Four Benefits of Blended Learning for Power Companies
One of the biggest challenges power company training teams face is determining the best way to deliver the learning experience. In-person, classroom training has always been a staple for power companies, but online learning has its own unique benefits that can support your training program.
On the surface, classroom instruction may seem like the easier path for overwhelmed training teams to develop and deliver content. However, you need an experienced, engaged instructor to make the learning successful. Your students also need to have roughly the same knowledge level. One or two people who don’t already understand the basic concepts can derail an entire class.
What is the Blended Learning Experience?
The blended learning approach incorporates the best of both worlds. It takes advantage of the self-pacing of online training while bringing in the personal approach of classroom instruction. It also lets you include on-the-job and social learning, or gaining knowledge from peers, to further complement your training program.
Blended learning is gaining ground after a disruption in classroom, or instructor-led training during the pandemic. According to the 2021 Training Industry Survey by Training Magazine, 43% of training hours were blended, up from 23% in 2020. We’ve seen similar impacts on the in-person training we provide.
It’s important to remember that regardless of how you structure your training program, you need to follow best practices, including a systematic approach whether it’s ADDIE or one of the other models available. If it’s online, instructor-led, or on-the-job, you need to begin with your training needs assessment, determine your learning objectives, develop training to those objectives, and assess the learning outcomes.
To help you get started or to enhance your existing program, we’ve identified four blended learning approach benefits for power companies:
- It gives you the best of both worlds
- It is more efficient
- It enhances your learner’s knowledge retention
- It lowers costs
A Blended Learning Approach Gives Your Power Organization the Best of Both Words
Instructor-led and online training both provide benefits to your learners. When blended, they offer the ideal learning experience.
Whether you use traditional face-to-face training or virtual classroom, instructor-led training brings a more personal experience. Learners can interact directly with subject matter experts (SMEs) to ask questions and clarify information. Classroom instruction, including workshops, is ideal for company-specific training, especially simulation and equipment demonstrations.
Instructor-led training, particularly face-to-face interactions, does have some drawbacks. First, it’s expensive. You either pay travel expenses for your employees to attend a course or, if you don’t have an SME available, you pay an instructor’s expenses to come to your facility. Even if you have a trainer available, your employees lose productivity sitting in the classroom. While virtual classroom training mitigates some of these drawbacks since students don’t have to travel, it reduces some of the benefits and engagement from traditional face-to-face training.
Online training or online learning is consistent and can be delivered multiple times to a large audience. It’s a perfect fit for information that doesn’t change frequently. You develop it once and use it over and over again.
Even better, if concepts are generic, online learning can be purchased from a third-party vendor, freeing your training team to focus on broader learning strategies.
Blended learning approach
You should create your blended learning approach so instructor-led and online training support each other. You can assign prerequisite training online to prepare students for an upcoming face-to-face class. For example, your students can learn the theory behind emergency operations through online, self-paced training. They can then apply those concepts in the classroom or a workshop through discussion, demonstration, and simulation.
If students all receive the same training before they enter the classroom, they’re more likely to have a similar base knowledge level. This added preparation allows the instructor to maximize class time since they won’t need to slow down for students who aren’t prepared.
A Blended Learning Strategy is More Efficient.
Instructor-led training places a burden on your training team and instructor. While online training can be delivered over and over with no additional work, your instructors must be engaging every time they deliver learning content. Plus, students are not performing their job when they’re sitting in a classroom. Online training allows them to train at their own pace while still meeting their responsibilities.
While online training needs to be developed specifically for asynchronous delivery (just putting portions of instructor-led training online doesn’t work), once it’s developed, you don’t have to touch it again until it needs to be updated.
Moving generic, ongoing training to online learning allows more time for your training team to focus on assessments and evaluations – expanding reach and impact. This new focus strengthens your training program and makes your team more efficient.
A Blended Learning Model Enhances Your Learner’s Knowledge Retention
Online learning helps support knowledge retention when a class has ended. After students spend time in a classroom and perform on-the-job training, you can assign online training as reinforcement. The continuity training you provide in the weeks and months that follow helps support knowledge retention. Your students can also access refresher courses as they need them, such as when just-in-time training is needed before performing an infrequent task.
Reinforcement is also an opportunity to blend in other forms of training, including social learning, mentoring, and coaching. Providing opportunities for employees to ask questions, not just of supervisors and managers, but coworkers adds to their understanding of how tasks impact other areas.
In addition, people learn and retain information in different ways. Blended learning provides multiple modalities for learners, further enhancing the likelihood information is understood and retained. Some learners are better with live/auditory training and group discussions, while some learn better with self-paced reading and alone time to process.
A Blended Learning Solution Lowers Costs
Whether you have a dedicated team or outsource your needs, training can be expensive. Off-site traditional face-to-face training involves travel expenses – travel, lodging, and meals – not to mention time lost on the job. Companies can save money by providing instructor-led training on-site, but employees are still away from their job for a significant period of time. Plus, if you don’t have an instructor available, you add costs for an outside trainer.
Taking a blended learning approach lets you reduce those costs. Investing in online training, whether you develop it yourself or purchase off-the-shelf training, enables you to provide training to a broad group of employees. They can take it at their own pace and prepare for training on your specific processes and procedures. That training can be instructor-led, workshop, or on-the-job, depending on the best way to move forward.
What Does a Blended Learning Approach Look Like?
One of our most successful training programs is a blended learning solution. Our NERC Exam Preparation program combines online training, instructor-led training, mentoring, and social learning.
- Online: the program starts with online training. This training covers the concepts students need to know before they take the exam. It walks them through basic electric theory and NERC standards to prepare them for the exam.
- Instructor-led: once students complete the online portion, they participate in an instructor-led class which they can take in either a traditional face-to-face environment or in a virtual classroom. The instructor-led class discusses application of the concepts learned in online training and how that information will appear on the exam. It provides test-taking tips and advice for the day of the exam.
- Mentoring: throughout the program, students can participate in weekly instructor mentoring calls to get their specific questions answered.
- Social Learning: during mentoring calls, students can discuss ideas and concepts with other students. This interaction helps reinforce concepts and provides peer-to-peer perspective.
How Do You Get Started?
If you aren’t already using a blended learning approach, now is the time to start. These steps will help you incorporate blended learning into your training program.
- Identify training content that focuses on concepts and theories and can be converted to online training
- Develop online training lessons internally or identify a third-party vendor who can provide off-the-shelf content
- Develop your company-specific training for hands on experience through instructor-led, workshop, or on-the-job training
- Identify how to incorporate social learning into your training program, including mentors, coaches, and peer-to-peer communication
With analysis and planning, you can capitalize on the advantages of instructor-led, online, and social learning for your utility. Incorporating a blended learning model into training programs provides the best of all words, makes development more efficient, enhances knowledge retention, and lowers costs.