Blended learning: Balancing face-to-face and remote training


The COVID-19 pandemic forced a shift to delivering training programmes online, and remote training has become the norm for many trainers and learners. Now, this is leading to a disconnect between management who are keen to get back to the old ways of working and trainers who have got used to remote working. What’s the solution?

Like most industries, the pandemic caused an overhaul in the way that apprenticeship training providers worked. Where training used to be delivered entirely face to face, the sudden shift to lockdown forced providers to pivot online.

It wasn’t always an easy ride, but training providers have upskilled staff, trialled different methods of working and found that remote training can deliver quality learning. Many trainers themselves also invested lots of time into making online classes engaging and ensuring standards were being met.

However, with face-to-face training back on the table, some providers are keen to revert back to a pre-pandemic delivery format. This is hitting trainer retention rates hard, with a flood of trainers moving elsewhere to continue working remotely.

Sound familiar? If you and your trainers are struggling to see eye to eye on how training should be delivered post-Covid, perhaps the key is to find a middle ground.

In this article, we look at the benefits of both types of training and explain how your trainers can take the best of both worlds to deliver a blended learning approach.

The case for face-to-face learning

Face-to-face learning, which involves trainers and learners meeting up in person, can be delivered via a one-to-one catch-up or a group lesson. Here are some of the key benefits to consider:

  • Trainers can easily see how learners are responding and check in with them as they go
  • Learners get to know one another better and form stronger bonds within their cohort
  • There are no technical issues with drops in connection, or audio or video not working
  • Learners can quickly be split into smaller working groups, where discussion and peer learning may feel more natural
  • It caters for learners who don’t have a quiet, dedicated place at home to learn

The case for remote learning

While remote learning was essential during the pandemic, it’s seen by some as a nice-to-have option now that society is getting back to normal.

However, there are wider factors that are keeping remote working at the top of the priority list for many trainers.

Rising costs are impacting training delivery

It’s well documented that the cost of living is rising. Last month inflation reached the highest rate for 40 years and it’s expected to grow further in the coming months.

In addition to rising food and energy costs, fuel prices are also surging. The average petrol price hit 186.59p per litre in June 2022, versus 130.5p a year earlier. The June price is the highest on record.

This is having a huge impact on people who need to travel for work – like trainers and learners. Since the fuel allowance hasn’t been increased in line with inflation, travel costs are now eating into personal finances. It’s not hard to see why many people are eager to continue working remotely.

The benefits of remote learning

Cost-saving measures aside, the options for remote delivery are extensive. These range from live lessons and one-to-one calls to pre-recorded materials like videos and useful documents. Some of the benefits of remote learning are:

  • Location is less important, so students in remote locations, with mobility issues or no access to transport, or high transport costs have a wider range of options
  • Learning materials are more accessible – learners can login and view recordings or materials at any time
  • Learners have increased access to trainers at anytime, through a range of digital communications like private messages and emails
  • Trainers spend less time travelling, enabling them to provide faster feedback to learners’ queries and submitted work
  • Trainers can provide group sessions in a cohort rather than lots of one-to-one sessions. This one-to-many approach is far less costly for providers, and can be equally effective for learners if delivered well

Delivering blended learning with Bud

A blended learning approach uses a mix of face-to-face and remote delivery. It’s a great way to reach a compromise and means trainers can draw on the benefits of both formats.

The good news is that you and your team have already done a lot of the hard work. Your trainers have adapted to teaching online and learners can appreciate the benefits. The next step is to think about how you can successfully combine the two to find the right balance.

Blended learning for trainers

1. Focus on timely feedback

Providing feedback quickly to submitted work is much easier in an online environment, allowing training providers to set ambitious new targets for marking submissions.

While the industry average to mark a submission is around three weeks, some providers we work with are now giving feedback in just 24 hours.

This means learners are receiving feedback when the work is still fresh in their mind, boosting engagement and helping them progress faster through their programmes.

  • As a trainer in a hybrid environment, make sure the feedback has been received and understood.
  • Check in with learners when you see them in person or on a video call to discuss the marks and feedback they received.

2. Embrace multimedia

Providing a rich mix of materials enables learners to personalise their learning experience.

  • With Bud, trainers can upload video and embed links.
  • Learners can launch SCORM content with one click and the results are automatically captured in Bud, meaning the learning experience is seamless.

3. Encourage interaction

Building group camaraderie and peer learning is perhaps the biggest benefit of face-to-face learning, so encourage your group to get to know each other on the days they meet in person. This can then be replicated online via building tasks within your lesson plan for learners to complete in small break out groups.

  • When planning sessions, make sure there is a good mix of group discussion and pair work.
  • Set tasks and projects to work on in small groups.

4. Keep challenging learners

Whether it’s online or in-person, learners need to be stretched and challenged.

Avoiding giving learners ‘the answers’ on a PowerPoint slide is an especially common area for improvement in Ofsted inspections.

Blended learning for training providers

1. Be Ofsted aware

Be clear on what Ofsted inspectors evaluate when they’re assessing online learning so that you can implement some key engagement strategies.

As part of this, you’ll need to have a clear rationale for why you’re delivering a blend of online and face-to-face training. Record your thinking of why you’ve opted for a particular format at specific stages of the programme and ensure it is always aligned to the needs of the learner.

2. Prioritise Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Tutors need to be confident in their own abilities to deliver the highest quality package of learning on a range of platforms. It’s crucial that you invest in their development to give them the best chance of success, plus Ofsted will look at what CPD you have given your staff.

Make sure that tutors are adept at using technology and offering supporting resources suited to online learning. In a remote environment, this means navigating between activities and mediums online as easily as they would in person.

3. Focus on consistency

It’s important to keep continuity between online and offline learning, so learners can be confident their training will remain constantly high quality.

Bud’s programme templates and programme design suite help you ensure your training is consistent. This means that every learner receives the same high-quality teaching and learning, wherever they are.

Find out how Bud can help you deliver a blended learning programme

At Bud, we help training providers streamline their processes and improve efficiency.

Our training management platform is designed to reduce the time your team spends on repetitive administrative tasks, freeing them up to focus on delivering high-quality training.

To find out more about the benefits of Bud and how it can take your training to the next level, book a demo with our friendly team today.