Blended Learning Book: Best Practices, Proven Methodologies, and Lessons Learned / Edition 1

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As e-learning gurus and vendors hype the industry about a mad rush toward internet-based training, a more balanced approach has emerged: blended learning.

The Blended Learning Book is your user’s manual for implementing blended learning. It gives you a guidebook to combining the latest technologies with traditional training models to create high-impact programs that drive superior business results (not just reduce costs). Filled with real-world examples and case studies from organizations such as Accenture, BI, Cisco, FedEx Kinko’s, Grant Thornton, IBM, Novell, the U.S. Navy, Verizon, and more, e-learning veteran Josh Bersin zeros in on What Works™ in all shapes and sizes of training departments from a variety of industries.

Broadly and deeply researched, the book clears up many misconceptions about blended learning while providing a clear and comprehensive understanding of the principles and proven best practices. For training and learning professionals, The Blended Learning Book provides

  • The two approaches and the five blended learning models that have been proven successful
  • A detailed review of the 16 media options for blended learning and a road map to selecting the right media set for the right problem
  • A solid methodology to develop the budget, select infrastructure, develop content, and manage a blended learning program
  • A large library of case studies and examples, with content samples and detailed program outlines
  • A set of "lessons learned" in every chapter
  • An accompanying website,, with up-to-date techniques, new case studies, and job aids

A comprehensive look at the most discussed trend in training, The Blended Learning Book describes each step in defining, budgeting, building, managing, and measuring blended learning programs. With the accompanying website, learning professionals will be able to stay current on the emerging trends and future directions of blended learning.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
“Josh Bersin has simplified the complexity of the all-to-often confusing concept of blended learning. His in-depth research identifies best practices that are proven in the real world. This book is a must-read for training professionals who are trying to identify the right mix of media to create blended programs that get results.”
—James J. L'Allier, chief learning officer, Thomson NETg

“Blended Learning is one of the hottest topics in corporate training today. The Blended Learning Book is filled with examples, methodologies, and approaches that we find instrumental in making our programs successful.  Josh Bersin’s experience and insights are valuable to any training professional.”
—Gerry Lang, director, Learning Platform and Services, Microsoft

“Blended Learning is a complex topic and Josh Bersin makes it easy. This book helps training managers understand why, when, and how to implement blended programs that really work.
—Kevin Oakes, CEO, SumTotal Systems Inc.

“Blended Learning by using multiple delivery channels is core to our training strategy. This book gives readers valuable insights developed through years of experience. Bersin’s book should be on the “must read” list for any training professional.”
—Bob Dean, chief learning officer, Grant Thornton LLP

“Blended Learning is a powerful approach to drive results in corporate training. Josh Bersin’s book captures the essentials and gives you the methodologies and tips you need to be highly successful.”
—Eli Munzer, director, e-Learning, Verizon

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787972967
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 993,171
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.41 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin & Associates, a leading provider of research and consulting services in e-learning technology and implementation. He has worked with hundreds of companies in the development, management, and measurement of high-impact blended learning programs. With over 25 years of experience in e-learning, training, and enterprise technology, Bersin has held senior positions with Digital Think, Arista Knowledge Systems, Sybase, and IBM.

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Table of Contents


Chapter One : How Did We Get Here? The History of Blended Learning.

The Evolution of Technology-Based Training.

Instructor-Led Training.

Mainframe-Based Training.

Satellite-Based Live Video.

The PC CD-ROM Era.

Development of Learning Management Systems and AICC.

Enter Web-Based Training: The First Generation.

Today: A Wide Range of Options.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Two: The Business of Blended Learning.

The Issue of Limited Resources.

Portfolio Management: Identifying High-Impact Investments.

Program Portfolio Allocation.

The Trap of “Cost Reduction” Programs.

High-Impact Programs.

Creating Measurable Goals.

Certification Programs: A Special Case.

Alignment with Business Objectives.

