Can Blended Learning Accelerate Time To Proficiency?

Can Blended Learning Accelerate Time To Proficiency?
Natee Meepian/
Summary: This article discusses the role of blended learning in accelerating employee proficiency and gives Learning and Development managers and stakeholders insights into how blended learning can be leveraged for the same.

5 Ways Blended Learning Leads To Proficiency

The most important factor that differentiates a top performer in an organization from the average employee is their proficiency at work. The more proficient an employee becomes at work, the better it is for the growth of the organization. However, if a business requires complex skills, the time taken by employees to achieve proficiency increases accordingly. Unfortunately for us, time is what we do not have.

The highly-competitive, fast pace of business requires us to train the workforce on skills required tomorrow, today. Accelerating the time to proficiency has become an essential metric that determines an organization’s profits and customer satisfaction. This article explores the role of blended learning in accelerating time to proficiency in employee Learning and Development.

Training Programs That Require Speed To Proficiency

Though speed to proficiency is what every training program aims to boost, there are certain training programs where speed to proficiency is a non-negotiable factor. Here are a few examples:

  • New hire onboarding
  • Sales training
  • New product or process training
  • Leadership training
  • Customer service

Designing Learning and Development programs that build proficiency is not easy. We are already aware that classroom training is one of the best training methodologies to impart training on higher-order skills. But the time taken to achieve proficiency is longer for organizations that follow only classroom training programs.

On the other hand, we have eLearning programs that can save the organization time and money, can quickly upscale training and accelerate time to proficiency, but may not be enough to train employees on complex skills. How do we strike a balance between these 2 entirely different training methodologies? For those looking for a solution to accelerate the time to proficiency in training, blended learning might just be what is required.

Why Try Blended Learning?

Blended learning combines digital training with traditional classroom training, and here’s how you can use it to accelerate the time to proficiency:

  • Deliver low-complexity skills through eLearning courses that can be used to give learners a head start in the learning process. Use eLearning courses or microlearning modules as pre-training programs before a classroom training program.
  • eLearning courses that cover medium-complexity skills can be used as a bridge between different instructor-led sessions. For example, you have learners attending an instructor-led program (ILT), then completing an eLearning course that reinforces the skills learned in the classroom, before moving on to the next ILT session.
  • Cover high-complexity skills through an ILT. Self-paced sessions that let learners practice these skills can be delivered in the form of eLearning. Skill transfer is accelerated through such reflective practice sessions.

To accelerate the speed to proficiency, blended learning can follow a structured approach that uses one or a combination of the following methods.

1. Inform Learners Of What They Need To Know

This method can be used to present new content or information to employees. Some examples are:

  • New hire onboarding
  • New product training
  • New policies or regulations

Blended learning can be used to quickly get new hires up to the learning curve. The reason it acts as a catalyst is that it:

  • Accelerates the performance of new hires
  • Boosts employee retention and loyalty

A leading global contract research organization (CRO) providing drug research and development, enlisted our services for a comprehensive blended learning program for new hire onboarding. We designed an ILT that gave new hires an overview of the company, its various functional units, and the organization structure.

The classroom training program we designed presented new hires with the essential information they needed to know. It also included icebreakers and attention grabbers that helped them connect with one another and get comfortable in their new, unfamiliar environment.

Most of the new hires were into clinical research and needed to know about data management in clinical research. Since new hires were a mix of both freshers and experienced people, eLearning was offered to give them flexibility in training. For example, eLearning courses on protocols to be followed for clinical trials and writing effective queries was something that experienced clinical researchers would be familiar with. But new hires without experience in clinical research would benefit by going through the online training program.

2. Show Learners The Ropes

This method is used when a demonstration of a product, process, or application is required. A few examples are:

  • Product training
  • Process training
  • Software training

One of our clients, a global pharmaceutical giant wanted a blended learning program to impart product training to its sales representatives. The company had classroom training all-year through earlier and this resulted in high training expenditure. We used eLearning to impart product training to sales reps. Each mobile-compatible, short learning module lasted 10-15 minutes and was easily accessible to sales reps on-the-move.

Through a blended learning program, our client was able to reduce an 8-week classroom training program to 2 just weeks. The quality of training was retained and learner engagement was improved. The client saved on training dollars and also recorded 99% training completion rate.

3. Challenge Learners For Improved Performance

This method is used when learners require hands-on training. A few examples are training employees on:

  • Software
  • Assembling equipment or machinery

In this method of training, learners make their choices in scenarios or practice using a watch-try-do simulation and receive guidance, coaching, or feedback to perform a task correctly.

4. Assess Learners To Meet Learning Goals

After learners complete a training program, they need to be given an opportunity to practice what they have learned. Effective feedback also needs to be delivered to learners. This is done in the form of:

  • Formative assessments
  • Summative assessments
  • On-the-job assessments

While formative assessments give learners a chance to measure their proficiency in each topic or section covered in the training program, summative assessments measure the effectiveness of a training program. An on-the-job assessment is designed to give learners knowledge of requirements in a real job.

5. Coach Learners For Success

Coaching helps accelerate time to proficiency. Digital learning makes it possible to promote collaborative learning where learners can share knowledge with their peers. For benefits to be realized from any training program, the training has to be reinforced. Microlearning can be leveraged as a tool to coach learners and provide reinforcement of training.

When you follow a structured approach that sequences your learning activities in a "learning path", the time to proficiency is accelerated. Blended learning with its combination of structured classroom activities and online training programs has the potential to take an organization on an optimized learning path.