Blended Learning What works

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Blended Learning What works ...

Blended Learning: What Works?

    Blended Learning: What Works?

By Bersin & Associates


After nearly 2 years of research in blended learning, and detailed interviews with more than 30

    companies, we find that blended learning is replacing “e-learning” as the next big thing. Our research

    finds that blended learning programs are perhaps the highest impact, lowest cost way to drive major

    corporate initiatives. Companies have discovered unique and powerful methodologies for selecting the

    “right media” to solve a given business problem. The biggest challenges companies face include

    technology and the change management and business processes required to roll out major programs.

    Results: Blended Learning solves the problem of speed, scale, and impact and leverages e-learning where it’s most appropriate, without forcing e-learning into places it does not fit.

Blended Learning is the latest buzzword in corporate training. It sounds so simple

    mixing e-learning with other types of training delivery. But now that internet-training is

    so widespread, where does it fit? What are the best ways to “blend” delivery types? Will

    the term “blended learning” replace e-learning?

    In 2002 and 2003 we set out to understand these issues and conducted a very large study of more than 30 corporate blended learning programs to understand “what works.”

    Some interesting findings we uncovered:

1. Blended Learning IS the next big thing.

In the late 90’s everyone jumped on the e-learning craze. In reality the promise was a

    little immature. Internet-based training grew up in the IT world where people are used to spending hours in front of their computers.

Now we know that different problems require different solutions (different mixes of

    media and delivery) and we believe that the key is to apply the RIGHT MIX to a given

    business problem. Hence blended learning is effectively replacing e-learning.

Unlike traditional education, corporate training exists primarily to improve business

    performance. We are not in the business of making employees smarter, but rather in the

    business of increasing revenue or reducing costs.

We deal primarily with adults people who want and need to learn just enough to

    become more effective at their jobs. The science of how to teach adults through the internet” is still being developed. We know that people learn in different ways, and

    different media applies to different people.

“Blended Learning” is really the natural evolution of e-learning into an integrated

    program of multiple media types, applied toward a business problem in an optimum way,

    to solve a business problem.

    ? Bersin & Associates 1 May 2003

    Blended Learning: What Works?

I believe that every successful e-learning program is or will become a blended learning


2. Blended Learning optimizes your resources.

As we talked to companies embarking on blended learning, we found them asking the

    same questions. What combination of tools and media will give me the biggest impact

    for the lowest investment?

In some cases, like Cisco’s reseller certification program – which must reach nearly

    900,000 people, the audience is so large and the problem so complex that a major web-

    based curriculum is needed. In others, like Siemens’ global change in accounting

    practices, the audience was nearly 10,000 financial professionals and a simulation-based

    solution was needed.

These projects cost $Millions to develop and are cost-justified based on the large

    audience and huge business drivers required.

In other cases, however, when a company like Kinko’s rolls out a new product to their

    field sales offices, a conference call and series of job aids will do the trick.

>>> The key to blended learning is selecting the right combination of media that will

    drive the highest business impact for the lowest possible cost.

So how do you decide the mix?

We found a variety of methodologies. One of the simplest approaches is to create

    electronic content and “surround” it with human, interactive content. This approach of

    “surrounding” e-learning with human enables you to create high interest, accountability,

    and real assessment of the results of the e-learning program.

    The Simplest Approach

    InstructorInstructorE-LearningLedLedCoursewareIntroductionExerciseOr Online Program(or conference call)or Assessment

    ? Bersin & AssociatesBlended Learning: What Works?

? Bersin & Associates 2 May 2003

Blended Learning: What Works?

    This approach was used by many companies when rolling out ERP application training.

    An initial conference call and series of meetings was used to explain the project and why

    the new system is so important then the users took an online course then there was a

    follow-up meeting and evaluation by the manager before the system was actually rolled


3. Each media type has its own strengths and weaknesses.

To make blended learning more powerful, you can start looking at all the media as

    options: classroom training, web-based training, webinars, CD-ROM courses, video,

    EPSS systems, and simulations. Other media which is less exciting but just as important

    includes books, job aids, conference calls, documents, and PowerPoint slides.

One lesson we learned is that the highest impact programs (such as the training program

    provided for new sales reps at British Telecom) blend a more complex media with one or

    more of the simpler media. A web-based course for introduction followed by a real

    “hands-on” interactive class is an obvious mix.

