How to Design Blended Learning that is Engaging and Effective

 In Blended Learning, Events

Clive ShepherdBlended learning expert Clive Shepherd will be presenting our first Cyber Chats with Lead Learners webinar on 20 April.

We caught up with him to find out more about his unique ‘more than blended’ approach – and why its in-depth approach could be what your learners need.

Many of us L&D pros struggle to develop learning that really engages our learners, even when we’re focusing on blended learning, that supposedly super-flexible approach. When time and budgets are tight, it’s tempting simply to look to elearning with some pre-work.

“This can be a successful strategy and does have major advantages, but it narrows down the potential for more sophisticated and far-reaching blends that leverage the potential for every learning approach, formal or informal,’ says Clive. “My approach – what I call ‘more than’ blended learning – is embedded in the workplace and uses a far wider range of techniques along the whole learning journey.”

Four steps

More than blended learning has four steps:

  • preparation: an alignment of the learners with the learning experience
  • input: providing stimulus for new learning
  • application: to the real job or at least in highly authentic settings
  • follow-up: supporting the learning journey beyond the formal element of the programme.


four steps of more than blended learning

The four steps of more than blended learning













Embedding learning in real life

Clive’s method digs deep into learners’ needs and their learning environment. It also explores the limitations and logistics within the workplace. This in-depth understanding means L&D teams can tailor learning methods and media to learners’ needs – and those of managers and budget holders.

“This model can help L&D to break free from the confines of formal training through courses,” Clive adds. “The new blends have formal elements but cross over to include on-job application, coaching and performance support.”

Plus, Clive encourages L&D teams to look at how more informal learning approaches, such as video, mp3s, blogs, game-like online scenarios and social media discussions – media that learners are likely to be more familiar with in their ‘out of work’ lives – can fit into the mix.

“We do use instructional elearning but not as much as problem-based interactive scenarios, videos and simple documents,” Clive explains.

Tips for getting started

Keen, but not sure where to start? “If in doubt just copy what you’re doing in your own personal life and find ways to apply this at work,” suggests Clive. Chances are, if it works for you, it’ll feature in your learners’ lives too.

Clive also offers some words of warning for those jumping in at the deep end with his approach: “Make sure every element in a blend is necessary. You can’t regard some elements as peripheral – as simply add-ons to the classroom. L&D people have got to believe that the job is only done when the performance goal is achieved – and that means close involvement with management.”

Of course, selling a new approach to stakeholders isn’t always easy. But, as Clive points out, the benefits are clear: when learning focuses on real-life issues and uses methods that learners will be familiar with, learning is likely to be more engaging and therefore more effective.

“Use research to show the shortcomings with existing approaches and then use case studies to demonstrate how other organisations are getting it right,” he advises. “Don’t over-complicate things – simplicity is a real virtue – and be prepared to move in small steps if necessary.”

Next steps

Clive will be outlining more than blended learning in his webinar on 20 April. Join us to find out:

  • how to apply the model
  • how to incorporate formal, social and experiential learning into your projects
  • how to make sure your more than blended solutions are cost effective AND effective.


What challenges have you had with developing blended learning? Let us know below and we’ll look at them during the webinar.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Lorraine Minister

    One of the opportunities and challenges I’ve had is to work with an organisation that is prone to rapid change (e.g. went from 20 to 2000 staff in a year or so and is now downsizing). What strategies/blends for learning/performance could you recommend for this sort of situation that are quickly scalable and flexible to adapt to the organisations needs? And what approaches are best to stay clear of?

    Currently I’ve put in place some delivery independent approaches.

  • Olivia Rowland

    I’d be interested in hearing about free online tools I could build into blended learning. They would appeal to my learners and match my budget of zero.

  • Bridie Morell

    Blended learning for different competency levels is a challenge I’m thinking about at the moment – how to create a mix of modes and approaches as well as a blend of content that learners can, well, blend to suit their needs and preferences.

  • Jill Walker

    I have just created an AGILE eLearning module for the US owned company I work for and would certainly love to here more about this.

  • Agata Oleksiak

    Inspiring model, I will definitely try to apply it to my current project planning and design!

  • Nicki Turnbull

    Thanks everyone for your comments! Clive’s webinar was packed full of useful information on blended learning. If you do use his More Than Blended approach, please let us know how it is going for you.

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