Hybrid learning is a popular term in Learning today, often used for a variety of different training models involving various amounts of mixing an online, self-paced learning component with live instruction either in-person or online. Because it’s such a popular term for such variety, it’s difficult to pinpoint its value. So let’s walk through what it is, how it’s different, why it should be considered, and finally the ultimate question: does it work?  

What Is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning combines live instruction with on-demand, self-paced training modules. As a definition, that leaves a lot of ambiguity: how much time is spent online vs. in the classroom? Do you need a classroom? Fortunately, there are ways to further define hybrid learning (College of DuPage, p.3). 

  • Traditional classroom: All instruction is in the classroom, with possibly some online content to enhance learning, though minimally
  • Web-enhanced/Blended learning: Learning still happens within the in-person or virtual classroom, with activities being enhanced by online content (lectures, labs, etc.).  
  • Hybrid/Flipped Classroom: A substantial amount of “seat time” is dedicated to on-demand content with some instruction taking place in the classroom, either in-person or virtually.  
  • Online: Most content is online with little or no interaction with an instructor

To this list, I would add another level, which is the hybrid learning path: A series of classes along a learning path that can be taken either completely through on-demand, hybrid, web-enhanced, or traditional instruction.  

How Is It Different? 

Everyone learns differently, and studies (Manning, article 69) have shown that bite-sized teaching is a preferred method of learning, and on-demand content caters to that learning methodology. Bite-sized teaching, also called bite-sized learning, breaks topics into small, easily understood pieces of learning that can be quickly consumed and applied. Think of it as YouTube learning: 3-5 minute videos that cover a topic, piece by piece. On-demand content can cater to this easily, and allow folks to learn what they need when they need it (just-in-time learning), and on their schedule (self-paced learning).  

The one drawback is asking questions: where do you ask them? How do you interact? That’s where a hybrid, or flipped model, comes into its own: the instructor is there to facilitate question sessions, walk through problems, and provide solutions. Instructors can then tie the concepts and topics together into a coherent, job-specific narrative through demonstrations and open-ended challenges outside of the on-demand schedule.  

Why Do It? 

Why should hybrid learning be considered outside of strictly on-demand or traditional classroom models? Well, you get the best of both worlds: learning modules that can be quickly consumed and easily processed by the learner on a schedule that doesn’t heavily impact current workloads, while still having that interaction with an instructor to ask questions and validate the concepts learned and its application in real-world scenarios. Employers benefit because day-to-day impacts on productivity are minimal compared to huge blocks of classroom time during the week. Employees benefit because hybrid learning caters better to their schedule and is more likely to be approved by management. Both benefit because training makes for a more productive, skilled, and happier workforce.  

Does It Work? 

Of course theory and studies aside, the main question is, does this work in the real world? At ServiceNow, we launched a new offering: Now Assist. This is a delivery method that takes our award-winning on-demand content and adds the interaction with a live instructor during the two-week duration of the course. The breakdown is pretty simple: 

  • Access to an exclusive forum to ask (and answer) questions, get additional content from the instructor, and collaborate with fellow attendees
  • 4 scheduled webinars with the instructor to go over forum questions in demonstrations, as well as additional real-world community questions relevant to the topics covered
  • Scheduled over two weeks, which breaks down to about 1 hour per day of on-demand work

The reception of Now Assist has been very positive. The flipped classroom model takes the stress off of completing a lot of instruction while having to work, while still having a set deadline for completion. Those who have taken our on-demand content and struggled because of questions have the opportunity to work with an instructor to have those questions answered. The most powerful piece has been connecting what is learned to real-world scenarios that folks find on the job.  

Hybrid learning is an opportunity to rethink standard learning and give flexibility to those who need it. It’s helpful to understand what it is, but more importantly, how it fits within a working business. Now Assist is one example, of which I have a lot of experience, and has proven to be a popular solution for attendees looking to get that little extra bit of help.  

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