Continuing Monday’s e-learning workshops track, Master Class D, “Creating, Sustaining or Re-energizing a Blended E-learning Program,” focused on the various trends and new iterations of the “blended learning” model of internet-based and classroom training programs.

John Best, vice president and managing director of The Quality Group, led an interactive discussion with attendees about how to adapting these blended programs to better suit the needs of individual organizations.

Best led off the workshop with the question: Is blended learning a passing fad or a true paradigm shift in our profession? He then went on to show that blended learning – or the use of various different media to teach concepts – has, in fact, been around it is a model that has been around almost as long as teaching. Instead of using, as Best put it, “storytelling, singing, reading, flash cards, puppetry and corporal punishment,” teachers today use internet quizzes, computer simulations and social media to create a rich learning environment.

Best listed some of the most common blended learning models:

  • E-learning self study – Self-study only, with no classroom instruction. Learner may use several media elements.
  • Instructor-led – A blend of e-learning and live classroom instruction. E-learning used as prerequisites or activities before or during class.
  • Live e-learning – Webinars are the most common form. Self-study exercises are often provided
  • Workplace learning – OJT with a manager or instructor. Used where complex skills must be learned by demonstration.
  • Lab simulation – Simulations that mimic the entire work environment are needed to provide a big-picture look at component interaction (for IT or application training).

The key to blended learning is not to get hung up on any single model listed above, Best said. Flexibility and customization are the watchwords. “Blended learning is not dependent on content, it’s dependent on the business need,” he said. “It’s not singular, it’s a blend. It’s not just one tool over the other.”

Elements to consider when selecting a particular blend of learning include the type of program, the target audience and location, budgetary concerns, available time and resources, content complexity, the need for accessibility, and available technology.

Blended learning programs must also consider the type of instructor needed. Just because a Master Black Belt is an expert at inferential statistics does not make that person a good facilitator or motivator. “I know some MBBs I would never want standing in front of any class,” Best added.

As an example of a successful adoption of a blended program, Best used his former employer, Seagate Technology. Originally, Seagate had “350 PowerPoint presentations for Black Belt training alone,” he sad. “There were nine different models we used just for regression analysis. Specialization was a complete disaster. Students didn’t realize why they were in class.”

To help solve the problem, Seagate used a concurrent model, where they held classes for Yellow, Green and Black Belts all at once. The course would start with and introduction to Lean Six Sigma (VOC, SIPOC, FMEA). Then the Green and Black Belts would move on to basics (process mapping, cause and effect, measurement systems, control charts, process capability). Then just the Black Belts would graduate to the advanced module (probability distributions, inferential statistics, DOE, linear regression, control plans, etc.).

“This model works well for smaller companies or larger companies where most of the people have been trained and it is difficult to fill classes. There are several topics which are common to all, and the common courses are taught to combined classes.”

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