January 27, 2014

Wikipedia defines, “Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace.[1] While still attending a “brick-and-mortar” school structure, face-to-face classroom methods are combined with computer-mediated activities. [2]

A similar definition can apply to training in a plant or office setting.

Two introductory points I want to make. The concept of a blended approach in both education and training is not new. It goes back almost to the beginning of the 20th Century where, instead of technology, classrooms provided students with, “The Weekly Reader,” and similar “outside the textbook/lecture day” materials in order to augment the textbook/lecture regimen. Then came the filmstrip, slide shows, movie projectors, wire and tape recorders etc. It seems that both education and training have been engaged in some form of blended learning for a long time.

Today, blended learning makes much of e-Learning as the blended part of the textbook/lecture curriculum. And, for those who adopt this approach it seems, for the most part, to be working well. But, for those who still confine the training day to lecture/workbooks, I need to make them aware of the awesome power of full motion video-based e-Learning.

Much data relating to multi-sensory media instruction is available, and this data can illustrate the reasons behind the success of multi-sensory learning.

More than anything, the body of multi-sensory training developed for business and industry brings training efficiency. There are several obvious reasons. Multi-sensory instruction reduces training time. Estimates are that learning occurs 38-70% faster than with traditional classroom instruction, and course content is mastered 60% faster.

Perhaps equally important is that when compared with traditional classroom instruction, multi-sensory learning also results in better training. Studies show that participants increase understanding by more than 50%, resulting in greater learning gains. Participants also demonstrate 25 to 50% higher content retention, and 50 to 60% greater consistency in content understanding.

In the best commercially available multi-sensory programs, video, graphics and audio do most of the teaching. Experts agree, and the research proves, that active multi-sensory teaching is vastly more effective than passive acquisition of information acquired through tests or lectures.

Effective multi-sensory training programs are also competency-based and real-world in nature. Trainees learn how to perform “hard” or “soft” skills, and they are taught these skills within the context of relevant job or life situations. Being able to see how newly acquired skills or knowledge can improve one’s day-to-day life is the best motivation for adult learners.

Driven by the business sector’s need to show return on investment, effective multi-sensory instruction is also measurable. It has testing elements that assess a student’s incoming skill or knowledge level, and re-evaluates progress upon completion. Most importantly, those tests can be re-used months after initial training to measure retention, the bottom-line of successful training.

Interactivity is one of the most critical factors for the success of multi-sensory programs. Almost every expert of learning concurs that doing and experiencing are the key elements in the acquisition of new skills and knowledge. Well-designed multi-sensory programs require learners to be active participants in their own learning process, instead of being uninvolved listeners receiving information delivered in a passive environment.

At the heart of the success of multi-sensory training programs is “learner control.” Most high quality programs are designed and used as individualized, one-on-one instruction, with the learner controlling the sequence and path of learning. In fact, 76% of organizations using multi-sensory instruction use it this way.

Programs that imbed flexible and non-linear design can accommodate a wide variety of learning styles and ability levels. Slow learners, for instance, can spend more time reviewing and practicing difficult material, while fast learners are not penalized by boredom or frustration under an externally imposed pace or path. Optional full word-for-word audio (a requirement in today’s e-Learning environment) allows less fluent readers an equal opportunity to learn while, at the same time, the more fluent readers can disengage the audio function and move forward at their own pace. Flexible, non-linear programs can also deliver instruction in varying depths so that it can be used for different purposes.

Without question, multi-sensory instruction is the ideal training choice for your blended learning programs. And, with good reason! The research points positively to the phenomenal results that can be achieved with knowledgeably designed media instruction.

More on Wednesday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)