The key criteria are based on the following:
Identify the core learning need.
Establish the level of demand/timescales.
Recognize the different learning styles.
Look creatively at the potential of using different forms of learning, e.g. matching the learning need to different delivery methods and identifying the best fit.
Work with the current providers, internal and external, to identify the learning objectives and to ensure that the provision meets the current need.
Undertake an education process to illustrate the potential of different types of learning.
Be prepared to offer follow-up coaching support.
Set up a monitoring process to evaluate the effectiveness of the delivery.
Identify the learning opportunity and recognize the need to provide the right solution for your learner. Increasingly organizations are recognizing the importance of tailoring learning to the individual rather than applying a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. We all have preferred ways of learning and, despite all the research and recommendations to take account of how people learn, many organizations from school to work still continue to provide blanket solutions.
As training solutions evolve into learning solutions the hope is that organizations will begin to recognize the importance of making the learning more appropriate for each individual. One approach to this is blended learning, which provides a great opportunity to really tailor the learning to the learner. Of course there will be common themes, common needs, but there is also the opportunity to look creatively at how the learning experience is designed and to use a variety of media to suit differing needs. It will also be important to consider if there is an opportunity to offer the online learning component of blended learning. Not all organizations have the infrastructure to support this type of learning. Find out what works best in your company's culture.
At this stage it is also important to identify how you are going to create the different parts of the solutions. There will be a number of ways in which the learning objectives can be met, and it will be essential that whoever is responsible for commissioning the solution has the necessary ability to look creatively at all the options. This particularly links to how the learning might be tailored, e.g. if you have a very generic need it may be possible that an off-the-shelf provision could be purchased. This generic provision, however, could be supported by support coaching by a line manager who could prepare the learner prior to his or her undertaking the learning experience and follow it up afterwards. In this way the overall learning experience will feel more personalized.
In any decision about developing learning solutions there will always be a need to assess the reality of the demand. However, blended learning represents a real opportunity to respond more effectively to individual demand and as such has an application that is as relevant to an individual within a very small business as it is to a team of learners in a large global company. The very nature of the blend builds in flexibility. As with the development of any learning solution it will be important to gain a real understanding of the shape and scale of the demand, not just currently but also in the future. This highlights the importance of making sure that whoever is identifying the learning needs really understands how people learn so that he or she is able to ask the deeper-level questions to understand not just the immediate learning needs but the future needs too. It will also help if he or she can explore with the sponsor the potential of creatively offering different approaches to learning including coaching support.
We know through the work of David Kolb and Honey and Mumford that we all have preferred learning styles. As well as different learning styles there are other factors to take into consideration in the way that people prefer to learn. A learning solution needs to take account of these factors. In structuring the learning solution it will be important to take account of the learning styles of others. It also represents a great opportunity to review and revitalize the full learning and development offer. Ask yourself or your team the question, 'How could we really do things differently?'
One of the first steps is identifying what exists. Depending on your size of organization this can be a comparatively simple or a more complex exercise. In large or global organizations it can be difficult to keep up to date with local developments. Learning and development professionals are a creative breed and a program that may have been developed centrally may often evolve into something quite different as it is rolled out into local regions and districts, or even into different functions.
'Tailoring' to meet the need of customers can also mean that the approach or content may be different from the original. Equally the wisdom gained through implementation may mean that what is offered is different from the original interpretation. All of this normally represents the healthy stages of implementation and development. However if you are trying to develop a strategy to transform an organization it is important to recognize what exists so that it can be integrated and formulated into new solutions.
In many large organizations this represents the toughest challenge, particularly if the different provisions are located in different parts of the organization either geographically or psychologically. IT implementation and creating an e-environment may not necessarily sit next to learning and development. If you are a strong advocate of classroom training, a facilitator or a one-to-one coach you may not necessarily look for an online learning solution. The power of blended learning is that it can enable more elegant and bespoke solutions by combining one or more methods. Developing a coaching environment may take the learning out of the classroom and invest it in the line management structure. The secret is to really analyse what the key learning needs are and the most appropriate way of meeting them. In the early stages it may need some really basic examples of how it could work.
One of the challenges may be helping others adapt to the new forms of learning. If you feel that you excel in stand-up training you may be less enthusiastic about adopting different ways of developing others. If you are fascinated by the use of design and technology in developing learning solutions you may be less aware of the different ways that learners learn. However in today's learning environment there have been a number of changes including using the line manager as coach, shorter training sessions and the use of online learning and multimedia packages. Going forward it will be important to help everyone involved with learning and development make their maximum contribution.
As well as highlighting the need to outline the potential of different types of learning, there is also the need to undertake an education process with the rest of the business; this will need to be far reaching as it will include fellow learning and development professionals, line managers and the learners themselves. Some of the potential issues are likely to be linked to the need to do things differently, and people usually need support with handling change, so it will be important to help people recognize the potential as well as helping them to identify the solution that works for them. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved. It can involve online demonstrations, PowerPoint presentations, small lunchtime meetings or workshops exploring the potential of using different types of training medium or coaching.
During a period of transformation there needs to be support available to help the learner work through the different aspects of the change. This support does not have to be through the same person; it could be a line manager who starts the process and continues to monitor progress throughout the individual's development. The individual may also have a mentor, or can be encouraged to talk through life goals with a partner or someone close. There may be an online support coach, peer support teams or different tutors linked to both the online and the classroom development. The most important factor is that when learners feel the need for support they have access to the most appropriate person available for them.
One of the criticisms levelled at many learning and development initiatives is that they are not effectively monitored and evaluated. This can have significant impact when the organization is trying to measure the ROI. With something as far reaching as transformation it is important to track the development, the lessons learnt and what improvements can be made. Having an internal learning management system can really help in this process, or some method of tracking and measuring progress on the journey.