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Workplace Solutions

Education and training

What are the benefits of a blended approach when delivering employee training?

April 28, 2014

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Responding is George Haber, DuPont global leader, instructional system design, Wilmington, DE.

When it comes to training employees, the ideal learning environment is individualized, one-on-one mentorship. But in the workplace, that kind of training isn’t always practical, efficient or desired. Constraints usually exist – from safety needs that dictate a quick training rollout to all employees, to managing the training needs of a diverse workforce at multiple worksites.

Workplace constraints require curriculum designers to make instructional compromises from the idealized training situation. The key to ensuring training is still effective, despite these compromises, lies in how an instructor chooses to address the constraints of a given training situation. The path chosen will either hinder effective training (poor instructional compromises) or help employees successfully overcome constraints (good instructional compromises).

The best way to deal with the inevitable constraints is to use a blended approach to employee training. That’s because comprehensive solutions are almost always blended solutions.

Blended learning does not simply mean “multimedia” or “multi-dimensional learning.” Rather, blended learning means making use of multiple learning strategies and delivery media to ensure the most efficient and effective transfer of knowledge. Its focus is on the design of the training curriculum.

When you begin to think of blended learning as part of the design stage, it’s easier to see the benefits it has to offer, such as flexibility and customization. Taking a blended approach to employee training allows the designer to decide, through careful analysis, which instructional compromises can be made without damaging the integrity of the content. From there, the designer is able to mix – or blend – different instructional methods (e.g., lecture, demo) and mediums (e.g., face-to-face, DVD) to fulfill specific training needs. He or she can even more easily incorporate new and emerging technologies and instructional strategies into training.

Here’s how a blended approach to a training curriculum might work. Consider a large petrochemical plant that wants to train its workers in process safety management. The curriculum designer begins by determining the level of training required for different work populations and how that training will be assessed. Then he or she decides which instructional methods and media will work best.

At the most basic training level (onboarding), the curriculum designer might choose an e-learning solution to quickly deliver general knowledge and awareness of hazards to all employees. An online strategy could efficiently and quickly train large groups of employees about basic hazard awareness without compromising the integrity of training content.

At the next level of training, workers need to know how to be safe in their specific work area. Training must be targeted to the hazards in their work environment. This requires more in-depth knowledge and robust assessment, making an online-only medium a poor choice. A blended approach would allow the designer to incorporate elements such as instructor-led classroom training, video demos and hands-on assessment.

At the top tier of training is job-specific or skill-specific learning. In our petrochemical plant scenario, this might be training supervisors and managers on the specific process safety management elements for which they are responsible. Again, an online-only approach would compromise training. But the designer might start with the same online component given to all employees (basic awareness), followed by in-depth, small group workshops or even one-on-one mentoring.

In the end, by blending different methods and mediums, the instructor is able to ensure comprehensive, enterprisewide training solutions.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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