How Effective is Blended Learning

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 23, 2014

The advent of new educational technologies such as computer programs and the ability to deliver course content on-line, combined with changing student demographics and a changing and complex business environment, has led to the development of new approaches to student teaching and learning (Bonk & Graham, 2006). One of these new approach of learning is known as Blended Learning. This paper will discuss the meaning of blended learning; describe how different organizations have used it to their benefit and finally what should be the most effective way to approach blended learning for a Learning and development function of the organization.

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning as a concept involves the use of new educational methodologies and practices which emphasis student centered active learning (de Freitas & Oliver, 2005), in conjunction with more traditional approaches which emphasis a teacher centered approach which assumes passive learning by students. Driscoll (2007) takes a broader view, arguing that blended learning refers to four different concepts:

1. To combine or mix modes of web-based technology (e.g. live virtual classroom, self-paced instruction, collaborative learning, streaming video, audio, and text) to accomplish an educational goal.

2. To combine various pedagogical approaches (e.g. constructivism, behaviorism, cognitivism) to produce an optimal learning outcome with or without instructional technology.

3. To combine any form of instructional technology (e.g. videotape, CD-ROM, web-based training, film) with face-to-face instructor-led training.

4. To mix or combine instructional technology with actual job tasks in order to create a harmonious effect of learning and working.

Image Courtesy:, Stuart Miles

Why is it on rise now?

The significant increase in the number and availability of computer and web-based learning applications constitutes one of the reasons to explain the growth in the use of blended learning over the last ten to fifteen years (O'Connor, C., Mortimer, D., & Bond, S. (2011). Also there has been significant change in the way in which new students or employees approach their learning.

How organizations have used blended learning?

In 2009, Google wanted to develop their early-career employees — Googlers with fewer than three years of work experience. These employees were spread all over the world. They created a four-week leadership development series. The program was self-paced but included components to drive peer accountability (i.e., a way to create engagement), community (i.e., courses that leveraged interactive learning among peers) and variety (i.e., a range of mediums used for the courses to keep things interesting). The content was not a challenge for them, instead which specific content address its business-driven learning objectives. Google found YouTube videos with top leadership gurus to “teach” about self-awareness. Google used internal experts to create “knols” — user-generated help articles — about effective teams. Google then provided this content in a logical weekly progression. The first week focused more generally on leadership at Google and self-awareness. The second week introduced self-management. Weeks three and four then tied it together with the topics “teams” and “influencing without authority.” These self-paced chunks of learning content were interspersed with interactive assignments using Google Sites, Docs and even Moderator as tools to create an asynchronous community. The content and assignments aligned with learning objectives and employee skill gaps and competencies to ensure a clear connection to the “What’s in it for me?” question. Google knew that if employees saw personal value in the training, they would have better engagement and participation. More than 90 percent of participants completed the self-paced work. Finally, participants were provided with 360-degree behavioral assessments and e-learning quizzes to ensure they understood the content and would be able to act on it.

Qualcomm started an Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) for its geographically dispersed workforce. It was a mix (75-25) of virtual and face-to-face. It had two e-learning modules- Getting things done and Virtual teams. These anchor programs were supplemented with a mix of other virtual and in-person blended learning elements to engage learners in a continuous process to sustain change over the long term. Some of elements of blended learning used were

• A 180-degree assessment, which includes manager and self-assessments.

• One-and-a-half days of classroom sessions.

• Four virtual classroom webinars, lasting one to two hours each.

• One-on-one sessions between employee and manager.

• Learning partner meetings with another cohort member.

• Online reinforcement modules.

• Learning community tools specific to the organization, such as Yammer, and a social network community site where participants could share their experiences with others.

Results were positive: It was found to be more cost-effective and efficient than classroom or standalone e-learning in driving large-scale behavior change. In fact, participants in the blended learning program demonstrated a 52 percent increase in skill level or knowledge after the 12-week program.

NZIM, a New Zealand Management organization have developed a blended and extended learning experience based on the 70/20/10 model which is increasingly underpinning organizations’ learning strategies. This model derives from research (CLC) showing that we learn 70% of what we do on-the-job, 20% through mentoring, coaching, and support from managers or peers, and 10% through formal learning. The results were very encouraging in increasing the effectiveness in performance of these participants.

