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The concepts and technologies related to hybrid learning are nothing new. Virtual classrooms for remote workforce education have been in existence since at least the late aughts. However, how we define and engage these spaces changes depending on the needs of the individual organization, as well as global circumstances. So let’s take a deeper dive into what exactly everyone means when they say “hybrid learning.”

Hybrid learning defined

A hybrid learning environment is contingent on the existence of a hybrid audience, wherein a portion of an organization’s employee base works in-office with colleagues, and another portion works remotely in a private or home setting.

With these disparate contingents in any number of distanced geographic locations, companies are prompted to provide educational solutions which meet the needs and availability of both.

There are a variety of different strategies which organizations can lean on to facilitate learning and development for a hybrid workforce. One of these is a “hybrid learning” strategy, which is specifically defined as synchronous ILT/VILT delivered to a part-in-person, part-remote cohort of professional learners.

The precise formatting of a hybrid learning environment may vary depending on a company’s technological capabilities, cultural philosophies, and scaling needs and may prioritize either virtual or in-person access points.

The benefits and challenges of a hybrid learning environment

Implementing a hybrid learning strategy can help save your company money, increase learning accessibility for all employees, and drive an optimum L&D impact. However, implementation and structuring may also pose a significant challenge if your organization is forced to pivot away from time-tested habits built up over a majority in-person company lifetime.

Post-pandemic, many organizations are engaging new technologies or re-invigorating old ones to support a hybrid workforce which has achieved a massive scale over the past 4 years. We are not only training on how to use tech to support work functionality but also how to communicate effectively as a team and as individuals without the convenience of a conference room.

The good news is that much of the tech and even experience required for effective functionality in a hybrid learning sphere is already in place – we just need to optimize our use of it. Doing so can help us to maintain equity and a sense of connection between organizational learners.

Key considerations for a hybrid learning environment

Here are a few things L&D pros should keep in mind while designing your company’s new hybrid learning strategy.

1. What tech does your organization already have in place?

Ben Lowell, Strategic Advisor for Class Technologies, strongly believes that software won’t solve your company’s problems. What will help your organization navigate the new normal of a hybrid learning environment is an intelligent learning strategy that is being delivered by well-trained L&D pros. Tech can then come in to support and supplement the work already being done.

And, Ben says, most modern organizations already have the technologies they need to support effective virtual and hybrid learning – they just need to make better use of it.

So, take inventory of especially the communications and analytics software your org already has in place, and consider how it can be leveraged for more efficient functionality.

2. Where are the best areas of opportunity for maximizing learning results?

Moving our learning strategy to a hybrid sphere provides L&D designers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to scrutinize the methodologies within our approach and decide what needs to be cut, what translates to a virtual platform, and what we can enhance given a technological intervention.

For example, lecture series migrate well into a hybrid platform, however, they deliver lackluster learning results. So, why not prioritize mentorship programs or small-group learning experiences which scale more effectively in a hybrid setting? What modifications to the status quo can we make during this period of transition that will better serve our learners and save finance for our companies?

3. Where is your audience?

Questions of scaling, technological integrations, synchronous vs. asynchronous learning, etc. may all be answered by mapping where your learners are coming from and where they will be engaging with learning materials most. It is critical to integrate learning opportunities and requirements into your workforce’s day-to-day in such a way that is accessible in terms of both time and interaction.

A majority remote workforce may mean your team puts more resources towards developing an asynchronous lecture series followed by synchronous virtual discussion. Majority in-person, you might consider prioritizing ILT with options for virtual connection or async follow-along.

4. How do your employees feel?

Engagement and connection are some of the key drivers of long-term learning integration and application. This means testing for employee sentiment with each innovation or modification you make to your hybrid working environment.

Ben Lowell makes the statement that hybrid learning environments which connect remote employees to a populated lecture hall where a facilitator is addressing the gathered in-person learners can lead to feelings of inequity and exclusion for those tuning in from home. If this is the case, your remote learners may not get as much out of this strategy as in-person participants — asking them how they feel and what they need can help you design better programming.

5. How can you blend modalities for an optimized learning experience?

One learning strategy is not necessarily better than the other – virtual, in-person, and hybrid all have unique merits and areas of application to which they are uniquely suited. Catering to a hybrid cohort may be as simple as creating an amalgamation of ILT and VILT to give all gathered equal access to the materials and supplementary experiences.

Ben suggests a hybrid ILT presentation with virtual/in-person breakout rooms with a secondary virtual facilitator directing the remote discussion while the primary lecturer works with the in-person team.

What’s next?

The hybrid learning environment you build may provide a unique and company-specific experience for your cohort of professional learners. Gain added insights and expert advice from industry professionals in our exclusive webinar: Keeping the Human Connection in a Hybrid Learning Environment.

Sidra Tareen
Sidra Tareen

Sidra is head of Education Marketing at Class, and has worked in education for almost 10 years. You can find her doing yoga, drinking espresso, and watching F1 on Sundays.

Sidra Tareen
Sidra Tareen

Sidra is head of Education Marketing at Class, and has worked in education for almost 10 years. You can find her doing yoga, drinking espresso, and watching F1 on Sundays.

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