Blended learning strategies: How a learning management system can help you combine online and in-person training for better results
As a company grows, every entrepreneur faces the problem of training new employees and improving their qualifications. After all, the more skilled the employees are, the higher the quality of services is. Here, various learning approaches can be chosen — from conducting offline training sessions with employees to providing them with online study materials and courses or applying blended learning strategies, which are a mix of these two methods. The implementation of any of these learning formats can be facilitated by a learning management system (LMS), software designed to create educational courses and materials and enable interaction between teachers and students.
In this article, we will discuss how LMS helps implement the blended learning approach, what advantages creating a custom LMS can bring to your organization, and how our company approaches the development of such solutions. You can also find out more about our custom learning management system development experience.
What are blended learning strategies?
Blended learning, also known as hybrid learning, is an approach to education that combines online learning and the use of digital materials with in-person interaction between teachers and students, allowing the latter to benefit from the best features of both face-to-face and digital instruction. This provides a more flexible, personalized, and engaging knowledge-sharing experience between tutors and learners.
Nevertheless, within the community of educators and students, there remains no exact definition of blended learning. This lack of clarity complicates research in this field and the determination of the effectiveness of this teaching method. Generally, this approach is characterized as one where online resources and tools partly supplant face-to-face interactions between teachers and students, instead of functioning as an extension of the primary curriculum.
Blended learning strategies can be effectively implemented in various spheres of life and business. Let’s have a look at a short list of their use cases.
Education. Schools, colleges, and universities employ diverse learning strategies to cater to the varying learning preferences and educational needs of students. Blended learning is especially convenient in the era of viruses and lockdowns as it can help students to avoid visiting classes in large groups and see their teachers only during essential practice sessions.
Corporate sector. Companies and organizations use learning strategies in employee training and professional development programs. These strategies are particularly useful for onboarding new employees, upskilling the current workforce, and providing continuous learning opportunities to stay competitive in the market.
Healthcare. In the healthcare industry, learning strategies are used to train medical personnel, educate patients, and facilitate the dissemination of new research findings. For instance, The American Heart Association (AHA) offers a blended learning course called HeartCode, which combines online and in-person instruction for resuscitation and first aid training. This approach helps learners to acquire essential lifesaving skills effectively.
Non-profit organizations. Blended learning strategies help to equip non-government organizations’ workers and volunteers with essential knowledge. The Red Cross uses blended learning for volunteer training, with online modules covering essential information and in-person sessions for hands-on practice. This approach enables volunteers to better prepare for disaster response and recovery operations.
Except for these spheres, blended learning strategies can be used for training personnel in cultural, governmental, and military institutions to boost the effectiveness of online education and sports training.
What are the existing blended learning strategies, and how can we implement them using learning management systems?
There are various learning models that require different levels of involvement from educators. Regardless of the approach, educators can benefit a lot from the assistance of an LMS — a software application that automates online education.
With the help of an LMS, teachers can create and assign tasks to students, check completed assignments, and evaluate their performance. Let’s explore what different blended learning strategies exist and how LMS can make life easier for educators while ensuring a comfortable learning process for students.
In traditional teaching models, teachers present new information to students in the classroom and assign homework for them to complete at home. This model is known as the face-to-face driver model. The flipped classroom model differs as students receive material on new topics as homework and then work through the content with the teacher in the classroom, dedicating more time to practice rather than theory.
This blended learning strategy can be well-illustrated with examples such as chemistry lessons or foreign language classes. At home, students study materials about chemical reactions or learn new words in a foreign language. When they come to class, they conduct experiments and reactions or make up dialogues using the newly-learned words. In such a situation, the teacher acts more as a mentor guiding the students rather than just lecturing.
In both approaches, LMS can simplify the educator’s life by allowing them to create and send homework tasks to students whenever convenient. Additionally, assignments and files can come in various formats, such as texts, videos, or PDFs. It allows teachers to manage their time more flexibly and eliminates the need for paper resources by providing digital materials instead. Ultimately, blended learning strategies, supported by an LMS, can facilitate more efficient and engaging educational experiences for both the teachers and students.
