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Effective learning is like a good cup of coffee. It’s all in the blend.

The world changed pretty drastically at the start of the year. Everything was disrupted and we’ve all had to adapt to doing even more online. We want to share with you how we converted our internal training programs to make the most of the situation, and hopefully give you some ideas of what you can achieve with a blended solution.

Training and developing our workforce is as important to us as it is to you. We had planned a six-week face-to-face training program for our Learning Design team, and it would take more than enforced working from home to disrupt it! Although at Learning Pool we are all comfortable with video conference technology, you can’t simply move to the ‘small screen’ with no change. So, here’s what we did…

Each session covered a different aspect of learning design and most of them worked on a ‘flipped classroom’ model. For our sessions, we did our ‘homework’ (or preparation) first and then held a face-to-face call to expand on this. This meant that the time we spent together online was all activity focused, and covered a set of lively debates, presentations, brainstorms, and role-play sessions. Additionally, our facilitator was great about following up with questions and tasks after the sessions, providing thoughtful feedback, and asking us what we wanted to learn about, allowing us to guide our own pathway.

There’s evidence to suggest this sort of approach is effective for recall of facts (Hays, Kornell and Bjork, 2013) and can also maximize the efficacy of your elearning modules. Covering the material in a variety of ways not only reinforces the message (Ross and Aristotle, 1906 and Weibell, 2011) but helps to build up Bloom’s taxonomy from knowledge retention, through comprehension, and up to application and analysis. 

When designing a blended solution, it’s helpful to shift the way you think. Rather than it being an event, try thinking of it as a process. In our six-week program, we had tasks to complete, sessions to attend, and ongoing discussions. We used Google Hangouts for our live sessions, G+ as a discussion platform, Miro (a virtual whiteboard) for facilitated brainstorms, and Google Chat and Slack for quick messages. We were also each paired up with a more experienced LD to act as a mentor, with whom we could discuss the material covered that week.

One tool that could be really helpful for an ongoing learning programme is an LXP, like Learning Pool Platform, which allows you to set up ‘pull’ learning as well as the traditional ‘push’ model. You can create electronic resources and micro-learning, and curate existing content on the platform so your learners can access it when they need it in the workflow.

The best tip I can give you is to consider the strengths of the different parts of the blend, and what will best suit the content. Could you practice conflict resolution with a role-play? Would a game help your team gain commercial awareness? Could you ask them to read a policy document and then get together to do an online pub quiz? (Bonus points if you’re able to offer real prizes for the winning team!) Synchronous sessions are great for team morale and deep activity, but they can bring challenges. Scheduling, miscommunication, and technical difficulties can plague a session, and lead to frustration for the learner and facilitator alike, so use them sparingly and make sure they’re adding value to your program (and not simply a way to present information that learners could more easily do in their own time using online learning or simply e-reading).

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