Blended learning: The smart business choice for training soft skills

As an L&D or HR professional, you’ve probably heard about the benefits that a blended learning strategy can bring to your organisation. You may have even had some promising first experiences using blended learning, especially when it comes to boosting crucial soft skills. Or perhaps you’re trying to make a strong case to get your company’s leadership completely behind your vision of blended learning.

No matter what, it’s important to understand exactly what blended learning is, and how you can make maximum use of this form of learning. After all, you want to make sure that this learning strategy really is the best solution for upskilling your company’s workforce.

This article shows you how to get the most out of blended learning, with plenty of best practices from the blended learning experts at Schouten Global.

What blended learning really means

It’s easy to think of blended learning as an L&D approach that combines two ingredients: online and in-person learning. But it’s important to realise that the ‘blend’ doesn’t actually stop there.

According to Lonnieke Apon, Blended Learning Consultant at Schouten Global, ‘Blended learning, of course, means combining online and offline. But it is much more: it is about finding the best-balanced mix of learning interventions. Creating a learning journey with different methods, so you appeal to different learners’ preferences, like reading, watching, listening, discovering and reflecting’.

"Blended learning is about finding the best-balanced mix of learning solutions, not just combining offline and online."  – Lonnieke Apon, Blended Learning Consultant at Schouten Global

Blended learning has come a long way since the days of clicking through simple e-learning courses and online exams. Today, it’s about creating an interactive learning experience. And this gives learners the best of both online and offline training.

‘You’re not “replacing” classroom training; you’re actually making the classroom experience more meaningful. Online, you give the learner access to all the theoretical insights they need, using the method that works best for them. So, then when they come to an in-person training session, they have more time to really apply that knowledge and practise their soft skills’, explains Lonnieke.

The benefits of blended learning

If you’re new to blended learning or trying to spark interest among your colleagues, a good place to start is to look at the benefits. Here are a few that top the list:

It’s a personalised learning experience

In the end, you want every learner to reach their personal learning goals, and also the intended training goals for the company. Not every individual needs the same content to reach that desired outcome. Blended learning gives learners the freedom to design their own learning paths. Besides the required elements, learners choose the relevant content that fits their personal learning needs. As a result, they engage more fully with the content, and feel more rewarded while also learning more.

It’s more in-line with how people actually learn

Instead of making learners into passive recipients of information, the variety of learning interventions in a blended learning journey provides them with outlets to apply knowledge as they learn it. It turns in-person training into a more social experience, so it lets people acquire new skills in a more natural way.

‘We know that 70% of learning actually takes place in informal contexts, outside of the classroom and the online learning environment. When you allow enough space between these planned learning moments, people have the opportunity to learn in their safe work context. When you reflect on these “unconscious learning moments” afterwards, in a formal context, the learning effect increases’, says Lonnieke.

You can measure the results

Blended learning gives L&D teams access to a vast amount of data which helps them track and improve their learning content’s performance. Analytics like amount of completion and content rating systems show you exactly how engaging and relevant your learning material is, so you can continually adjust it. Plus, with online content, you have more flexibility to update and modify information if necessary.

"Blended learning puts the learner’s personal values and ambitions at the centre of the learning experience. It makes learning meaningful to them at every level: we feed the heart, mind and soul." – Lonnieke 

Best practices for blended learning

To maximise the effectiveness of your blended learning programme—and ensure the maximum return on investment—here are some best practices that Lonnieke and her team recommend and what Schouten Global’s blended learning journeys are well-known for:

Make it personal

Make the learning journey about the learner. And give your learners a sense of autonomy, so they engage more fully with the learning experience and play an active role in acquiring knowledge and skills. ‘Our approach to blended learning is to put the learner’s personal values and ambitions at the centre of the learning experience. That makes learning meaningful to them at every level: we feed the heart, mind and soul.’

Make it social

Use in-person training moments to solidify social skills and encourage interactivity between learners. Methods like learning by doing and peer coaching are ideal choices for further leveraging the benefits of social learning. You can also make online learning more social by linking a discussion to assignments or adding a forum to your learning platform.

Make it measurable

To clearly determine the effectiveness of your blended learning programme, you’ll need a method for evaluating learning outcomes. ‘At Schouten Global, our Research Department has developed our own scientifically proven Effect Scans, including 360-degree feedback. These statistical insights help you measure two things: the business impact of your learning programme and, equally important, the skill development of the learner,’ says Lonnieke.

Ready to learn more?

Blended learning is a powerful L&D methodology that offers many measurable benefits. It can be used to teach any subject matter, including valuable soft skills. Schouten Global offers a unique approach to blended learning. In addition to creating a customised learning experience platform with personalised learning paths, we offer a scientific Effect Scan which clearly tracks the effectiveness of your programme. Want to find out more? Please don’t hesitate to contact us!