Blended Learning: The best of both worlds
Executive Education / 17 March 2020
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Project Management Product Manager
Barbara Rave (M.A.) is a product manager in Frankfurt School’s Professional & Executive Education department. She designs continuing education programmes covering Strategy & Change Management and Technology & Operations.

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As digitalisation sweeps the globe, disruptive technologies are challenging countless companies’ business models. On the one hand, technical innovations, agile product development and ever-changing customer requirements are steadily shortening product and service cycles. On the other, digital technologies and constantly shifting circumstances and market conditions are placing new demands on employees. To cope with all this, they must be able to acquire new expertise and skills at ever increasing speeds. In a VUCA world, only those who are adaptable, connected and digitally fit will be able to overcome the many unexpected hurdles. Creativity, an ability to collaborate, rapid skills acquisition – these are rapidly becoming the key criteria for success in the world of Work 4.0. The result? A steadily growing need to provide employees and businesses with responsive continuing education. Blended learning is one answer – and experts also regard this approach as the ideal way to transform executive education into personalised solutions targeting management audiences. The concept combines the best of both worlds: practical, face-to-face learning coupled with autonomous, flexible online study.

Hybrid learning

First, blended-learning approaches address employees’ need for situational learning in the workplace. Workers are able to access knowledge precisely when it is needed. In a working environment, online learning media are used for reference, for the autonomous acquisition of theoretical knowledge, but also for familiarisation with business tools and processes. Live, interactive workshops then help to transfer theory into practice. The valuable time employees spend attending workshops in person is put to good use, ensuring that employees are capable of applying their newly acquired knowledge as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Adaptive learning via online training courses encourages autonomy. Taking responsibility for navigating the various pathways to knowledge acquisition and acting as one’s own teacher is both challenging – and motivating! Case studies and workshops are then used to consolidate the freshly acquired know-how and apply it in the real-world conditions of the actual workplace. In these live sessions, social interaction, exploration of multiple viewpoints and sharing of empirical experience all help students to embed what they have learned.

The right learning format for all learning styles

People learn differently. Some prefer to learn visually – others learn better by listening. Methods for conveying or acquiring knowledge also vary from culture to culture. So for individuals, successful learning is all about choosing the right learning formats and combining them in the right ways. There are virtually no limits to the diversity of multimedia-based teaching methods, ranging from e-scripts, webinars, animations, web-based training (WBT), podcasts and explanatory videos through to interactive tools for virtual group projects and much, much more. The important thing is to appeal to all the student’s senses while maintaining an optimal balance and not overdoing the media mix. Otherwise, content tends to take a back seat. For blended-learning programmes to be successful, they need subject-focused educational models in which all study elements are assigned clearly defined, carefully coordinated and interdependent learning objectives.

Visible success as a source of motivation

A sense of achievement is also a key aspect of blended learning. Learners are offered a user-friendly performance graph that allows them to visualise their progress. Milestones can be attained by taking final tests upon completion of each online module, or by completing a series of ongoing practical exercises. No matter which format is used, personalised feedback and direct assessments motivate students and enhance learning outcomes.

The advantages of hybrid learning are not limited to participants – businesses in particular benefit from the concept. Because the combination of online and analogue formats makes it possible to train heterogeneous groups of employees, there is no need to wait months for the next training session. The imparted knowledge enjoys a much shorter time-to-market, onboarding of new employees is more systematic, and last but not least, hybrid learning saves travel and downtime costs. In short, customers can benefit from executive education in their moments of need – without having to wait.

When deciding on a suitable professional development programme, key criteria include flexibility of time and place, combined with personalised study formats. Educational programmes based on hybrid learning can be delivered in standardised form – even across national borders. A prime example of the global implementation of a blended-learning programme is the Standardisation of Project Management at Norma Group, which Frankfurt School has been delivering since 2014.

To create the programme, Frankfurt School tailored the business school’s Certified Project Manager training course to the company’s requirements and implemented it as a multi-stage certification programme.