Blending on and offline learning - A live blog from CIPD L&D Show 2014

Blending on and offline learning - A live blog from CIPD Learning and Development Show

It’s the first session of the day at the CIPD L&D Show 2014 and the topic is Implementing Blended e-Learning and Offline Strategies for Greater Impact. I’m really looking forward to this one. For me, online learning seems to operate in isolation to face to face learning. Truly blended learning is about bringing the two together offering learners one journey instead of fragmented and unrelated pieces.

It’s the first time I’ve tried to live blog from an event, so here goes…

Perry Timms kicks off the session with a warm welcome and introduces the two speakers for the session. The first is Alison Innes-Farquhar, Head of People at HC One and the second is Tim Drewitt, Head of Online Learning, at Vodafone.

Alison’s first slide says that blended learning drives colleague engagement and business transformation.  Alison will be sharing her example of how they have done this in HC One. It’s a large healthcare organisation with 232 homes, 10,500 residents and a massive 15,000 colleagues.  They’re built on strong vision and values to deliver the kindest care. Their values include accountability, involvement and partnership. Alison was asked to build a new culture around the vision to deliver the kindest care. A platform called “Touch” was launched. The programme features online learning , resources and collaboration as part of their blended learning approach.  There has been a fantastic response from colleagues and Alison says that it is already transforming the business. A number of awards for technology and people development are testimony to how well the platform has gone.

Alison says that there were some guiding principles that they built at the beginning of the programme. One of those was “We will move from a culture of training for compliance to a culture of training for quality and kindness” of course directly linked to their vision. Alison says “to develop skills and change behaviours, learning must be more than a “one hit” experience. HC One created interactive multimedia elearning courses to raise awareness and deliver key learning messages. Alison says that one of the most popular aspects of the platform was “mini-movies” which grabbed attention and made people realise “this is going to be different”. Topics included information about medication and care delivered in a bite size, memorable and fun way. Many of these sat outside of eLearning, meaning that you can access these short clips without the need to spend time completing an entire course.

Alison played one of the clips which was an animated clip with a musical compliance song singing about laxatives and healthcare in a rather amusing way set to a nice blues track! It was really engaging and I enjoyed it looking around the room so did everyone else. The round of applause at the end confirmed that.

Alison went on to say that every touch course also has linked learning activities allowing colleagues to build competency by practicing skills in the workplace. Alison says “You can’t expect someone to watch something on a screen and expect someone to just do it”.  There is also conversation cards that help learners put generic learning messages into context of where they work.  Infographics also feature on the site which can be downloaded, printed, turned into posters or job aids etc to offer a further blended approach and useful reminder of key learning points.  The content is also available on mobiles and tablets improving access to learning for all colleagues and ensuring agency staff are supported when they come on shift.

Since Touch launched in September 2012. 100% of staff have adopted using the system, there are over 15,000 active users, 325,000 courses completed and 280,000 training hours delivered. Alison says there is no way we could have delivered this in a face to face way. To measure the impact of the platform, a question in the employee engagement survey was, “What is the best thing HC One has done for you in the last 12 months.”  This was a free text question allowing people to put whatever they wished.  “Training” was the overwhelming response.  The Chairman of HC One in a video described the huge challenge the organisation has embarked on to deliver the kindest care and said that “Best people, best skills and the best approach is required to have the kindest care. Touch is the platform that has helped us to do that.”

Tim is next to take the stage and will be sharing his story of what Vodafone has done to blend their approach to learning. Vodafone has 419 million customers, 1 in 5 mobiles worldwide connected to Vodafone network, they employ around 90,00 people, operate in nearly 30 countries and have around 50 partner networks a huge global L&D challenge!

Tim starts by describing the typical learning investment (based on research) which revealed 10% of our investment tends to be on pre-work, 85% on the training event itself and just 5% on the follow up. The same research however reveals that when it comes to activities contributing to learning effectiveness, 26% should be spent on pre-work, 24% on the training event and 50% on the follow up.  This leads to the question, how can we use technology to help us with this, particularly the follow up to our events?  Perhaps another question is how can we use technology to engage with our learners BEFORE the learning event?

Tim went on to give an example of how Vodafone do this in the Leadership programme. The programme is personalised allowing people to mix and match. Online there are quick introductions to topics which delegates can choose to “deep dive” into if they require more information either on a workshop or by eLearning.  The programme also includes “Leader as Teacher” which encourages leaders to tell stories and share knowledge with their teams. Tim says one of the important pieces he wanted to introduce was some video refreshers – lucky they have their own media production and video crew! What a luxury. So they selected Kate, one of their leadership facilitators to create some videos. These were originally designed to be “refresher” videos, however, once complete, it was realised that they are good enough to stand alone as learning videos in their own rights introducing people to new topics. Tim showed us one on the screen and I was most impressed.  I wonder how many of our programmes can we create bite sized learning videos, short explanations of models and theories for example, for people to look at before, during or after a learning event?

Tim went on to describe how they use “Gamification” Vodafone include in the mix offering things such as manager weekly workouts, knowledge quizzes and games along with hints and tips all delivered online, on mobile and on tablets.  The manager toolkit app that Tim described was particularly impressive. An app that gives managers instant access to information and tips on operational issues. There is also a mobile learning nuggets app available to all that gives people access to learning on topics such as handling objections, cross-selling, upselling and active listening for example along with handy hints on customer engagement. .

Tim’s session concluded and the floor then opened for questions. The first was around how to encourage people to use these tools. It’s kind of the “what if you build it and they don’t come?” question. Alison picked up the question and said that before launching Touch they knew there would be some resistance. So to address this, a whole communication plan was put in place where information was drip-fed out into the organisation some months before going live. There was some test pilot groups, some roadshows and lots of engagement. Alison said we made it fun and simple and employees are now very proud of their achievements to learn something new.  HC One don’t give their employees mobile devices, but Alison went on to describe how this engagement piece has really encouraged people to use their own devices, which she says they are more than happy to do.

The next question was around how you measure the impact of this learning. Alison said we look at all angles, not only feedback from employees, but feedback from residents and relatives of residents around the care being delivered. Alison says turnover of staff has also dramatically decreased and employee engagement surveys are indicating delegates are enjoying the learning and want more.  It was after all the vision of “kindest care” that they were setting out to achieve so why not measure this learning against that?

This has been a really useful session and I’m looking forward to sharing this learning back in my own organisation.  For me the key lessons have been:

  • To develop skills and change behaviours, learning must be more than a “one hit” experience"
  • We should offer information and learning in multiple formats giving people access to information in a variety of ways
  • Early engagement with our learners is key. Let them know what you’re thinking of doing with blended learning ahead of actually doing it.  Engage and excite them early.
  • We can use technology to help us engage with our delegates BEFORE and AFTER our programmes


Hope you’ve found that useful.  Looking forward to your comments below….


 For more Tweets from me from the Learning and Development follow @dpgplc on Twitter.

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