To Blend, or Not to Blend

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Darryl L. Sink and Associates, Inc. (DSA) helps organizations design and develop learning and performance solutions that get results. DSA works cooperatively with organizations to:

  • accomplish internal custom projects
  • train and educate their internal staff in Instructional Systems Development.

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We'd like to thank DSA employee Chris Mueller for today's tip. Chris has been working on the new version of DSA's "The E-Learning Design Workshop."

It’s likely that you’re no stranger to using blended approaches to your training strategies. Seasoned instructional designers often blend training strategies simply on their own blend of experience and common sense, knowing that training formats have always paired well together.

Research reveals many definitions for blended learning. One of the more recent and concise definitions comes from Allison Rossett:

"Blended learning integrates seemingly opposite approaches, such as formal and informal learning, face-to-face and online experiences, directed paths and reliance on self direction, and digital references and collegial connections, in order to achieve individual and organizational goals.” (Strategies for Building Blended Learning, Learning Circuits, July 2003)

Why Blend?

There are many advantages to using blended strategies to your overall approach in a training program, including the following:

  1. A Broader Reach. By combining training methods, you can extend the reach of training. Meaning, you have the advantage of reaching your audience outside of one fixed location.
  2. Time and Cost Reduction. The careful selection of approaches, while considering the needs of the audience and the available methods can save you development time and cost.
  3. Increase Effectiveness. By recognizing and carefully balancing the audience needs, preferred or common learning methods, and the available resources, blended learning can provide a significant increase in the effectiveness of training, bringing a greater ROI.

Your options for blending are many. Take a minute to look at a categorized list of training methods that might be blended, straight from our E-Learning Designer Workshop:

Live / Face-to-Face


Classroom Presentation

Self-Paced E-Learning



On-the-Job Training

Discussion Board

Print-Based Self-Study

Chat Room

How Do You Blend?

How do you decide what formats to blend? Choosing from the different methods is a balancing act. The following are some key considerations when choosing the training methods you will blend:

  1. How stable is the content? For example, if the content is dynamic and may change frequently and/or soon, methods that are easy to update and change should be used.
  2. How much time do you have to develop it? For example, job aids take much less time to create than online modules.
  3. Is it important to have human intervention? A critical or complex task may require human intervention, whereas simple facts or concepts may be learned or reviewed as a self-study.
  4. What are the costs of the solution(s)? Naturally, certain approaches will cost more than others. What is the value-add of using a specific approach, and is the business or organization willing to invest in it?
  5. What is the ultimate learning experience to achieve?

If a social approach is desired, where interaction should be high (such as simulations and roleplay), a synchronous method should be used. The opposite would be an independent approach, requiring little or no interaction, including audio, video, workbooks, and programmed simulations.

With these guidelines and more research on the advantages and availability of methods you are already familiar with, you will be well on your way to designing a valid blended learning approach to your training program.

See you next time,