11 Minutes of reading
Creating an innovative training course with blended learning
As new technologies have appeared and learner expectations have changed, new trends have emerged over the past few years, including blended learning, mobile learning, social learning and adaptive learning. This is all thanks to new tools, particularly learning management system (LMS) platforms.
These tools and techniques have afforded trainers the creative freedom to enrich modules by mixing up learning formats and varying the user experience. Blended learning, which consists of blending distance and face-to-face learning sequences, is an ideal way to breathe new life into modules and add value to them.
What are the best ways to make a training course innovative, creative and effective, all at the same time? In this article, we’ll explain the link between innovation and training and offer five strategies that you can apply straight away to make your modules more creative.
Instructional design at the heart of the creative process
The main function of instructional design is designing a training course that is fine-tuned to learners’ needs.
Instructional design defines the target audience of the training course and its core teaching objectives – be it learning how to use a new piece of software or implement a new process, refreshing on-the-job knowledge or adapting to the changing requirements of a role.
With instructional design, training is broken down into three units:
- Time – will the training be synchronous or asynchronous? In other words, will learners be able to undertake training whenever they like, or will they be expected to meet with a trainer at a scheduled time?
- Location – where will the training take place? Instructional design should determine whether the best approach is face-to-face or distance learning. Blended learning tends to offer a good happy medium, enabling learners to benefit from the best of both methods.
- Action – how will learners learn? Whether it’s best to opt for individual or group training may depend on how technical a subject is and how much free time participants have to spare.
How innovation can inform training
Innovation is defined as making improvements to an existing object or process. Whatever its area of application, innovation can have an impact. It can bring about unprecedented and even spectacular changes. Adding innovative elements to a training module is therefore a great way to grab learners’ attention and arouse their curiosity.
The gradual evolution of teaching techniques
Innovations in technology are leading to the rapid evolution of professional environments. As a result, the old model in which learners would undertake initial training and then set off on a career path without refreshing their knowledge has become obsolete.
Once the privilege of school pupils or university students, learning has been reinvented in the space of a century. Nowadays, professionals can benefit from all the resources and skills they need to perform their current roles as well as any future positions.
In recent times, training has been marked by important milestones in terms of innovation:
- The emergence of lifelong learning;
- The appearance of audio, video and interactive content;
- The birth of e-learning;
- The rise of blended learning.
Innovations in training have also led to the emergence of new occupations and areas of expertise. Hosting e-learning communities and managing digital learning are just two examples of these emerging occupational trends, which have grown exponentially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
E-learning: simpler, quicker, but trickier to handle
The various different e-learning methods, including blended learning, tend to appeal to most employees, who want training that they can fit around their schedules and complete at their own pace. These methods have already been adopted in a vast number of companies.
According to a 2022 survey of over 200 HR, L&D and people management professionals conducted by KPMG, over 75% of respondents were actively considering learning as part of their hybrid workforce strategy, and around half said that they would be using hybrid (i.e., blended) learning within the next 1–2 years.
However, the success of an online training course isn’t always guaranteed. To ensure high participation and completion rates, instructional designers need to focus all their efforts on the creative process involved in creating a training course by integrating attractive, innovative and well designed modules. From the learner’s point of view, it’s much easier – and much more tempting – to “drop out” of a virtual course than an in-person course attended by other participants.
In addition, developments in neuroscience have progressively advanced our understanding of how the human brain captures and retains information. This discipline offers the key to designing an optimised e-learning package.
5 ways to make blended learning modules more creative and innovative
Having different formats will allow you to inject enthusiasm into training courses, respond to learners’ needs and optimise their level of engagement. While our list isn’t exhaustive, we’ll present five strategies that will help you to improve any blended learning training course.
1. Get to grips with the art of storytelling
An effective training course supports learners and provides them with a narrative. It needs to have an overarching theme or golden thread that brings together all the modules and makes it coherent. From the very outset of the course, participants in blended learning courses need to understand and assimilate:
- The skill they are going to acquire as part of the training course;
- What’s in it for them, whether that’s being able to save time in their day to day work or benefit from new professional development opportunities.
Good storytelling comes down to a few simple techniques. One of these is to regularly refer to real-life situations that learners can easily identify with. Another is to create a persona, i.e., a fictional, archetypal character, that can be evoked in different modules to illustrate certain points.
2. Use social learning techniques
Social learning consists of promoting learning via interactions between learners themselves. It is based on innate human behaviours, such as wanting to emulate and support others. Different members of a group tend to want to help one another to clarify parts of modules that they haven’t got to grips with, or even concentrate harder so that they don’t get left behind by their peers. Social learning can take the form of channels including:
- Forums and instant messaging;
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or professional sites (LinkedIn, company intranet);
- Videoconference sessions.
Working in a group is also one of the top recommended social learning techniques. Whether collaboration takes place in a training room or remotely as part of a virtual class, it is often more effective than the traditional form of training in which a trainer lectures a room full of learners. It means that each learner can tell the other members of the group what they are struggling with and therefore progress more quickly than if they were working alone.
Modules geared towards social learning should naturally be considered in conjunction with other, more classical formats, which provide members of the group with the preliminary knowledge they need to make individual progress, too.
3. Incorporate aspects of serious games
The concept of serious games, or applied games, first appeared in the IT world. It involved designing software that used game mechanisms for an objective other than pure entertainment, which set it apart from video games. Serious games can be used to raise awareness of a political cause, support a marketing campaign or, of course, teach skills more easily.
In the context of training, serious games are actually a well-worn concept. As the saying goes, what we learn with pleasure we never forget. With serious games, learners can gain hands-on experience, such as through:
- Interview simulations;
- A mock training call with a dissatisfied customer.
In the case of a training course involving the acquisition of a manual skill, serious games are clearly an ideal learning method – whether it’s using a dummy to practise first aid or a fake assembly line to learn how to master a new work process.
4. Use gamification techniques
Just as serious games can be used to liven up in-person sessions, gamification techniques are particularly well suited to distance learning modules.
Gamification involves adding a playful element to training by integrating elements from the world of gaming.
- Faced with a difficult challenge, learners are motivated to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective. When experienced as an exciting challenge, an e-learning course is much more likely to capture learners’ attention.
- It’s important for participants to feel as if they are making progress to stay motivated. In practice, this could involve unlocking additional content for them if they succeed in completing an exercise.
- The reward or “gratification” is an essential component of gamification and assumes paramount importance, even when it is purely virtual. In practice, this could involve awarding badges which are displayed on learners’ profile pages, having a points-based or levelling-up system or ranking players in a league table.
- Lastly, collaboration between players can be a powerful way of encouraging each participant to play along – with the game itself and with the learning process in general.
5. Add audio content
Sound content, whether accompanied by video or not, is occasionally useful for capturing and retaining learners’ attention, especially when you want to avoid burdening learners with too much text-heavy content. It can include:
- An interview with or presentation by an expert;
- A scripted scenario to help with a role play;
- A podcast.
Modules that bring together sound and text are a particularly engaging and proven way of capturing learners’ attention and enabling them to retain knowledge better. They are a useful tool for most blended learning courses.
In summary, innovation is at the heart of every effective teaching approach! It’s worth playing around with all the functionalities offered by novel authoring tools and LMS platforms so that you can test them in real-life scenarios.
The variety and interactivity of training modules play a big part in their potential success and infiltration rate. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have varied content to ensure that you can capture and retain learners’ attention.