image of cocktails

A Cocktail of Learning: Blended not Stirred

Gone are the days of classroom-based training – in today’s digital age, a blended learning solution seems to be the most popular way to train staff.

Why blended learning solutions are so…‘in’

For those of you who are fans of traditional classroom training, I don’t blame you. The magic of an engaging facilitator and time spent connecting with colleagues tickles the taste buds like the first sip of an aged bourbon. But more and more, I hear organisations saying that classroom training alone is a little, well, “old fashioned”. They’re looking for a fresh, varied mix of flavours when it comes to Learning and Development solutions.

Like in 2016, when London went crazy for the Aperol Spritz.

Today, when I work with organisations, the craze is ‘blended learning’. And, I must admit, it’s becoming my new favourite tipple.

So, grab a drink while I tell you why.

Firstly, what are the ingredients?

Blended learning is a learner-centred approach to creating a learning experience where the learner interacts with other participants, a facilitator, and with content through a mixture of online, face-to-face environments, and on the job application.

But why is ‘blended’ the bartenders pick?


In 2008, I was working with an airline who was seriously feeling the pinch of the economic downturn; the aviation industry had been hit hard by fluctuating oil prices. No longer could they afford to ‘offline’ their people for days on end for training. They weren’t the only ones – a lot of organisations started looking for alternative ways to deliver training. And, in today’s world of uncertainty, it’s never really returned to where it was before. More than ever, organisations are looking to maximise their bang for buck. Fortunately, with times like these comes great creativity. How to create ‘top shelf’ solutions, but with a price-point closer to the ‘house wine’.

So what?

Invariably, the cost of training doesn’t come from design and development. It comes from heavy roll-out and lost opportunity costs due to having employees out of the business. But, a blended approach can help…

  • Reduced classroom time means less time out of the operation/business
  • The use of digital solutions means that, while the up-front investment can be higher, online learning is more flexible, faster and reduces lost time cost
  • ‘On the job’ training means people are in the workplace and contributing business

Application and sustainment

As a consultant working with a variety of large corporations, two of the questions clients most commonly ask me are:

  • How do we embed and sustain the impact of training?
  • How do we ensure that people are applying their learning back in the workplace?

Using ‘blended learning solutions’ is one of the ways I answer these questions. They can be designed to support the sustainment and application of learning in the following ways:

  • Online learning and ‘on the job’ learning gives people the opportunity to practise in their own time and apply the learning in the context of their role
  • Blended learning can be staggered over a period of days, weeks, months or years instead of being a ‘one-off event’ – this invariably sustains the momentum created by Learning and Development for much longer
  • Research shows that using a blended learning approach increases the retention and recall of information by up to 70%
  • Online and classroom learning designed and rooted in the reality of the organisation increases people’s understanding of how the learning is applied

Psychology and motivation

According to ‘Andragogy’, the study of adult learning, adults are motivated to learn when the following requirements are fulfilled:

  • Control over what they learn and when they learn
  • They want to be emotionally and rationally engaged with the why, what and how they’re going to learn (This need is less important for children, who can be happy with just being told what they’re going to learn)
  • Knowledge that what they’re going to learn will apply to their life, job and career

Blended learning can help to fulfil some of these needs and motivations:

  • A mixture of classroom, online and on the job learning gives learners greater flexibility and control over when and how they learn, and how it applies to them
  • To emotionally engage through eLearning can be tricky, but it’s perfect for building knowledge. Likewise, giving people the opportunity to practise new skills and behaviours through online learning and receive feedback is, well, not going to happen. A combination of both, however, is perfect: reduce time in the classroom by building knowledge through eLearning. Then, use that reduced amount of classroom time to emotionally engage, build skills and develop behaviours!

You can see why I for one, am a big fan. But, that’s because I’ve seen the impact of blended learning first hand.

Today’s special: The NKD Cocktail

NKD firmly believe that the best way to deepen the retention and recall of learning is to use a mix of learning approaches. And, we’re not the only ones. The US Department of Education’s recent study around blended learning confirmed a long-held belief that “instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction in learning application”.

At NKD we select and blend (shaken and stirred) specific learning approaches to target the specific type of learning challenge we are responding to.

Our ingredients

  1. NKD Facilitate – A workshop, conference, leadership development or a variety of face to face learning experiences; ideal for significant behavioural/mind-set shifts
  2. NKD Excelerate – A manager-led learning experience, meeting, coaching session or team meeting; ideal for engaging and informing back at work AND role modelled by leaders in the business
  3. NKD Navigate – A learner-navigated digital solution. From eLearning to interactive online games, Apps, engaging film and animation, instructional film, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality; ideal for building knowledge and providing flexibility
  4. NKD Back to the Floor – Back to work challenges, tasks and activities all guided by workbooks, online games, eBooks and phone/tablet based Apps; ideal for ‘real world’ application

And we’re not lightweights… we’ve done this before.

DHL Express – Certified International Manager

DHL Express wanted a programme that would elicit a behavioural commitment from its 10,000 managers based in 220 countries, turning them into genuine role models of their organisational values of Respect and Results.

The CIM (Certified International Manager) programme had a blended approach to learning including classroom training, on the job challenges via a tablet App, digital self-navigated learning, line manager coaching, eCoaching and eJournals.

The results

Infographic of increase in employee engagement scores

As you can see, the results speak for themselves, and I bet you the next round that ‘blended learning’ isn’t going to be wiped off the specials board any time soon.

All that’s left to say is, thanks for hanging onto my shoe-horned ‘cocktail’ similes and cheap metaphors throughout. As you can probably tell, we are better at creating awesome learning than mixing a great cocktail.

I’ll stick to the day job.

If you want to chat to us more about blended learning and our approach, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at

Thanks for reading.