Moe, C. E., & Rye, S. A. (2011) conducted an empirical study of an in-service training program for middle-level managers in a number of case organizations was conducted. The program used a combination of e-learning, textbooks and face-to-face seminars. The conclusion reached was that a purposeful blend of delivery modes and technology systems can situate learning outside the daily work location and at the same time facilitate the creation of communities of practice embedded in daily work experience.

In another study conducted by Chung and Davis (1995) in a university, it was found that blended learning environments helped learners in taking their own learning responsibilities such as time management, choosing material, etc. They offered flexibility in access to learning resources and in return observed a more effective results. This approach offers participants a way to self-manage their learning. And higher the self-intent towards a learning equally higher will be the learning from that methodology.

Measuring effectiveness of blended learning?

Effect of blended learning on work performance can be measured. If we define measurable and observable learning objectives of the blended learning program, then we can measure it. It is same as measuring any other learning effectiveness.

A study explored impact of blended learning on ‘Functional Effectiveness Factor of Managerial Effectiveness’, with reference to managers of Banking and Information Technology Sectors. They used the Managerial Effectiveness Scale [Upinder Dhar, Santosh Dhar and Preeti Jain (2000)] to determine the impact of blended learning on functional effectiveness factor of managerial effectiveness over the sample of 320 managers. They saw improvement in performance of the participants. Thus, if we define the objectives (Functional effectiveness of managers) and keep them measurable (using a scale), then the effectiveness of blended learning can be measured.

Effectiveness also depends on the kind of participants. McSporran and Young (2001) suggest that women may outperform men in blended environments because they are better at scheduling their time. There was evidence that men had lower participation, in comparison to women. The study carried out by Choudhari (2003) found that the effectiveness of bank managers is more than managers of other sectors, and it is associated with timely completion of jobs, better service transaction and better customer interactions.

How should organizations approach blended learning

How can L&D function can maximize gains if they decide to offer blended learning in their organizations? The objective of blended learning should be driving business value out of the investment. In order to achieve that organizations should keep 3 key principles in mind suggested by Jeff Snipes:-

1. Real learning and lasting behavioral change do not happen from a one-time training event. Rather, they come from an ongoing learning process of application, practice and reinforcement.

2. Organizations must leverage current technology to quickly scale to leaders across all levels and locations.

3. A highly engaging and personal learning experience is needed to make an impact.

In essence, it is important that companies understand the need for a strategic framework as the foundation of their blended learning programs. According to Josh Bersin, the founder of Bersin & Associates, there are four stages in the evolution of blended learning:

• Stage 1: Companies purchase catalogues of learning programs and begin to automate product and content offerings.

• Stage 2: Organizations begin looking systematically at programs. For example, they might look at how they can reduce a five-day annual sales meeting to four days by supplementing it with e-learning or a smaller regional session.

• Stage 3: Companies get more strategic with their learning programs, allowing them to change behaviors faster and obtain more impact.

• Stage 4: Organizations links their strategy to business issues to see a true business impact resulting from training.

In order to gain from the investment made in blended learning, the organizations need to be at least at stage 3. One size does not fit all. Each organization is different and would need different strategy to implement blended learning. But this approach definitely can be used by them to their advantage. If they can follow certain principles and used right research to design their strategy, then the success will be easier to achieve. With the right strategy tied to real business outcomes, organizations will have more skilled current and future leaders who are better positioned to succeed and help propel their company forward.

This article has been authored by Anjul Rajoriya & Arpit Jain from XLRI


1. O'Connor, C., Mortimer, D., & Bond, S. (2011). Blended learning: Issues, benefits and challenges. International Journal of Employment Studies, 19(2), 63.

2. Moe, C. E., & Rye, S. A. (2011). Blended learning: communication, locations and work-life practices. Educational Media International, 48(3), 165-178.

3. Nagura and Arakawa (2003), Effectiveness of Blended Learning in Management Skill Training. Retrieved on April 20, 2012 from /papers/2003 /pdf/np200369.pdf.

4. McSporran, M. and Young, S. (2001), Gender Effect in Online Learning, ALT-J, 9(2): 3–15.

5. Choudhari, C. S. (2003), Leadership Behavior and Occupational Self Efficacy as Predictor of Managerial Effectiveness, Learned Helpless and Job Attitudes in Manufacturing and Service Sector Organizations, Ph.D. Thesis, Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore.

6. Shoun Sheldrake. (October 2012). Blended learning sparks exciting L&D renewal. Focus on Management. 07 (05), 01-02.

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