All areas of work are subject to change over time – and professional education and training are no exception. Digital media are now having a particular influence on learning cultures. While blended learning used to be seen as “only” teaching basic skills to prepare employees for training courses far away from the workplace, such as workshops or seminars, it now plays a central role in corporate learning.
Learning – a process
Working and learning have moved ever closer together in the last few years. One reason for this is that the cycles in which requirements change are becoming increasingly shorter. For example, software manufacturers now update their IT applications every four to six weeks. On top of this, regulatory conditions in sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry are continuously changing and companies must be able to show their employees have been trained in the new legal requirements.
To keep up with this pace of change and adapt knowledge transfer to employees’ individual demands, learning needs to be understood as an ongoing process. State-of-the-art blended learning concepts thus combine classroom training with web-based training, virtual meetings and learning phases that learners organize themselves. Ideally, they also offer learners the opportunity to share information and ideas in communities and to benefit from workplace-focused performance support. As a result, the role of trainers is changing, too.
From “push” to “pull”
Previously, trainers were primarily tasked with running training programs that were conducted far away from the workplace. Training departments generally specified the content, timings and goals of these programs, and all participants were taught the same subject-matter accordingly. In this scenario, learners were fundamentally passive, as learning was controlled from outside (push).
In modern blended learning, on the other hand, a whole range of different measures come together – trainer-led and media offerings, organized and self-study phases, and formal and informal learning. As a result, the way trainers see themselves is also changing, with them evolving into learning companions who have an overview of the entire process. They are on hand as partners for learners and adapt courses to learners’ needs. In this scenario, learners are active and request learning content as and when they need it (pull).
To live up to this role, trainers need a comprehensive range of skills. Today’s learning companions design training courses, plan learning paths and shape learning media. They create videos, podcasts and learning nuggets, supervise communities and develop virtual learning formats. Strategic matters such as devising a new learning culture are now also part of their responsibilities.