The rotation model is a blended learning strategy in which students engage with the material by alternately completing tasks while rotating between different learning modalities. With the help of such a model, students get the versatile experience of working with studied material.
This strategy can be applied in a physical classroom setting. For example, when learning about fractions, groups of children could move between various stations where they watch instructional videos and take in the information, then interact with fraction manipulatives using their hands, followed by working in groups to solve fraction problems, and finally participating in teacher-led activities.
Students can also rotate between online and offline formats. For instance, they may attend an offline lecture and then transition to an online setting to reinforce the material through online exercises, games, and resources from educational platforms or websites. Additionally, group work and movement between different stations can be fully organized online if the video conferencing software allows for breaking student groups into pairs or smaller subgroups.
In this case, educators can utilize an LMS to prepare materials for the lesson in advance, or even integrate it with a video conferencing platform if the learning process is meant to take place online. This blended learning strategy allows for seamless lesson execution and facilitates a smoother and more efficient teaching experience, whether it’s conducted in-person or remotely.
The Flex model emphasizes students independently studying online most of the time, reaching out to teachers only once in a while for help or consultation. They move between various learning activities without adhering to a strict schedule.
This format eliminates traditional lessons and lectures. Students learn all the material online and only communicate with teachers as needed. In the Flex model, teachers don’t stand in front of the class guiding students’ work or giving homework. Students manage their study schedules, deciding when to begin and end their learning. Blended learning strategies like this are most suitable for motivated learners who find conventional classroom instruction too restrictive or limiting.
A key feature of this model is that the course materials must be fully prepared in advance, enabling students to study at their own pace without interruptions. In this scenario, an LMS greatly assists educators by providing features for course creation and educational content development. Teachers can prepare their courses in advance, selecting formats suitable for learning, and then consulting students when they need it.
As you may have noticed, an LMS can be highly beneficial for facilitating lessons in various formats. This system helps educators create educational content in different formats, compile it into courses, and communicate with students during online events and webinars.
Features of LMS that can help with the implementation of blended learning strategies
We have created a list of features that an LMS should have to make the implementation of blended learning possible. In case you are in search of a suitable LMS for your organization or want to build your own custom LMS to sell by subscription, you may check this list of essential learning management system features.
Learning material management. With this feature, teachers can create lessons, courses, and assignments in advance or just before the class. The LMS should support various file types, allowing educators to use diverse instructional materials and provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject. This is one of the most essential features of an LMS, and without it, online learning would be impossible.
Assignment system. One of the critical components involved in blended learning strategies is the ability of instructors to assign and evaluate homework tasks. An LMS with a built-in assignment management system can enable educators to easily assign tasks to students, while students can quickly upload their work for review in various formats such as scanned documents, videos, and more.
Progress tracking and gamification. Often in the process of blended learning, students choose their learning pace, like in the Flex model. In this situation, it is crucial for them to track their progress, and gamification and dashboards can provide significant assistance. Gamification introduces game-like elements into the learning process, transforming tasks into exciting challenges, promoting friendly competition, and ultimately contributing to increased motivation.
Communication features. The members of a course or group might need to collaborate to complete some tasks. For such cases, it’s important to have features for collaboration like discussion boards, messaging systems, or virtual classrooms.
Scheduling and Calendar Integration. In the blended learning process, students have the option to learn both individually and in groups. To keep up with class preparations, for both educators and students it is essential to have an accessible schedule. This feature can be expanded with the help of a smart mechanism that can automatically select suitable class times for both teachers and students.
Integration with video conferencing tools. Webinars and online consultations are among the most critical components of blended learning strategies, as this format involves a combination of independent online learning and live consultations with instructors. Therefore, it is essential to either have built-in features for hosting video conferences or the ability to integrate with other platforms, such as Zoom.
This is not a complete list of features that an LMS should have. But this list comprises the key features required to make blended learning possible.
What are the advantages of custom LMS development?
At first glance, it may seem that there is already a vast number of off-the-shelf LMS options available for use within your organization, and undoubtedly, creating a custom LMS will take longer and be more expensive. However, developing a custom LMS also carries several advantages that are worth considering, which we will discuss below.
