Part III : Where Are You with Your Blended Learning Strategy?
Before the spread of the internet in the early 2000s, there was the essential blend of instructor-led (ILT) training and self-paced “training in a box.” Self-paced media like video and print was sent out to learners. Early attempts to make it interactive started with the Video Disc, then CD-ROM and then went back to a linear tool: DVD. For the most part, “training in a box” delivered knowledge. The classroom experience was thought to be the only effective environment for skills training. The essential blend was knowledge/skills.
Along came the internet and duplication, packaging and shipping costs gave way to low-cost digital delivery on the internet. The Learning Management System (LMS) became essential to deliver and track completion. Video all but disappeared because of bandwidth limitations. Tests were added to check knowledge comprehension. But the essential blend remained the same:
Adobe Flash started as an internet player that eliminated browser incompatibilities and provided simple animation. Its scripting capabilities evolved, and with the addition of Flex, companies were able to create highly interactive simulations and integrate KPIs (key performance indicators) to align courses to drive measurable business improvement. Flash’s poor performance on mobile devices and security issues led to its phasing out to a simpler HTML5 development/delivery environment. Somewhere in the middle of that trend, authoring tools such as Captivate and Storyline came along which empowered instructional designers to create content with less programmer support.
Dumbing Down of eLearning
For many companies developing simple “page-turner” eLearning courses, the loss of Flash and the addition of authoring tools only lowered costs and shortened development time. For others, simulations, KPI integrations, and other highly interactive elements were put on hold and may have gradually faded away. Some professionals believe that the combination of classic LMS constraints, the demise of Flash and rise of authoring tools have actually retarded progress with making eLearning more effective by at least a decade. How has this trend affected your training strategy?
Improving Your Blend
The truly good news is that while we have lost Flash/Flex we have gained other media and technology that can transform your current training strategy into a more effective learning system that can drive performance beyond the formal training of the past. Here is a checklist of options to consider if you are not already using them today.
◊ Add engaging media:
Adequate bandwidth is no longer the online concern it once was and smartphones have become ubiquitous. Consider:
- More video in your eLearning, performance support and ILT activities
- VR 360
Quality media assets do require a budget to create but consider using a version of the same asset across the board in your formal ILT, eLearning and on the job support micro-learning.
◊ Add KPIs (key performance indicators)
Business data once considered the exclusive domain of the IT Dept. has become more accessible at less expense and progressive CIOs are looking to get it used in more parts of the business to drive performance. How can you use it to:
- Help managers identify their best opportunities for improvement and focus their training there
- Don’t stop there: help managers use the same KPIs to set goals and track progress
- At the end of the year, roll up the data to demonstrate “Training’s ROI”
- Add micro-learning on the job support that is triggered by KPI gaps
Don’t let the capabilities of your classic LMS hold you back. Companies work around this by:
- Customizing their LMS
- Developing a cloud solution that deep links into the LMS
- Replacing the classic LMS with a more capable version
If option #1 doesn’t get you there and you aren’t in the position to initiate #3 because of the time and expense it would take, #2 may be the newest and fastest way to get there.