Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reactive vs. Proactive Blended Training...

The two phrases caught my eye some time back during one of my surfing the net moments. It was a case of pure serendipity. I had been looking for something completely unrelated. The thought that generated the phrase was not new but the way it had been put stuck in my mind.

How often do organizations/learning solution consultants advocate a particular learning/training medium—today, it is e-learning for the following reasons:

1. Wider reach
2. Global spread of organizations
3. Reduced cost of training
4. “Consistency” in the training
5. Availability of technology
6. Because everyone is doing it and it is supposed to work

Don’t get me wrong. I am an e-learning proponent and that is also my profession. If organizations decide to not go the e-learning way, I will be out of a job.

However, there is something called as too much of a good thing. There was a time when the concept of e-learning had to be sold to representatives from the L&D department or the training department. Today, the concept has caught on and the scale has swung in the opposite direction. In a bid to embrace e-learning, many organizations have dumped all their existing training content into a format that can be delivered over the web. Once done, the training department proudly ticks this off on their to-do list and waits for different miracles to happen—productivity to increase, quality to improve, turnaround time to lessen, delighted customers to call up…This phase of anticipation is followed by a period of anxious waiting and then disillusion with e-learning per se.

In a bid to salvage the training and justify the cost, some of the training “modules” are shifted back to the classroom mode. Reactive Blended Training comes itno the picture. And e-learning gets a bad name.

What, as Learning Consultants, we should do and this is common knowledge—I am iterating here to give completeness to this post—map the training needs, the content, the context, the organizational set-up, the learner profiles and most importantly, the strengths and weaknesses of technology supporting the training. Post such an analysis phase, what hopefully should emerge is a clear picture of training areas and requirements that can be mapped to the best mode of delivery. This will lead to the creation of a “learningscape” or a “learning ecosphere” that will be composed of Proactive Blended Training.

Today, the options for this blend have expanded and can have two or more of the following (with many more soon to follow I am certain):
1. Web-based training
2. Classroom training
3. Informal learning platforms (these are platforms like wiki, forums, etc., that some organizations are trying to put in place to motivate employees to share knowledge and experiences—tacit and explicit)
4. Social networking (I am keeping this separate from informal learning because in many cases, learning happens incidentally through networking that does not strike the “learner” immediately but may be recalled later.)

Such proactive blending will always have a better chance of success. However, this requires experience with and understanding of the strengths, possibilities, and limitations of each of the medium and also the learners’ usage patterns.

It is important too to have a finger on the pulse of the organization itself to know what blend will work and what should be the proportion of each component within the blend.

I had some experience in creating a blended learning solution of this sort…but that calls for another post.

I am still struggling to reach that perfect blend where the training requirement exactly maps to the delivery mode and each component of the blend compliments each other to form a perfect “learnscape”. Would be glad to receive inputs…


  1. A valuable post, Sahana. It is unfortunate that most clients insist on the mode of delivery based on the popular trends rather than what will be most effective for the learner. I know exactly how you feel. During a call with a client, he happened to mention that they wanted eLearning because it will save costs and technical concepts will continue to be taught using ILTs. Where do these misconceptions come from? I think the learning company should suggest the most effective solution based on the learner profile and objective. Give them reports stating logic and rationale for the approach.

    I have also come across several learning companies (they don't deserve to be called so) blindly complying with every demand the client makes. They think this will make the client happy. But finally when the product is ineffective, the client is upset.

  2. Sahana,

    This is one of the many challenges that organizations need to tackle during their strategy, planning phase.

    When vendor is introduced to e-Learning, they enter and exit when the project they execute is complete. The irony is that businesses are continous cycle and initiatives need proactive hand holding constantly.

    Luckily for me, my customers always engage with me post project delivery to discuss their adoption rates and seek help in resolving some issues. With this experience, I can say that as Learning Consultants, we should go beyond the project to ensure the business success of e-Learning initiative by
    1. Monitor the initial launch phase along with client.
    2. Proactively address technical hurdles that users face in their progress.
    3. Create avenues for users to respond and interact with the administrators of the program.


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