Better Together: Pairing Online and In-Person Learning is Key to Developing Critical Analytical Skills

Agnes Ogee | 7/24/2020

Topics: Statistics in the News, Quality Trainer, data literacy, Data Analysis

Abstract - cropped image for Blended Learning QT blog - July 2019

Technology continuously makes our lives easier and allows many of us to stay connected to others and even work remotely during COVID-19. It’s no wonder that companies and instructors everywhere have been revamping education to include digital components in their learning programs. This approach, called blended learning, combines traditional face-to-face training led by expert instructors, with e-learning modules, online educational materials and digital opportunities for interaction (including games, quizzes, web content, videos, articles, audio books, podcasts, digital engagement, etc.). Even strategy leaders like McKinsey & Company have stated that “the future of corporate academies lies in blended learning.”

The question then arises: how can you create a successful blended learning program? We contacted an outstanding expert in the field of training and education, as well as a leading TEDx coach with a passion for helping others, Cristina Chis, to find out more. Cristina explained that there is no perfect mix of in-person, e-learning and supplemental materials that is suitable for all training. As individuals and organizations are unique, and pros and cons exist for each separate method, the blended learning journey should be adapted and personalized for each type of learning goal and audience.

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Continuous Learning from Almost Anywhere

Focusing on online learning first, Cristina highlighted the benefits of learning at anytime, anywhere, and on any device (ATAWAD) without the worry of travel or specific time limitations. Online learning includes self-learning, e-learning and virtual training.

Cristina mentions that empowered learners will now search for what they need online and at their moment of need. Searches related to "how to" on YouTube are growing 70% each year. This self-learning mode needs to be acknowledged by organizations as a win-win approach where individuals spend an average of 14 hours a month learning on their own. Minitab, for example, offers tutorial videos, electronic guides, our free e-learning module Minitab Quick Start, live and on-demand webinars and industry-leading support to assist with this need.

E-learning allows individuals to learn independently and actively with the option to explore their questions and process information in their own time. Creating an e-learning tool, however, can be very time-consuming. Cristina mentioned that a well-done 20-minute learning module can take at least 7-8 hours to bring to life and can easily become outdated. 

Fortunately, leading data analysis software provider Minitab has taken the lead in e-learning for mastering statistics, data analysis and Minitab Statistical Software with our dynamic program, Quality Trainer. This online tool teaches individuals and organizations how to analyze their data anytime with animated lessons, quizzes and hands-on exercises.

Cristina stressed that tailored content and customization can be an advantage of e-learning. Quality Trainer specifically has an advantage for team leaders, mentors and training managers in that they can track user progress and assign specific course sections.

Stryker, a leading medical technology company that provides innovative implants and medical and surgical equipment to healthcare providers in over 120 countries globally, looked to Quality Trainer for help when they made statistical training mandatory for all new engineers. Quality Trainer gave Stryker the ability to cost-effectively train their new hires immediately without having to wait for group training.

Ed Kelley, an advanced quality engineer at Stryker, spoke of the tool fondly: “I really appreciate how Quality Trainer helps us proactively deploy training to our people, so that they can do their best work,” he said.

In this case, e-learning was the most effective option for their data analysis training due to timing and cost.

During the outbreak of COVID-19 and global lockdown, distance instructor-led training became the only feasible way of learning with an expert face-to-face, which means the industry is now facing an unprecedented surge in demand and interest. Minitab does offer virtual training and one-on-one statistical consulting with Certified Experts in numerous languages across several time zones.

Sharing Knowledge from Others and Connecting in Real-Time

Continuing on, Cristina revealed that in-person training had its own benefits – including adaptive demonstrations tailored to the group – because the trainer can respond instantly, gauge, assess and increase trainee engagement based on non-verbal communication and body language. In-person trainings are a dedicated time to learn, but that can come with high costs with travel and time away from work needed. Cristina also mentioned that introverts may feel more comfortable and at ease with e-learning environments as asynchronous e-learning provides that crucial processing and preparation time, more independence and control over the level of interaction with other participants. However e-learning can remove the communication with others and being together in a group creates more interactive discussions and a bond in the training class, a specific energy that can be motivating and inspiring.

Realizing the importance of face-to-face training, Minitab hosts hands-on training sessions all year long through virtual training events in several languages and for various time zones, and on-site sessions across the world in multiple languages at a multitude of companies so everyone has the opportunity to learn statistics and Minitab Statistical Software.

With our experts instructing and providing guidance, attendees like Barbara Lis of Raynor Intraocular Lenses Limited found training beneficial because of the way the trainer explained statistics and answered the questions.

“I shall apply what I learnt to improve the quality of the product — it should speed up the data analysis I do and make it easier, so I can undertake additional tasks,” she said.

For even further face-to-face learning and networking, individuals can consider joining communities online. Minitab's online network on social media can foster peer-to-peer learning.

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Overall, Cristina brought to light that blended learning can be very worthwhile to all individuals and organizations with the proper mix. However, as Cristina and McKinsey & Company point out “there is no magic number for allocating time between digital and in-person learning; different industries, and different companies within them, must determine the mix that makes the most sense for their circumstances and capability-development priorities.”

Data and analytics professionals specifically need to continue to evolve their capabilities due to the volume of available data and organization leadership’s focus on finding innovations and efficiencies, but luckily blended learning can get them there.

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