As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt worldwide, more and more organizations are realizing the benefits of switching to a hybrid training program. Gone are the days of insisting that hundreds of people gather in a room to learn about health and safety, a new product offering or how to be a better leader. Instead, today’s learners appreciate being able to choose whether they attend training in-person or virtually.

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the key challenges and benefits of a hybrid learning program, as well as Training Orchestra’s top tips for getting it right.

Challenges of hybrid learning

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When it comes to your hybrid training program, the main challenge you will face is managing the new complexities that come along with hybrid training operations. No longer are you only managing an in-person or a virtual session, but you could be managing a course that has both components. In addition, the new roles that have to be filled and resources that are needed to ensure smooth operations both in-person and virtually bring many new challenges, as hybrid learning introduces the risk of technical challenges for trainers inexperienced in virtual training.

Another key challenge organizations face when building a hybrid training program is ensuring that the program feels cohesive. Often, the virtual component can feel like an afterthought, with most of the focus poured into the in-person experience.

This is important not just for learners, but also for your organizers and trainers. If you’re not careful, you can end up creating what feels like two entirely separate training events, which will double the workload for your training team, presenters and back-office staff. Instead of scheduling a single course, failure to consider the hybrid program as a cohesive, consistent course can create a whole lot of extra work for everyone involved in the training management and scheduling, as well as confusing learners.

Benefits of hybrid learning

The benefits of hybrid learning, especially in light of the global pandemic, are potentially huge. Organizations can future proof their training, ensuring that new travel restrictions or quarantine requirements won’t lead to mass cancellations for your training events. Instead, people can seamlessly switch to online attendance, making it much more resistant to the common disruptions we encounter in the world today.

You will also reach a much wider audience with a hybrid training program. Instead of being limited to your immediate area, you can bring in attendees from across the country or even worldwide, significantly extending your reach for a more efficient, sustainable way to train your audience. Hybrid learning also helps your training audience decide on a learning method that feels most comfortable for them, whether that’s in-person or virtual.

This also feeds into the potential to boost the profitability of your hybrid training program. A wider audience means more attendees, and the cost associated with more online learners vs more in-person learners is minimal, allowing you to host bigger, better training sessions.

Building a hybrid training program: 5 takeaways

#1: Cater to both audiences

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As we saw above, one of the main challenges of hybrid learning is the fact that the online version can often feel like a poor substitute for the in-person training experience. Vitally, you must ensure that both the online and in-person training experiences are equally as valuable and engaging.

Dell Technologies’ Director of Digital Learning Technology, Edward Bell, recommends “treating the camera as a participant.” Dell hosts hybrid training sessions for its staff, where some learners attend in-person classroom sessions and some attend online. Something as simple as ensuring the trainer makes “eye contact” with the camera from time to time ensures that virtual attendees feel more involved.

Another tip from Dell is to make attendees feel like they’re in the room with specialist hybrid classrooms fully equipped for virtual training. For instance, they use automated cameras which track the trainer and offer wider views of the classroom so that remote learners can get a feel for what’s going on in the room, as they would if they were there in person.

#2: Consider pricing

Pricing is an important consideration for hybrid training programs, especially if they are designed for an extended enterprise audience. If you charge a flat fee across all your learners, virtual learners may feel short changed, as they won’t have access to the catering or physical resources available in the training venue.

If you are providing catering, refreshments or additional in-person experiences (such as gifts or networking drinks) at your venue, ensure this is reflected in the price of your hybrid training. Offering tickets at a lower price for virtual learners will help prevent them feeling like they’re missing out or getting inferior value for money, and the hybrid approach means that all learners can choose to prioritize the lower price or the additional in-person experiences.

#3: Find ways to bring online and in-person learners together

Ultimately, your hybrid training program is delivering for one audience, so they should feel part of the full conversation. Pre- and post-event online chats, whether they are live networking sessions or asynchronous forum conversations, will help create a sense of cohesiveness and community across your entire audience of hybrid learners, supporting networking opportunities for all participants.

On the day of your hybrid training program, be sure to involve your remote attendees. This could be done by video link or by typed chat, with a facilitator on hand to manage the virtual participants. This ties into Edward’s tip above about treating the camera as a participant – when the trainer asks questions or finishes a topic, make sure that they check in with virtual participants to get them involved too.

#4: Minimize technical barriers for hybrid trainers

Watch On-Demand with Brandon Hall:
The Hybrid Learning Revolution

When you’re planning your hybrid training program, consider whether or not you’ll need different speakers for in-person and online sessions. Not all trainers will be comfortable with the technology required for attending to virtual audiences, so you may need multiple trainers for the same session.

Dell Technology’s solution to this is to minimize the barriers to virtual training for trainers themselves. They have created a series of hybrid classrooms with cameras, microphones and speakers built into the ceiling and walls, with foolproof controls in a preconfigured “technology box” in each room. This way, trainers simply press a button to start the hybrid session and press it again to end it, avoiding the need for trainers with complex audio-visual skills.

If you do decide to opt for multiple speakers, Training Orchestra can help you find the best available experts with the skills and experience needed with our Instructor Engagement Portal. For instance, in just a couple of clicks, you can filter your trainers to find those with the necessary skills for the training session and online presenting experience. Alternatively, you may opt for a facilitator to assist the trainer, either in the classroom or online, who can better attend to the needs of the audience and keep the session running smoothly.

#5: Measure the impact and profitability of your hybrid training program

After the training, conduct a survey to find out which components of your hybrid training program worked and which didn’t. For instance, perhaps your remote participants were more satisfied with the experience than your in-person participants, or vice versa.

Training Orchestra’s measurement, analytics and reporting capabilities will also help you discover which sessions were most profitable. This will give you an invaluable insight into your program, answering questions such as “Did we undercharge for our online components?” or “Was the uptake lower for our in-person session?”.

At Dell Technologies, Training Orchestra is used to track the cost of delivery of their hybrid training programs, including venues, trainers and travel costs. This data is then analyzed within their data warehouse, and the training department can better understand how to improve the efficiency and profitability of their hybrid training over time.

Looking to introduce hybrid training programs to your learning strategy?

Request a Training Orchestra demo today to discover how our Training Management System will take the stress out of scheduling, planning and tracking your hybrid training.

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For over 20 years, Training Orchestra has provided training software for 600+ organizations worldwide to help them automate and optimize their Hybrid, ILT and vILT training operations, addressing the complexities often found in: session scheduling, resource management, instructor collaboration, cost tracking and reporting. As a complement to your LMS, LXP and learning technologies, Training Orchestra’s Training Resource Management System can replace all XLS spreadsheets and manual tasks, so you can better manage training as a business.