The business case for blended learning in this instance has its genesis in two parts. The first is a dedication to improving training effectiveness, an endeavour that Geoff Rip has dedicated 20 years to. Secondarily, there was a strong financial push to respond in a timely manner to the seismic shift COVID-19 restrictions had made on the businesses of many training providers.
A methodology and its origins
In the early part of his career, Geoff worked as National Training Manager for two retail companies. During this time, he became increasingly concerned that training (as widely implemented) had critical deficiencies and was not nearly as effective as it could and should have been.
The deficiencies identified included:
- Participants who were ill-prepared to learn and change their behaviour,
- Training that was regarded and treated as an event, and
- Application of learning in the workplace that was not given the attention and support it deserved.
Geoff subsequently enrolled in an Executive MBA and completed an in-depth research study for a thesis entitled: An Investigation Into Transfer of Training Related Factors at Shell S.A.
Three training implementation models that significantly influenced his thinking were those of Leonard Nadler (1971), Saul Gellerman (1977) and John Newstrom (1980):
Based on the findings of his research, Geoff developed his own four-phase model, which he called READY-SET-GO-SHOW.
READY relates to learner readiness (or mindset); it’s about getting ready for the next three phases.
This is not a traditional ‘pre-work’ phase as it does not focus on ‘content’. Instead, the emphasis is on linking to relevant prior learning, enhancing perceived relevance and benefits, and building accountability and application intentions.
SET is what is typically thought of as ‘training’ – it is the 10 in the 70:20:10 framework.
This phase can take many forms, such as face-to-face instruction, an e-learning course, a virtual workshop, or some combination of these. The name of the phase indicates that the learning is intended to get participants appropriately ‘set up’ for Phase 3. It inherently implies that an important phase is to follow.
GO is a strong action word and is about going back to the workplace to apply new learning, learn from application and achieve beneficial results. As shown, there are two ‘imperatives’ in the GO Phase: The first is concerned with reinforcing prior learning in order to ensure its longevity. The second imperative is concerned with achieving desired performance outcomes through application and extension of on-the-job learning.
SHOW has a breadth of meaning, including ‘to present’ and ‘to prove’. It requires sharing of application and positive outcomes. Ready-Set-Go-Show is a credible and straightforward description of the fundamental components of an effective training program, and it is easily remembered and recalled.
The COVID-19 catalyst.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Geoff had a successful training business that relied largely on face-to-face training to deliver his programs. He had a steady flow of customers, and people were delighted at the results his training delivered.
However, restrictions brought on by COVID-19 meant that face-to-face training was no longer possible.
Rather than see this as a hindrance to his business, Geoff was able to enact some changes that he’d wanted to make for some time. He’d known that shifting the READY-SET-GO-SHOW methodology to a blending learning offering by leveraging a technology solution that would allow for synchronous and asynchronous learning would improve his clients’ outcomes.
Similarly, his clients were relying on him to deliver during the pandemic.
“The need to deliver training and to develop and engage our staff didn’t go away just because a pandemic struck”.
After lengthy discussions with his key clients that involved convincing the stakeholders that the pandemic offered the potential for improved learning outcomes rather than reduce ones, Geoff was able to act on his vision of training that was not made up of an event, or series of disconnected events, but rather was viewed as part of a connected ongoing journey.
“COVID-19 allowed for a reset of sorts,” said Geoff, who was able to shift more of clients to think about learning as an ongoing process rather than a ‘one off’ training session.
Geoff’s goal with his blended learning approach was to do more than simply pair online and offline training, he strove to pair or blend synchronous learning with asynchronous learning in a connected manner that would provide an end-to-end learning journey for his customers that provided real on the job results.
Development / Implementation
What is blended learning?
Perhaps the most interesting part of Geoff’s approach to blended learning is his definition & interpretation of the term.
Geoff’s approach is based on his research findings that truly effective blending learning creates a learning experience that appropriately involves all key stakeholders & seamlessly combines synchronous & asynchronous learning.
Geoff believes that providing people with activities, learnings & exercises to be completed before they come to in-person sessions, & then following these sessions up with further training & on-the-job activities, it’s possible to make the in-person sessions infinitely more enjoyable & productive.
For Geoff, it was all about improving the outcomes of training. Obviously, with COVID shutting down traditional face-to-face learning & the very real threat of Zoom burnout, Geoff wanted to allow people to access self-paced learning that would complement & optimise the time spent learning together.
