Blended learning is taking the hospitality industry by storm. According to a Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers survey, 69% of limited service restaurants, 58% of full service restaurants, and 88% of hotels and lodgings use eLearning to train their staff.
But aside from cost, what are the benefits of blended learning considering the industry is so people-centric?
1. Self-paced learning
The first benefit is that blended learning allows students to learn at their own pace. Students can easily skip ahead if they’re finding lessons too easy, or pause and repeat lessons if they are finding the content more difficult.
This enables gifted students to run ahead and explore their full potential, reducing boredom and frustration, and places less pressure on slower paced students and those with busy schedules.
Nicole Martini, who is a student at the University of Florida where flexible learning is offered, had nothing but praise for the concept. “The flexible learning program allowed me to complete graduate school prerequisites at my own pace while keeping up with my busy work schedule,” she said.
Terry Kinder, another student at the university, shared a similar view. “The best part of flexible learning courses is the ability to put coursework on hold while you catch up on other classes, study for a major exam or write a research paper,” he said. “When I needed that time to focus on other classes I was able to do it without being penalized.”
2. Better student engagement
Blended learning also gives hospitality students the opportunity to learn in more varied ways.
Sometimes students are taught through online lessons. Other times they learn through direct teacher instruction and other times through breakout groups. Many online platforms also integrate gamification into their platforms to keep students’ attention for longer, and most tailor lessons to the individual student. All of these changes help to make lessons less monotonous, increasing student engagement.
Doug Fisher, a lecturer from Vanderbilt University, shared "I'm much more excited walking into a classroom nowadays. The students seem much more excited. I don't worry about how to keep them awake; they're awake and active."
3. Focus on deeper learning
Online platforms often take advantage of algorithms that track student performance. Some platforms even use this performance data to set unique lesson plans for students. These algorithms encourage students to dive deeper on topics of interest to them. And because each student is learning different things at different times, there is no such thing as being “off topic”.
"A more varied approach to teaching makes students more versatile when learning and communicating."
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As lecturer Greg Mason from Seattle University described, “You don't have to follow notes or stay on the syllabus, so if a student asks a question, and it takes you down a rabbit trail, that's okay”.
The result is that students are encouraged to dig deeper on those ideas that excite them most, increasing student engagement.
4. More one-on-one teaching
Blended learning also gives students more one-on-one time with teachers because online platforms reduce the time a teacher needs to spend addressing the entire class.
This provides students with more opportunities to ask questions, and an education better tailored to their personality and learning style. It also frees up time for teachers to introduce additional material.
According to University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer Steve Cramer, online classes freed him up to spend less time lecturing, and more time answering student questions. “70% of my students prefer the blended to the traditional approach,” he said. “An even higher percentage appreciate the in-class problem solving sessions that we do, but the only way you get those is to remove the lectures."
5. Problems flagged earlier
Many online platforms automatically mark student work, providing students with immediate feedback. It means, from moment to moment, students know if they are on the right track or not, which allows them to move through activities at a quicker pace.
And because data is often automatically collated, teachers have a better gauge of how students are performing. This helps them flag problems earlier and narrow in on a student’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
Alice Pawley, an Associate Professor from Purdue University, was inspired to flip her entire lecture structure. Today a typical class begins with a quiz based on recorded material. This provides her and her assistants with immediate student results. They then spend the bulk of the lesson helping the students with homework problems and group projects. She shared, "My workload isn't lower, but my stress is".
6. Revisit lesson material
Blended learning gives students the opportunity to revisit lessons anytime they like.
French exchange student Benot Pape, who studied at Australia’s Charles Darwin University, explained, “Charles Darwin University is using eLearning methods and I was surprised to see how efficient it was. It is particularly interesting for a foreign student to be able to read, listen or watch a lecture again as they might have missed something.”
The same works true for students who struggle in the traditional classroom setting. The opportunity to revisit material makes education in general a lot less intimidating and encourages a more equal playing field for all students.
7. Anything. Anywhere. Anytime.
Online learning gives students with access to ideas from anywhere in the world, anytime. This provides students with more control over when and where they want to learn and exposes them to a greater diversity of thinking.
It also opens education up to new areas, such as remote rural regions and less developed countries. Plus it gives hospitality students access to a greater number of teachers and mentors.
University of Essex student Matthew Jones shared, “Online learning brings the classroom to you. The lessons are truly global, with students and tutors participating from anywhere; Brazil, China, America, and the UK – all in real time.”
8. More “job-ready”
Blended learning also encourages students to be more accountable for their learning, because they have a degree of control over when and where they learn. As Seattle University lecturer Greg Mason explained, "Now is the time to practice being an independent thinker. When you go to work, they're not going to hand you a textbook”.
The more varied approach to teaching (e.g. online lessons, small group collaboration, large class lectures, one-on-one teaching) also makes students more versatile when learning and communicating. Again, this is much more reflective of the real world.
"Numerous employers have said that online learning is a skill in itself and that they admire the dedication required.”
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Paul McElhenny, Materials Manager at Denver Industrial, described his experience studying as a mature age student at the University of Scranton. “Being able to apply my classes to my job right now is pretty incredible. I chose the university for several reasons. It had to meet the criteria of the company I was working for. And it had to have what I wanted to go to school for.
"It ended up being so much better than I ever anticipated it would be. Nine out of 10 classes had a direct impact on what I do at work everyday.”
Suqie Banwait, a University of Essex student, agreed that blended learning courses made students more job-ready. “Numerous employers [who use online training themselves] have said that online learning is a skill in itself and that they admire the dedication required.”
9. Self-improving technology
Another oft-overlooked benefit to blended learning is that the technology gets better the more it is used. Much the same way that Google gets more accurate and useful the more people use it, so too do other platforms.
A good example is David Boody Junior High School, which uses an adaptive, self-improving platform called Teach-to-One to teach its sixth graders math. As NPR explained, “Algorithms choose which students sit together. Algorithms measure what the children know and how well they know it. They choose what problems the children should work on and provide teachers with the next lesson to teach”.
In the first year of implementation, students went from below average to 15% higher than the national average. In the second year, following on from what the technology had learned from student data, students were almost 47% above the national average.
Teach-to-One’s co-founder Joel Rose credits the success to “the algorithm’s ability to improve itself, but also to second-year schools becoming more acclimated with the program and learning how to train teachers to better use the software”.
Sure, hospitality is a little harder to teach using algorithms than math, but it’s likely we will see more self-improving technologies emerging in the future; technologies that teach theoretical skills, like customer handling and negotiation.
An example is Typsy’s platform, where user metrics help determine which topics, instructors and delivery styles resonate with students the most. This ensures the content is always improving.
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