We rely on technology to help us accomplish even the most menial of tasks: Making a dinner reservation, accessing news, adjusting the temperature inside our home, and even brushing our teeth. So why is it that when people think about leveraging technology to learn, it’s not uncommon to encounter skepticism?
David Robert, the Chief Strategy Officer at Loeb Leadership, knows this firsthand, as he was one of those skeptics. “Perhaps I became conditioned to see the benefits of the convergence between learning and technology as being confined to what one would expect to find in a traditional Learning Management System (LMS): huge libraries of linear, self-driven modules that can be accessed via a single online portal – but little more“, David says.
Why Human Interaction is Critical in Learning
We live in a technology culture that places a high value on mobility and quick access to information but less value on the human connections that play an essential role in meaningful skill and knowledge transfer, connections which are mostly absent within an LMS. As a lead learning & development specialist on the Loeb Leadership team, David believes it’s important he understands the clients’ industry and the nature of how they operate and generate revenue – as any development intervention they design must complement those strategies and processes rather than confuse. Most of Loeb Leadership’s clients, although they may not articulate this the same way, rely heavily on human interaction and relationship building as a foundational principle of success. Therefore, as Loeb Leadership looked for a digital learning platform upon which to build their blended development solutions, it was imperative they did not sacrifice these important features. That is how they found and eventually partnered with myQuest.
You’ll notice the use of the word “blended” to describe Loeb Leadership’s development offerings. A little history on the inception of their blended learning might be helpful. They had always planned to offer digital learning solutions but that accelerated quickly with the onset of COVID-19. With very little warning or notice, their clients were scrambling to find ways to offer continuity to their existing learning & development offerings without blurring or diminishing the learning objectives they invested so much time identifying. One such client reached out to them just after her firm moved all employees to a virtual working environment. As the head of talent development, she understood the need to continue investing in skill development but was having a difficult time envisioning what this could look like in the virtual environment.
Key Elements of Blended Learning
Upon collecting feedback and perspective from the client, three things became crystal clear: Anything Loeb Leadership offered could not be exclusively self-driven, the client didn’t want participants to be in front of their computers for more than 120 minutes, and there needed to be opportunities for participants to engage each other and the facilitator. Loeb Leadership loves a good challenge so they took that mandate and set off to create something that would not only meet but exceed the client’s expectations. This is how blended learning became such a powerful tool for Loeb Leadership and for the client.
Loeb Leadership’s blended programs combine three key elements:
- Brief self-driven pre-work within the myQuest platform. This might include introducing yourself to your learning peers via the Community feature, reading an article or case study, or engaging in a critical thinking exercise to prepare you for the live virtual discussion.
- The live virtual session. These sessions run anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes and are designed to provide opportunities for participants to engage in a deeper exploration of key concepts through small group and large group discussion, similar to traditional classroom training. By reviewing and integrating participant reflections from the pre-work into myQuest ahead of time, facilitators can direct the flow and focus of the workshop more effectively.
- Brief post-virtual session work in myQuest with an assigned coach. The coach’s objective is to stimulate discussion among the participants within the platform and to encourage the ongoing application of new knowledge and skills.
The Results of Using Blended Learning Strategies
From Loeb Leadership’s perspective, the success of the blended learning boiled down to their evaluation process. They use the Kirkpatrick™ model of training evaluation to measure the effectiveness of their solutions, so they examine participant satisfaction, knowledge retention, skill usage and behavior change. They had delivered a traditional version of their program to this client previously, so they had some solid benchmarking data. What they found was quite surprising. The satisfaction scores of the participants immediately following training did not shift downward, and in many cases have ticked up. Participants enjoyed the rapid knowledge transfer approach within the myQuest platform rather than being pinned to a laptop scrolling through pages of static content (think required Compliance training in an LMS). The engagement in the post-session exercises and the caliber of the dialogue among participants demonstrated a strong command of the course content. Most surprisingly, managers reported positive changes in participant behavior in the weeks and months following training. “I’ve seen a big difference in my managers,” shared the client. “They seem more confident and deliberate in their management practices.”
Although Loeb Leadership were very pleased with the outcome of this particular program, they continue to explore ways to leverage the features within the myQuest platform to create programming that is customized to their clients’ needs, remains highly engaging, and results in behavior change. In fact, they have started to encourage their clients to participate in the creation of the content. So, rather than watching a video of a Loeb Leadership expert discuss a particular management skill, learners would be learning from one of their peers, which is likely to increase engagement and accountability among participants.
Loeb Leadership believes that remote learning is here to stay and they owe it to their clients to continue designing and delivering top-notch programs that retain the most compelling features of traditional in-person training while leveraging new technologies to enrich the learning experience.