6 Success Factors for a “Blended Friendly” LMS
By Caleb Johnson, Director of Strategic Accounts, Expertus
Blended learning. Integrated learning. Hybrid learning. Flipped classroom. Whatever term you prefer — the idea of mixed learning modes appeals to training practitioners. There’s good reason for enthusiasm. Educational experiences that incorporate both synchronous and asynchronous elements can be much more engaging and effective than a one-dimensional approach.
But do you know how effective your blended learning programs really are? It’s a legitimate concern — especially in today’s fast-moving e-learning market, where digital innovation is around every corner. It’s hard to keep up, let alone measure and analyze business results.
Of course, the concept of blended learning is nothing new. 10 years have passed since one of the most recognized experts in corporate learning, Josh Bersin, wrote a definitive guide on this subject. His Blended Learning book includes extensive case studies and lessons learned — where successful programs achieved ROI of more than 700%. And that was in a world that existed before the rise of cloud computing.
A lot can change in only a decade. Networked organizations are highly mobile, social and collaborative. Business leaders expect real-time global reach — not only across today’s global workforce, but also among customers and partners. And breakthrough tools continue to reinvent the way training practitioners design, develop and deliver learning experiences. The potential for compelling, cohesive blended learning has never been brighter.
Blended: Achieving The Best of Both Learning Worlds
What’s the best mix? Of course, that depends on your business goals and context. However, performance management consultant Dr. Sebastian Bailey, says training professionals should be aware of the potential points of failure for learning experiences focused on a single event:
POTENTIAL FOR LEARNING FAILURE
40% — Before Event — Advance preparation. Set context. Address the “why.”
20% — During Event — Develop and deliver core training activity.
40% — After Event — Reinforce knowledge transfer and behavior change.
In other words, without appropriate attention to essential steps before and after a training event, participants will “lose” the lesson.
Can an LMS Keep Failure Out of Your Mix?
To avoid missteps, your technology foundation should be built from the ground up for continuous learning and performance support. The infrastructure should be robust and highly flexible, to accommodate any combination of live and on-demand elements you require.
How do you decide if a learning management system is “blended friendly”? Ask your vendor to answer these questions:
1) Are synchronous and asynchronous modes fully supported?
How does the LMS facilitate ongoing blended “flow”? The environment should accommodate a complete learning experience — not just a single class, as is often the case. This gives instructional designers, trainers and students freedom to accomplish broader development objectives.
2) How well does it accommodate linear learning?
Many people equate the term “LMS” with course administration and e-learning delivery. But you want a platform that focuses on a student’s individual progress. Is it easy to monitor and guide students as they move through a series of structured learning events? Can instructors share relevant materials throughout the learning lifecycle? When students reach obstacles or achieve key milestones, how can instructors intervene to improve learning outcomes? For example, can they easily compile supplemental resources (videos, slide decks, PDFs and/or web links), and recommend specific items when students need extra guidance or reinforcement?
3) How deeply are virtual classrooms supported?
Beyond providing administrative functions for traditional classroom training, does the LMS integrate web conferencing tools to drive real-time global virtual learning events? Are instant messaging and live chat included, so students and instructors can interact and collaborate?
4) Are “self-service” options robust?
How extensively does the LMS support students when they choose to push the boundaries of prescribed training content? Is it easy to find additional information, share knowledge and learn independently — without interrupting a student’s normal digital workflow? And does this functionality look and feel comparable to web applications students use outside of learning activities?
5) Is LMS interaction designed with a “user first” mentality?
What drives the underlying logic — a student’s interests, or a training catalog? Is the learning experience naturally built around a student’s professional profile and development path? Can students easily find, connect and interact with classmates, just as they would in a social media environment? Does the LMS make it easy to join and participate in learning communities?
6) How do inquiry, reflection and discovery fit in?
Does the LMS offer simple tools to help students easily capture their thoughts, opinions, feedback and other notes for future reference? How are course assessments and ratings managed and shared? How well do tools facilitate expansive, self-directed investigation — even after completion of a course? For example are ongoing discussion forums available to help students validate ideas, reinforce their competency, and advance their knowledge among peers?
Business Benefits of Blended Solutions
Blended learning is most successful when the entire learning experience is more effective than the sum of its parts. A “blended friendly” LMS should be developed with this goal in mind. Flexibility is the key.
To learn how this approach works in enterprise environments, see how Siemens delivers a continuous learning experience to more than 10,000 employees, dealers and customers every day.