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Home > News > January 2004 > 26-Jan-2004

Successful blended learning pilot at Grant Thornton

Business and financial advisers Grant Thornton is reviewing the potential of blended learning following a successful pilot of the concept.

Sue Cohen, Senior Training Manager at Grant Thornton, said: "We use a variety of different training methods, including face-to-face and CD-Rom, and some of our own blended solutions. However, we'd never used off-the-shelf blended learning before. We were keen to pilot a dedicated resource to test out whether blended learning can provide effective and efficient training whilst reducing the duration of face-to-face training and cutting the amount of time that staff are away from the workplace."

A group of four trainers and four team leaders were chosen to pilot Balance Learning's Leadership and Teamwork, a blended programme which shows how leaders can use facilitation skills to improve teamwork and enhance business performance.

After completing an initial training needs survey, the delegates worked through the programme's online learning element - approximately a three-hour commitment.

"The e-learning course provided practical tips and techniques and the group found it engaging and memorable," said Sue Cohen. "The main benefit is that the e-learning ensures the delegates have reached a certain level of knowledge before they come to the workshop. The delegates also felt that it would provide an excellent refresher of the main learning points that could be re-visited well after the training event itself."

Following the online learning, Sue Cohen ran a one-day workshop for the pilot group at Grant Thornton's National Training Centre, at Bradenham Manor near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. She used the classroom training support resources which Balance Learning provides with the programme. These include PowerPoint slides, video clips and handouts, enabling trainers to run a workshop which complements the e-learning with virtually no preparation.

"The trainer materials were very focused and they built on the messages delivered in the e-learning," she said. "Even if you've never delivered this kind of training before, you could pick up this resource and be up and running because everything you need is included. However, more experienced trainers would also find this useful as they can tailor the workshop content to meet the needs of the delegates."

The pilot group are about to undertake the final part of the programme, which involves action-based learning activities, designed to facilitate the transfer of learning back to the workplace.

"The programme includes a very structured follow-on from the workshop," said Sue Cohen. "This is particularly useful as it means that line managers can be actively encouraged to take a greater role in the implementation of their team's learning."

So far, Sue Cohen says the programme has not only been very thorough but also very enjoyable.

"The pilot group say they preferred the blended approach to either pure e-learning or pure face-to-face training," she said. "The process has raised some cultural issues for Grant Thornton, which would need to be overcome, notably around how we create an environment which is conducive for delegates to access e-learning at their desktops in open-plan offices. However the pilot has certainly proved that blended learning has great potential."

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