Using blended learning—online training that gives your team control over the time, place and pace of the program—has ample benefits for employees, as well as for the company. The flexibility of a virtual classroom allows employees to master content anywhere, anytime, on multiple devices. And the ability to conduct learning across time zones makes a synchronous learning model a great fit for a global organization.
However, there are many things to consider when implementing an online learning program. Even seasoned learning and development managers can be daunted by the task. Here are three strategies to help you successfully set up your virtual classroom:
Evaluate the Needs of Your Employees
A successful blended learning program is one that is designed with the needs of the employee in mind. Adult learning theory, termed andragogy, emphasizes that adult learners are motivated when what they’re learning meets a definable need and has application in their daily lives. Before you roll out a new program, take time to research and target the specific areas of growth for your company.
The Speexx Exchange survey in 2015 showed that 98% of participating organizations saw good communication as “very important” or “important.” Before you can implement an effective blended learning program that addresses employee needs, you need to learn what those needs are. So take some time to survey employees about what they feel they need to learn in order to be more effective at their job—this will incentivize them to participate to a fuller extent, even when they’re busy on the job.
Lay the Groundwork for Active Participation
Building rapport between every member of the virtual classroom community is an important step in ensuring active class participation. To do this, start by getting to know each other:
- Trainers should set time aside at the start of a session to do a personal introduction
- Have trainers encourage each employee to then give their own introduction
- Students should share their background and what they hope to learn from the course
During the course, ask employees to share their strategies for finding time in their work day to participate. This will help other participants, too. Taking the time to get to know each other and share ideas builds camaraderie, and creates a connected and engaged classroom community even in a distance learning model.
Make Learning Interactive
When you are designing a blended learning program, it’s important to promote interaction among participants. At Speexx, we have found that a class size of up to eight students results in the highest quality of learning and engagement.
Regardless of your class size, it’s important to use instructional practices that facilitate interaction. Vary the instructional methods of a class to ensure a balance of trainer-student and student-student communication. Speexx has scalable learning solutions for a variety of group sizes, and the Speexx Virtual Classroom allows students across time zones to engage with their instructor and peers in real time, which encourages deeper and more active learning.
For the best results, employees should be fully engaged in their training. For example, it may be difficult or impossible to learn a language just by listening to an instructor lecturing. Instead, employees need to practice together in pairs or small groups. This type of student-centered training shifts responsibility onto the student and away from the trainer.
As education becomes increasingly globalized, blended learning is becoming the norm. Instead of requiring all students to sit together in a classroom, online learning can be done from anywhere, at any time. And when done right, it can be just as effective as face-to-face instruction. A well-designed virtual classroom is the first step.
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