focus here. The rapidly evolving and shifting environment and organizational patterns in learning and development have sent waves throughout the industry. And they can bring about similar feelings of dread among companies that are ill-equipped to deliver training to their workforce.

Where should L&D organizations look for inspiration?
The Brandon Hall Group's report, "The State of Learning & Development 2014: Coming of Age," emphasized the expanded role that blended learning plays in corporate environments. Blended learning increasingly underpins many of the corporate strategies that are either in place or in their nascent stages. Achieving organizational maturity hinges on the ability to leverage blended learning in purview of a content management system.

Beyond the buzz: What is blended learning?
In the simplest of terms, blended learning is the combination of classroom learning strategies and e-learning. According to eLearning Industry, blended learning is a formalized framework that integrates online components along with offline resources.

This hybrid offspring combines elements of both modalities in response to the demands of the modern workspace, where employees collaborate and share information both onsite/in-person and offsite. Mobile workers and a decentralized office environment provide the impetus for online tools that support on-demand learning and social sharing, while instructors can facilitate training in more traditional scenarios that provide hands-on activities. The objective is to engage the workforce by accommodating different learning styles using a learning management system that tracks performance to provide measurable outcomes.

What's driving businesses to adopt a different L&D framework?
Learning culture is beginning to take hold in a number of enterprises. Learning and development has become a core function of meeting business goals instead of being seen as a line item on the yearly budget. As many as 76 percent of organizations do a moderately effective job of aligning their learning goals with their performance objectives, while nearly 44 percent do this at a high or very high level (The State of Learning & Development 2014: Coming of Age).

In nearly 46 percent of organizations, decision-makers at the highest levels—largely chief learning officers—are more likely to be the ones controlling the spending than human resources professionals, and executives are establishing learning strategies in more than half of all those cases.

Most importantly, blended learning drives measurable outcomes. Korean automaker Hyundai integrated a blended learning solution that resulted in a 17 percent improvement in the amount of time it took for customer service agents to handle telephone inquiries, and a 20 percent increase in the quality of customer support. Meanwhile, that car company saved $360,000 annually using a blended learning approach to training.

Blended learning develops a culture of learning
If L&D organizations want to meet corporate objectives, they need to transition to an alternative model of learning, where learning is part of the company's culture and it’s integrated to the extent that employees can learn at any point in time, as needed. As Learning Solutions Magazine noted: "We need to move away from seeing learning as (sometimes) disconnected events and create an environment that sustains ongoing learning."

The way employees absorb information and learn or strengthen their abilities is profoundly different than how these goals were accomplished in previous generations. Here's how companies are responding: 
Embracing blended learning modalities: Organizations leverage Web-based delivery through online modules and social collaboration resources through which peers, SMEs, and learners all connect. Additionally, discussion forums and social sites allow for user-generated and shareable content. As a result, learners can absorb chunks of information through online videos for performance support and personalized coaching.

Mobile delivery is a major factor that influences blended learning adoption. There are learning apps that deliver the same robust learning framework to employees, but they are freed from the restrictions of a workplace or training center. Content is accessible anywhere and anytime, in consumable nuggets of information. Finally, formal training can integrate the most engaging and interactive elements technology can bring to a learning environment, including e-learning tools using tablets and similar devices.

Why you need a unified content development platform
Imagine having to design, redesign, and repurpose all of the learning materials you have developed for a formal training course in order to create a coherent and effective blended learning course. And we haven't even touched on the ways in which you're going to measure the performance and real-time impact of online, social, mobile, and in-person training. Consider the following questions:

  1. How do you create L&D materials that are consistent across all channels?
  2. What happens when you need to alter information?
  3. How can you do it quickly and accurately?
  4. How do you keep timeless content (legal or compliance language) from being altered?
  5. What do you do when content needs to be translated into various languages but still retain its integrity?
  6. How can you reuse and repurpose content for a variety of channels and courses?

Single-source authoring is essentially the only way to guarantee that you can confidently address these questions and develop a blended learning strategy that's altogether accessible and effective.

What's more, the blended learning cloud allows instructional designers and subject matter experts to collaborate across borders and time zones to develop learning content once, instead of having to create multiple iterations for social posts and formal training.

Final thoughts
Towards Maturity released data showing that 94 percent of L&D leaders are seeking ways to more rapidly apply learning in the workplace. Another 92 percent are hoping to be more agile in responding to business changes. The most effective way to reach these goals is by integrating a single-source authoring platform that empowers a culture of learning sustained by an effective blended learning strategy.

Why Blended Learning is Better, http://elearningindustry.com/why-blended-learning-is-better
The State of Learning & Development 2014: Coming of Age (pdf), http://go.brandonhall.com/state_of_learning_and_development_ES
The Brandon Hall Group Hyundai Case Study (pdf), http://www.brandonhall.com/blogs/welcome-to-the-culture-of-learning/
Social, Informal Learning Can Be Measured, http://www.clomedia.com/articles/social-informal-learning-can-be-measured

About the Author

Monica Kraft

Monica Kraft is the Director of Product Marketing for Xyleme, Inc. Xyleme is a unique market solution focused on content management that drives great learning experiences anywhere and on any device. In this role, Monica is responsible for all aspects of marketing for Xyleme and is on a mission to help organizations transform their content into an incredible business asset.

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