When it comes to school lessons, an off-the-shelf LMS may indeed be sufficient for education purposes, as most of the material is theoretical in nature and can be accommodated within a few formats: images, texts, and videos.
However, for professions and skills that are more practice-oriented, additional tools and formats might be necessary. For example, one of the most popular LMS platforms, Docebo, primarily supports formats like videos, gifs, texts, and images. Nevertheless, this may not be convenient for training professionals such as computer graphics artists or translators, as Docebo does not support file formats for software like Maya Autodesk or SDL Trados.
By creating your own custom LMS, you can avoid such limitations and design an interface that covers all stages of training for professionals in your field. At the same time, you can apply various learning models, including blended learning strategies.
Enhanced HR brand
Any potential employee wants to join an organization where they will not only work but also grow professionally. A custom LMS is an indicator that the organization cares about its employees and invests resources in their development. As a result, a significantly larger number of skilled professionals will be drawn to work for your company. It’s no surprise that many large organizations, such as McDonald’s and IBM, have developed their own LMS systems.
Enhanced data security
For employee training purposes, we often need materials from real-life orders or projects, which may be under an NDA or materials that we simply would not want to share with competitors. A custom LMS is a more reliable solution from a security standpoint, as access to its code is limited to the developers working on the development of the system itself. At the same time, custom LMS is less vulnerable to hacker attacks since bigger apps are their target.
Online education market growth
The profit in the online education market is increasing every year, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. Therefore, creating a Learning Management System or another educational application is a relevant business idea. You can either create a custom LMS for small business training and then start selling subscriptions to other users or create it with the goal of making money right away.
How does Ronas IT team approach custom LMS development?
Our team has extensive experience in designing and developing mobile and web applications, so we would be able to create an LMS with any features necessary for your business. Here’s how we would approach working on such a project.
Convenient content layout. In addition to recreating all the necessary features and placing them in a user-friendly and intuitive way, we would also think through how to work with different types of content. In an LMS, you can upload files of various formats: texts, images, and videos. We would make sure that all of them blend organically together without giving users a feeling that they see too little.
Visual style. We can design the LMS in any style: we can make it strict and neutral to suit a wide range of companies, add the color palette and logo of your brand to make your LMS associated exclusively with you, or create a bright and playful design to better engage your users in the learning process. We have a vast library of Dribbble shots where you can choose both positive and negative references.
Mobile-based design. If you decide to create a mobile LMS in addition to the web application, we can adapt the design to smartphones and tablets without losing functionality and visual appeal.
During the development process, we strive to choose technologies with a large developer community, as they will continue to be supported for a long time and have a vast number of reusable components that can reduce development time and save client resources.
Tech stack. We can develop an LMS using various technologies, but if given a choice, we would most likely use the following technologies. React for the front end, as there are many ready-made libraries with code snippets that would help speed up the development.
For the backend, we would use Laravel, as we have extensive experience working with it and this technology provides many opportunities for creating an application with a high level of data security - ensuring your company’s materials remain safe and secure.
If we were to develop a mobile LMS, we would use React Native, allowing your employees and clients with different devices and preferred operating systems to use your LMS seamlessly.
Release and maintenance. In addition to choosing the appropriate tech stack and writing high-quality code, we will help configure the created application in the IT environment.
To work with IT infrastructure, we use the Infrastructure as Code approach, which means that we manage the IT infrastructure through configuration files written in the form of code. We always use ready-made code files for this purpose, which significantly speeds up the release process and saves client resources.
Moreover, after the release, we can continue working on your LMS and provide post-release maintenance. We can add new features to the app when needed, enhance the app relying on feedback from your customers, and fix bugs if they occur.
In general, regardless of the type of LMS you choose, be it off-the-shelf or custom, this technology will greatly support onboarding and training employees. With it, you can teach specialists using educational models of various formats, including blended learning strategies, and improve the level of expertise of your specialists to ultimately raise the quality of services you provide.
If you decide to create a custom LMS, you will need the help of an IT company. In this case, we are more than happy to offer our assistance. The Ronas IT team is familiar with the LMS development process and steps: we will help create a user-friendly interface design, as well as develop and support it after the release.
If you want to develop a custom learning management system, don’t hesitate to contact us!