Some of the questions you should ask when selecting media are shown below:

    Findings: How to Select the Blend?Classroom-based instruction

    Web-based courseware (with or without simulations) AudienceSkillsThe Right Mix is2 or 3 of.Time availableCD-ROM-based courseware (with Motivationor without simulations) Classroom InstructionWeb-based courseware CD-ROM-based coursewareTimeLive virtual classes/Webinars Live virtual classes/WebinarsTime to develop?Onsite labsTime to roll out?Hardware/software simulation Conference callsTime to complete?Virtual labsOn-site labs Text-based job aidsScaleEPSSAudience sizePortalsConference calls Need to update frequently?Communities of practiceMentorsJob aids (e.g., manuals, checklists) Business ApplicationElectronic performance support Need to assess learners?systems(EPSS) Need to certify?Need to track completion?Impact of not learning?Online portals with supplemental Content Resourcesmaterials Are SMEsavailable?Budget?Shelf life of content?SMEs?Communities of practice - Chat Simulation/labs available?Content developers?rooms and online message boards

    Mentors (in-person, over the phone, or over the Web)

    ? Bersin & AssociatesBlended Learning: What Works?

    In fact, from this research we developed a “media selection guide” which can help

    companies identify which media to use for a given problem.

? Bersin & Associates 3 May 2003

Blended Learning: What Works?

    Media Type Instructional Scalability Time to Cost to Cost to Assessment Trackable Value Develop Develop Deploy Capable How to Classroom High Low 3-6 weeks Medium High Medium Low based training Design WBT Course-High High 4-20 weeks High Low High High ware and Architect CD ROM High High 6-20 weeks High Medium High Low Courseware your

    Conference Low Medium 0-2 weeks Low Low No No Blended Calls Learning Webinars Medium Medium 3-6 weeks Low Medium Low Low Program Software / Very High Medium 8-20 weeks High Medium High High Online Simu- lations

    Lab-based Very High Low 3-6 weeks High High Medium Medium Simulations

    Job Aids Low High 0-3 weeks Low Low None None Media

    Selection Web Pages Low High 1-8 weeks Low Low None None Guide Web Sites Low High 1-8 weeks Low Low None None Mentors Medium Low 2-3 weeks High High Low Low

    Chat-Medium Low Medium 4-6 weeks Medium Medium None Low Discussion-Community Services

    Video (VCR High Medium 6-20 weeks High High None Low or Online)

    EPSS Medium Medium 8-20 weeks Medium Medium None Medium

    Blended Learning: What Works? Checklist page 3 ? Bersin & Associates, 2003

    4. Blended Learning forces you to think about the business problem.

    One of the big things we found was that once you have to make “media” or “blend” decisions, you are essentially doing “portfolio management.” Just like the problem of balancing your 401K account, people need a methodology to help decide when to use a

    webinar, when to use a conference call, and when to build a complex simulation or online

    course. When you create a financial portfolio, you start with your goals factor in risk, time, and budget. In blended learning, the factors are similar:

    ? Specifically what is the business problem or goal? (Need to increase sales

    revenue for a new product)

    ? What is the learning problem which you believe is creating this business problem?

    Can you be sure it is a “learning” problem or a problem of distributing new

    information? (Need to train sales reps on value proposition and pricing of this

    new product)

    ? What are the characteristics of the audience? (How much time will they have to

    use the content? What connectivity will they have? What kind of learning style

    and education level do they need? What do they respond to? How motivated are


    ? Bersin & Associates 4 May 2003

Blended Learning: What Works?

    ? What are the characteristics of the content? (How long before it goes out of date?

    Are we “informing, developing skills, or creating competencies? – We developed

    a paradigm describing the 4 types of corporate training which helps with this

    located at , Where is this

    content? What SME’s do we need to use? How much time will be able to get with


    ? What kind of measurement do we need? And how much? What amount of

    measurement does the business problem justify? (Measurement is expensive

    what do we really need to measure in order to solve this business problem?

    Completion? Scores? Certifications? Nothing at all?)

    The Blended Learning Process

    CharacterizeImplementLaunchIdentifyAudienceInfrastructureProgramBusiness(see infrastructureDiagram)ChallengeDevelopTrackLearning PlanDevelopProgressDefineOrLearningDevelopBuyMeasureChallengeMeasurementContentResultsStrategy


    ? Bersin & AssociatesBlended Learning: What Works?

Each of these questions can be thorny. But you cannot hope to answer these questions

    rationally without understanding what business cost, benefit, and processes you need to

    be successful.

    5. Technology is not as “easy” or “ubiquitous” as people think.

Here is an amazing fact. Nearly every company we talked to told us about many

    technology hurdles they had to overcome. In the process diagram above, in step 3 we

    identify how companies implement infrastructure. Infrastructure is very problematic in

    most corporations.

