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Getting the best out of blended learning – our top tips

by Julia Livesley

Blended learning is a great way to combine virtual/e-learning and traditional in-person training tools. Many organisations who believe in training and supporting their teams have invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money in online learning during the last two years, as a route around COVID-19 restrictions. As hotels are getting back into the full swing of welcoming their team members and guests back, blended learning can enable you to complement vital in-person training, where teams get to benefit from experiential learning, and retain some of the virtual training mechanisms that were invested in. This blog details our top 5 tips for getting the best out of blended learning!

Using e-learning platforms can be a great way to deliver refresher content or update on changes that may have been made. E-learning enables updates or changes to be communicated to team members quickly in a cost-effective way and you can often get feedback on these systems which will help you to ensure consistency of operations across the organisation. Blended learning exposes team members to interactive, engaging, and informative learning on various content across a variety of channels, is a cost and operationally effective way to engage learners, and encourages them to spend more time on practical skills training. Here at The Smart Training Company, we believe that both the learning organiser and delegate have key responsibilities to get the most out of training, from both a personal development and business perspective. As business owners and managers, we all have a responsibility to ensure that training and development is seen as an investment in the learning journey for everyone involved so that teams can continuously be developed and motivated.

There are lots of advantages to blended learning, but as hospitality is such a people-centred profession, it demands subtle, complex, human skills, and those skills are often best developed through in-person practical experiences. Therefore, it is important to carefully evaluate the most appropriate form of learning delivery depending on the learning objectives and desired (e.g. behavioural) outcomes.

Here we offer 5 tips for how you and your colleagues can get the most out of both in-person and virtual learning:

TIP 1: Be Prepared!

Remember to run through a 1:1/full briefing on the benefits of the in-person/online learning for the delegate prior to attending the session. Conducting a training needs assessment can be a helpful way to effectively plan and structure training sessions so that the goals of the training are accurately aligned with the needs of delegates and the organisation. Additionally, discussing the session overview will ensure that everyone is prepared and expectations are met. You can consider:

  • What preparation work needs to be completed before they attend?
  • What are their objectives for attending and what would they like to get out of the session?
  • Is there anything their manager would like them to learn?
  • How does the in-person/online learning fit into their job role? 
  • How do they complete the learning and what resources will they need? 
  • How long will the modules/session last?

Effective preparation will not only ensure team members get the most out of the session, they will be motivated to learn, use what they’ve learnt as part of their personal development to the benefit of themselves and the business, and they will see that their employer is committed to training and investing in them.

TIP 2: Consider the working environment  

Online learning is amazing because it can be done anywhere with internet access, but what type of available space supports online learning? Multi-tasking whilst completing a module or even worse, talking/engaging with others nearby when the delegates undivided attention is required, will not get the best out of the session. Ideally, when running a virtual training session, check delegates have access to a quiet, distraction free space so they can focus and get the most out of the learning opportunity.

When choosing a venue for in-person delivery, ensure that you use a space that is comfortable, well ventilated, has good projection facilities, is of an appropriate size depending on how many people will be in attendance, and a space where there is a low risk of disruption. The space in which training is delivered plays an important role in the success of the session.

TIP 3: Planning Ahead 

Take time to consider the logistical and practical requirements of the training to ensure delegates will be set up to fully focus on the session.

  • Do delegates need access to a phone, tablet or PC or all three?
  • Is there Internet access? How good is the signal if on Wi-Fi? What is the speed like?
  • What other technical challenges might there be e.g. Software/hardware?
  • Are earphones needed?
  • What size screen is going to work best?

Delegates should have pre-course work and objectives to hand to help focus their learning. Have a note pad and coffee ready, and ensure they have had a comfort break!

TIP 4: Time Management

Make sure that the delegate knows how much time is needed to complete online learning modules or in-person sessions. They should check their diary and block out the time needed so that the whole session can be completed. This should include time prior to the session to allow for logging in or traveling to the selected venue and making sure they are feeling relaxed. Ensure that they are not on a guest-facing shift at the time and any phones are on silent so that they can focus on their learning.

Allow them time at the end to think about what has been learnt and make an action plan to discuss with the line manager.

TIP 5: Take the time to review and reflect

Having completed the online learning or in-person session, set aside time afterwards to review, reflect and think back to the questions that were asked during the 1:1 preparation before the learning.

  • Did they meet their desired personal and business objectives?
  • If there was anything their manager wanted them to learn, has this been achieved?
  • How does the learning content fit into their job role and what do they now need to do to implement the learning?
  • What further work is needed to complete the learning and are there any resources that will they need?
  • What action plan was created and what is the timeline for completing it?
  • What is the next step?

Complete action plans over the coming few weeks or months as agreed and ensure that the learner and the business benefit from the learning experience. Encourage the learner to share what they have learned and agree best practice with their colleagues.