Measuring and Supporting an Asynchronous Blended-Learning Program to Transform Performance
By: Marcia Gauger
Blended-learning curriculums can be both efficient and effective, especially when designed for remote teams such as sales teams, branches, or channel partners. But how do you know that your target groups are actually learning and applying what they should? Blended-learning programs present different challenges and opportunities for support and measurement, especially if elements of asynchronous or on-demand learning and application are involved.
Here are some tips that can be applied to any blended-learning curriculum to ensure that your program is measured and supported, and delivers the performance outcomes that you need.
Conduct pre-curriculum baseline knowledge measurements
These are not the in-depth needs assessments that you think of when deciding “what” to train but rather baseline skills and knowledge assessments aligned to the core competencies defined in the learning objectives. Compare aggregate scores pre- and post-curriculum. Individual scores are excellent coaching tools for managers and they provide insights for learners to set goals based on their strengths and opportunities for growth.
The measurement: Composite skills and knowledge assessment conducted pre- and post-curriculum –with supporting guidelines for learners to set development goals.
Consider asynchronous e-Learning or on-demand learning for core knowledge
Independent learning experiences can be highly effective and efficient over live face-to-face training since learners can easily consume training in small chunks. Align learning modules and resources to core competencies for the program. Provide self-assessments that enable each learner to individually judge how well they have mastered the concepts and when they need more enrichment. These can be simple check sheets with areas for the learner to record examples of their progress.
- Asynchronous e-learning – Develop e-learning modules that are rich and engaging, and replicate the types of practice exercises that learners would experience in the classroom such as role-playing, games, scenarios, and review exercises.
- On-Demand Learning – On-demand does not mean cutting learners loose without a plan. A well-crafted on-demand learning program provides the structure for learners to self-assess and choose resources that best align to their learning gaps. Start by categorizing internal and external learning resources, and then add and subtract based on learner feedback.
The measurement: Self-assessment with reflective narrative
Provide the right structure and tools for application and support
This is probably the most important component of a well-balanced blended-learning program. Regardless of format, learning is only as effective as is applied. Build elements into your program that encourage application and provide the necessary support from internal coaches, managers, and peers.
- Transfer/Application Exercises – What better learning experience than “real-life role play”? Even the most well-designed in-classroom learning experiences are enhanced by extending the learning to the field. These are simple exercises that encourage learners to reflect on their experiences and provide specific examples of how they have implemented the skills in the field. For example, if salespeople were learning how to ask meaningful questions, you could ask them in the application exercise to prepare and utilize questions during client interactions. You could then ask them to share specific examples of questions they used, the client’s response or reaction, and how well they think they utilized the question and the outcome.
- Coaching support for Transfer/Application Exercises – This can be multi-faceted. For instance, you could designate a coach from your learning team or business partners. Coaches may also be the learner’s manager. The intent is for the coach to provide meaningful insights for the learner to understand what examples emulate top performance and to provide ideas for areas that could be enhanced. We often provide coaching in written format for each learner with specific examples and a score of how well they demonstrated application.
- Coaching guides – Use coaching guides to provide managers with the information and resources they need to support real-time performance. Whether or not the managers are involved in application measurement, coaching guides provide a summary of key learning points, the behaviors that they should see, and ideas for supporting and coaching behaviors for each learning module. Consider building in check points for managers and learners to share experiences and rate their application of skills. Similar to a 360-type approach where learners share their self-assessment or application exercises, the learners can assign a score and managers can do the same. This provides for rich discussion and coaching of skills along with measurement.
The measurement: Individual application/transfer exercises with written or verbal coach feedback and transfer/application score. (Be sure to build in opportunities to capture quantifiable outcomes.)
Create opportunities for learners to connect
Make sure it is “independent, but never alone”. When the primary knowledge component is asynchronous, it is important to build in touch points for both peer collaboration and coaching.
- Discussion boards or circles – These provide the forum for peer-to-peer learning – now you need to provide the format. If you are experiencing a poor utilization of these tools, you may need to seed the discussions or even mandate participation. Be sensitive to the amount of time the learner is expending and the number of boards that you ask learners to participate in or you may see pushback.
- Synchronous web coaching sessions – These can be more effective than discussion boards or circles if they are structured in a way that encourages sharing and provides for positive support. Build this into your curriculum plan so they are part of the calendar and process. Have learners come prepared to each session with examples of how they have utilized their skills. (Consider using their application exercises.) Provide facilitation guides for session leaders to prompt discussion, sharing and coaching rather than presenting. Consider using field leaders as “guest hosts” for these sessions.
The measurement: Participation and engagement. Sharing of best practices and demonstration of application and mastery of skills
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of your learning program? Please share with us below!