Some of the places which can trip you up include:

? Bersin & Associates 5 May 2003

Blended Learning: What Works?

    ? Some learners do not have high bandwidth connectivity because they are in

    foreign countries or remote locations therefore some content will not run.

    ? PC’s each have different browser versions and plugins, so content standards must

    be set which specify browser version, plugins, bandwidth, memory, and cpu speed


    ? LMS systems are expensive and complex to implement, and if you rely on LMS-

    driven features for your program you may find that some are missing (i.e.

    Assessments for example)

    ? When you deploy a large program you have to be ready for massive throughput in

    a short period of time.

    ? Measurement is difficult if you haven’t thought about what metrics you want to

    measure up front, because LMS’s have fairly unsophisticated reporting systems.

    Blended Learning Infrastructure

    Target Audience13

    Development ToolsSimulation Tools(Macromedia, InfoPak…)Portal: Catalog, Login, Launch

    SAPCiscoISO 9000SalesTrainingTrainingTrainingTrainingLCMSContent DevelopmentSystem


    rd3PartyLearning ManagementHosted ContentContent DeliverySystem (LMS)(NETg, KnowledgeNet…)System

    ? Bersin & AssociatesBlended Learning: What Works?

6. Think Deployment Processes!

The single biggest issue we found which companies spent time and money on is the

    marketing, launch, and deployment process. In order to be successful you must develop

    an integrated “go to market” plan for your program. This must include:

    ? Executive support so that line managers give workers time to take courses

    ? A launch program (webinars, phone calls, email blasts) so that people understand

    the importance and urgency of your program

    ? Education to local coordinators so that line managers and line training people

    can support your program. You cannot launch a company-wide e-learning

    program alone, nor can you get it done from your corporate office.

    ? Bersin & Associates 6 May 2003

    Blended Learning: What Works?

    ? Rapid feedback. You will find problems immediately. They must be addressed

    in hours, not days. If someone cannot get content to work, they are likely to leave

    and never come back.

    ? Business process integration. You have to think about how this training integrates

    with your company’s existing business processes. For example, in one company

    the sales people were not given time by their managers to take training because

    they were too busy. How are you going to incent people to take time for training?

    Do you need to integrate training into peoples’ performance plans? Are you

    going to give out certificates? Bonuses?

    ? Marketing. Too much is made of “marketing” e-learning. The real “marketing”

    is all of these steps. Sending out emails alone will not do it. You have to make

    sure that you have answered the question: “why would a busy worker stop what

    they’re doing to take this course or program?” What’s in it for them? Once you

    know that, how do you communicate that to them and their managers?

    Deployment and Support

    Every possible deployment method is needed:


    Conference CallsDeployment processes Performance Aidsmake or break the program.Webinars

    Web-based courses

    Do NOT assume that learners have access to the


    Do NOT assume that learners have high bandwidth

    Do NOT assume that learner’s PCs are “ready”

    ? Bersin & AssociatesBlended Learning: What Works?

7. Blended learning does not have to cost Millions. You can build your own content.

Another interesting finding. Many companies outsource major e-learning projects and

    sometimes spend millions of dollars. One of our research companies spent millions of

    dollars creating a business simulation which trained financial professionals how to use

    new accounting principles. In this particular case, the problem was global and the cost

    of failure was very high so it was worth the cost. If you have a very large audience and a very big problem, you can cost-justify a lot of money on content.

(The simple cost equation for blended learning is the tradeoff between development cost

    and delivery cost. For web-based training, for example, high development costs can be

    ? Bersin & Associates 7 May 2003

Blended Learning: What Works?

    amortized by low delivery costs if the audience is large. For classroom training, lower

    development costs and higher delivery costs are justified when the audience is small.)

However in most cases what we found was the opposite. Companies are now developing

    web-based content for $100’s per instructor hour (we used to charge $30-70,000 per

    instructor hour in my prior life!). How do they do this? They often hire a vendor to

    “teach them” how to build courseware – then they get a small team together (3-4 people) and build the content internally. This appears to be a major trend.

One company developed a major SAP upgrade program which was business critical

    across more than 10,000 employees for a total development cost of $75,000. This is less

    than $7.50 per employee for development cost the cost of lunch in most big cities.

    Development Processes

    There are no “standard” toolsDevelopment CostsIn-house development is ?-1/5 the Minimum cost$35,000cost of outsourced development

    Cost per course $4,000-22,000Develop In House:hour

    Content with short shelf life

    “Disposable” contentThere are noInformational content“standard” toolsused overall.Outsource:

    Highly instructionally richCompanies are bringing content development in-house with Very long-lasting contentexcellent results.