After much planning & strategy, Geoff created an approach that would enable him to deliver his READY-SET-GO-SHOW methodology through a blended approach. He had a strong understanding of what he needed from technology point of view to support his aspirations & went about finding a suitable provider. Geoff’s key criteria for a learning platform was that it needed to be able to support an ongoing learner journey, not just a series of disconnected online training modules. He wanted a single source of truth that could show where someone is in their learning journey & could capture what they’d done in a self-paced asynchronous environment as well as the in-person sessions they had attended. Critically, he also wanted to be able to report on training outcomes & prove to his clients that the training delivered the behavioural changes & performance outcomes it was designed for.
After much debate, Tribal Habits was selected as the learning platform that Geoff would use to deliver the READY-SET-GO-SHOW methodology. This decision was made for the follow reasons:
- It was incredibly fast to move his current training assets online with Tribal Habits.
- There was a learning curve, but it was fast & fully supported with customer onboarding & local support from the Tribal Habits team.
- The ability to rapidly edit & change content was a huge drawcard as Geoff knew his training would likely go through multiple updates before he was satisfied with it.
- It is a user-friendly platform that meant no external parties were required to create or edit training. Geoff could manage it all himself.
- The platform has an elegant & intuitive user interface. Meaning that learners would remain engaged & interested in the training they took.
Geoff also wanted to keep his training program as agile as possible. He wanted to be able to alter & adjust training material rapidly, even during the sessions he was hosting.
The need for a mindset shift
Perhaps the biggest challenge of the implementation phase for Geoff was getting his customers along for the ride. The shift to a learning journey, took some time for his clients to get their head’s around. The concepts were simple enough & hugely effective, but after so long of looking at (& paying for) training as standalone courses, it took some time for them to come around to the idea that a longer view would provide improved outcomes.
Attached to this application is a calendar image that Geoff shows to his clients to help them understand the longer-term nature his methodology & the improved results it delivers.
The investment of time
In terms of the time taken to roll out the new online modules. Geoff worked on his own to create all the training modules. which involved recreating what he’d previously delivered in a face-to-face environment in the Tribal Habits platform.
After some initial training on the platform & leveraging Tribal Habit’s support team, Geoff was able to quickly & effectively move his offering into the blended learning space. Geoff was able to seamless stitch together online & offline training by providing:
- Self-paced learning to be completed for in-person sessions
- A digital workbook that was utilised both during the self-paced learning & in the virtual sessions
The fact that both the self-paced & the virtual learning took place within the same platform was a huge benefit for Geoff as it meant that participants didn’t need to learn & his clients didn’t need to manage multiple platforms. The comfort that his users gained during the self-paced learning made them very comfortable in the virtual sessions.
Geoff turned the AI voices into a strength by creating specific AI personalities & having them introduce themselves upfront as Geoff’s co-facilitators. Geoff also played up their ‘Dr Spock’ nature & used them to say things that would have been a bit blunt coming from himself but were humorous when delivered by an AI that was obviously deficient in social intelligence.
How it’s going
Feedback from those that have participated Geoff’s blended READY-SET-GO-SHOW programs has been hugely positive.
Participants have been thrilled with the quality of the material Geoff is presenting, but also the way his methodology is allowing for synchronous and asynchronous learning to optimise engagement, time management and training outcomes.
It was obvious that the familiarity they gained with the platform during the self-paced learning, made it easy for them to use the platform (digital workbook) during the virtual workshops.
The organisations Geoff is working with have been very complimentary about his ability to create engaging learning opportunities for their staff under the strict timelines and limited face-to-face interactions that COIVD has thrown at them.
Despite this highly positive feedback, Geoff has looked to drill much deeper than analysing reactionary feedback to prove the true effectiveness if his program in enacting change within an organisation.
“I knew that what people thought of a course has no correlation with behaviour change, so I had to go further to prove this was working”Geoff Rip
To achieve this Geoff has created mechanisms within his online modules to collect feedback from participants around how they are applying the lesson learnt through their training. The feedback collected falls into two main categories:
- Formative feedback – Information that is gathered throughout the learning process that provides an indication as to the transfer of knowledge and learning outcomes.
- Summative feedback – In the form of formal assessment and other mechanisms to prove understanding of key topics and concepts.
This feedback is used in a number of ways. Firstly, it allows Geoff to identify any areas in his training that might require increased focus, prompting him to update modules. Secondly, it allows Geoff to inform participants and their organisation of future focus areas for their training programs.
Despite the challenging backdrop of COVID-19 lockdown hampering Geoff’s business he was able to quickly pivot and in fact improve his offering. He was able to maintain and improve his relationships with his clients and was even able to transition them towards a learning mindset that was more proactive and long-term in nature. This new outlook will improve training outcomes for his clients while ensuring the future security of his own business.
In terms of development and deployment time, this was very straight forward for Geoff. Having already spent decades creating and refining this blended READY-SET-GO-SHOW methodology. All he needed to do was to take his finely tuned approach and transfer it onto an online learning platform that would support his needs. After initial training from the Tribal Habits team, Geoff was confident in transposing sessions that had previously run face-to-face into an online environment. Geoff was able to make the most of interactive elements, videos, quizzes and much more to bring his training to life in the platform.
Not all of Geoff’s clients were leveraging the READY-SET-GO-SHOW methodology before his shift to blended learning. But having a formal, technology support approach to the model has made it easier to transition more of clients across to this more holistic way of approaching training.
Geoff was able to comfortably meet the deadlines his clients required, both in terms of budget in a timeframes.
The READY-SET-GO-SHOW methodology was designed specifically to ensure that intended training outcomes are met. A challenge that has long plagued learning and development teams.
Phase four of Geoff’s methodology ‘SHOW’ has proven to be hugely powerful when it comes to proving training outcome have been met.
Towards the end of the GO Phase (which takes about 3-4 weeks) participants are reminded of the upcoming SHOW Phase and what is necessary to successfully complete the program. Importantly, this is not a surprise since it was explained at the beginning of the program. They are required to report back and ‘SHOW’ how they are using the learnings gleaned from the training in their everyday jobs and what they have learned from the experience. Leaners are required to explain this process using the SHOW acronym (Situation How Outcome Wisdom).
This fourth phase encourages learners to put their learnings into practice and provides an organisation real insight into a change in working behaviours, providing a direct line of sight into Kirkpatrick levels 3 and 4 impacts.
Improved engagement has led to improved training
A critical element of Geoff’s success is the interactive and interpersonal nature of his blended approach. Geoff takes the time at the beginning of his programs to ‘teach the learners to be better learners’. This involves preparing and priming them for what is to come and what they should expect through the learning journey.
There are two ways in which Geoff has increased engagement and effectiveness by ‘teaching the learners to be better learners.’ One approach has been to integrate guidelines and advice directly into the four phases and the sessions that comprise the SET Phase. For example, in the READY Phase, Geoff explains what priming is and why it is so important to learning. Another example from the GO Phase is where Geoff includes information on retrieval practice and how to harness this technique to strengthen the memory of prior learning. A second approach that is being trialled is providing all participants with a “Ready-Set-Go-Show for Success’ support guide. Participants are referred to this guide as appropriate as they progress through the blended program. The guide is a significant value add since the participants quickly recognise that they can ‘wrap the Ready-Set-Go-Show formula around any formal learning event in order to improve learning and get better results back in the workplace.
There is also a tight feedback loop between Geoff and his learners throughout the journey. If the cohort is uncertain of something or if Geoff feels he could focus more on a particular area, he is able to spin up online content to address this area quickly. This responsiveness is not only leading to better information transfer, but it’s increasing the level of engagement for learners, which is critical for project success.
Overcoming the COVID challenge
As highlighted in the ‘Business Case’ section of this proposal, a secondary objective for Geoff’s shift to a blended learning model was the need to overcome the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic had placed upon his business.
While moving online was a logical step, it needed to be done carefully. As we’ve all seen over the past 18 months, Zoom burnout is a real threat to people’s engagement in virtual work. This is true in times of pandemic and under normal working circumstances. Too often, online training becomes death by PowerPoint online. It’s very disengaging for learners and leads to poor results and disenchanted staff.
Geoff’s approach carefully blends synchronous and asynchronous, balanced self-paced learning with in-person, online learning. This approach has simultaneously improved learner engagement, promoted better training outcomes and helped to overcome some of the challenges they are facing in the virtual work environment.
The future looks bright for Geoff’s blended model as well. He plans to create new content suites to serve his current and new clients and working with Tribal Habits on new feature development to enable him to have even more engagements with his learners.
Geoff also wants to explore the concept of ‘nudging’ more closely. This will involve communicating with learners more frequently during the ‘Go’ phase to ensure that what they’ve learnt is being implemented in the workplace.
Geoff feels strongly that his blended approach is delivering the results he was always wanted to see from his methodology.
“What I see now is participants who are prepared to learn and change their behaviour. We’ve got a process in place that’s connected and takes these people on a learning journey that not only teaches the skills they need but helps and encourages them to implement these practices in their workplace.”Geoff Rip