    Simulation-based solutions

    You can drive content development

    costs below $1000 per course hour

    ? Bersin & AssociatesBlended Learning: What Works?

8. Huge Impact is Possible

The most fascinating of all findings from our work was that Blended Learning in fact has

    huge and measurable business impact. Most of the companies we studied told us that the

    blended learning programs they built solved problems which were impossible to solve in

    any other way.

The biggest business benefits of blended learning which we found are:

? Bersin & Associates 8 May 2003

Blended Learning: What Works?

    ? Scale: You can roll out a new initiative or program to global audiences and reach

    more people than ever possible before. This is the promise of e-learning and it is


    ? Speed: If you need to train people within months, you can reach thousands of

    people simultaneously. Although there is a fixed time to develop content, the

    time to deploy is fast. If the business problem is NOW and the content will

    become stale, blended learning is the answer.

    ? Throughput: If your training problem is bottlenecked (one telecommunications

    company had such a backlog of training that technicians were driving around in

    trucks drinking coffee for weeks waiting for new-hire training slots), you can

    eliminate that bottleneck and improve training throughput by orders of magnitude.

    ? Complexity: many training challenges are just too complex for a single web-

    based course or PowerPoint based webinars. If the material is complex and your

    business need demands that people internalize and change their behavior, using

    multiple media will get much higher completion and results.

    ? Cost: I believe that many companies have found that e-learning may not really

    save as much money as they thought. By the time you buy and LMS, implement

    the LMS, buy tools, buy a content catalog, and start building lots of web-based

    courses you may find that the total cost has just shifted from instructors to

    infrastructure and web development. By using the blended approach you can

    avoid this explosion. One of our research companies starts with job aids first, and

    then moves up the scale to more expensive media only if the problem demands it.

    By thinking about every problem as a “blending” challenge, you can select the

    lowest cost media which solves the problem.

Bottom line: Blended Learning is here to say. I believe it is the natural evolution of e-

    learning understanding the business problem and selecting the right “portfolio” of technologies and processes to drive impact. As companies focus on understanding the

    processes of blending media, they will find that e-learning is more powerful than they

    ever though.

Appendix: companies included in the study include:

? Bersin & Associates 9 May 2003

Blended Learning: What Works?

    CompanyBusiness ChallengeIndustryAudience SizeLMSMajor VendorsMix

    SiemensCompany TransformationManufacturing10,000 No LMSAccentureSimulationsTellabsERP Application RolloutManufacturing450 DocentRWDWBT, Conf CallsRocheERP Application RolloutPharmaceuticals1,800 I-AcademyRWDWBT, ILTWW GraingerERP Application RolloutDistribution5,000 SabaRWDWBT, Lab, Conf CallsEnt Software Co.Field Sales TrainingSoftware1,100 SabaSabaWBT, VC, ILTBritish TelecomField Sales TrainingTelecomm260 DocentAccentureWBT, ILT, Conf CallsRoyal SunField Sales TrainingInsurance1,500 SabaSabaWBT, ILTKinkosField Sales TrainingRetail20,000 SabaSabaWBTCiscoField Sales TrainingManufacturing860,000 IntellinexKnowledgeNetWBT, Labs, ILT, AssessmentEMCField Sales TrainingManufacturing1,000 SabaKnowledgeNetWBT, Conf CallsVerizonField Service TrainingTelecomm100,000 Home GrownNETgWBT, ILT, Hands OnNCRField Service Training - CertificationService370 EdcorNETgWBT, Labs, AssessmentChip ManufacturerManufacturing TrainingManufacturing25,000 Home GrownKnowledgeNetWBT, LabBell Canada EnterprisesReduce Cost of TrainingTelecomm42,000 TechnomediaNETgWBT, ILTPeoplesoftSales and Employee TrainingSoftware5,500 Home GrownNETgWBT, Discussion GroupsNovellChannel Sales TrainingManufacturing5,600 No LMSMacromediaPowerPoint Based with Audio

About Bersin & Associates

Bersin & Associates is a leading provider of corporate and vendor consulting services in

    e-learning technology and implementation. With more than 20 years of experience in e-

    learning, training, and enterprise technology, Bersin & Associates provides a wide range

    of services including product development, product marketing, industry research,

    corporate workshops, corporate implementation plans, and sales and marketing programs.

    Some of Bersin & Associates’ innovations include a complete methodology for LMS

    selection and application usage, an end-to-end architecture and solution for e-learning

    analytics, and one of the industry’s largest research studies on blended learning

    implementations. Bersin & Associates can be reached at or at (510)


    ? Bersin & Associates 10 May 2003

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