Blended Learning Is a Powerful Business Tool.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Three: Blended Learning Design Concepts.

How Do People Learn?

The Goal of Mastery.

Six Modes of Learning.

Research Supports the Value of Experiential Learning.

Blending Works: Thompson Job Impact Study.

Cultural Goals: Socialization and Gaining Attention.

The Four Types of Corporate Training.

Tracking and Reporting as a Program Characteristic.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Four: Proven Blended Learning Models.

The Two Approaches to Blended Learning.

Five Specific Blended Learning Models.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Five: Eight Criteria for Selecting the Blending Model.

Criterion 1: Program Type.

Criterion 2: Cultural Goals.

Criterion 3: Audience.

Criterion 4: Budget.

Criteriion 5: Resources.

Criterion 6: Time.

Criterion 7: Learning Content.

Criterion 8: Technology.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Six: Developing the Budget.

Sizing the Budget: Define the Size of the Problem.

Compute Cost Per Learner.

Economics of Blended Learning.

The Five Components of the Budget.

Real Costs: The Blended Learning: What Works Study.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Seven: Media Selection: The Right Blend.

Review of the Selection Criteria.

The Sixteen Media Types.

When to Use Instructor-Led Training.

When to Use On-the-Job Exercises.

When to Use Live vs. Self-Study.

Program Type 1: Information Broadcast Programs.

Program Type 2: Critical Knowledge Transfer Programs.

Program Type 3: Skills and Competency Programs.

Program Type 4: Certified Skills and Competencies.

Media Selection.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Eight: Content Development.

The Instructional Design Team.

Typical Content Development Challenges.

Developing a Program Plan.

The Instructional Plan.

Developing Standards.

Making Content Reusable.

e-Learning Content Development Process.

Working with SMEs.

Developing Webinar or Live e-Learning Content.

Development Tools.


Content Development Tips and Techniques.

Outsourcing Content Development.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Nine: Learning Technology and Infrastructure.

Review of Blended Learning Infrastructure.

Using and Setting Standards.

How Much Learning Infrastructure You Need.

Do You Need an LMS at All?

Low-Cost LMS Approaches.

LCMS and Development Tools.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Chapter Ten: Program Management: Launch, Rollout, Support.

The Challenge of Utilizing e-Learning.

Review the Program Schedule.

Program Launch.

Executive and Management Support.

Specific Launch Events.

Ongoing Marketing.

Support and Operations.

Learning Labs.

Field Coordinators.

Measuring and Reporting Progress.

Communication with Upper Management.

Communication with Line Management.

Lessons Learned in This Chapter.

Moving Forward.

Why Blended Learning Is So Important.

Where Blended Learning Is Going.


Appendix A: Case Studies and Solutions.

Appendix B: Blended Learning Study: Financial Overview.

Appendix: C: Case Study Business Strategies.

Appendix D: Program Checklist.

Appendix E: Eight Criteria for Media Selection.

Appendix F: Sixteen Media Types and Descriptions.

Appendix G: Glossary.

Appendix H: Selected Samples of Courseware and Media.

Appendix I: Sample Detailed Instructional Plan.

About the Author.


Pfeiffer Publications Guide.

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First Chapter

The Blended Learning Book

Best Practices, Proven Methodologies, and Lessons Learned
By Josh Bersin

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-7296-7

Chapter One

How Did We Get Here?

The History of Blended Learning

It is important to look at blended learning in perspective. This chapter looks at the history of technology-based training (see Figure 1.1). If you are itching to get into the business of blended learning, you could choose to skip this chapter, but remember to come back and read it later. We will refer to many of these principles throughout the book.

The Evolution of Technology-Based Training

Blended learning is the latest step in a long history of technology-based training. What we describe in this book is the continuation of thirty years of experience using technology for training and education. Although this evolution is far from over, where we are today is an important place, built on several major steps and learnings in this exciting industry. This short chapter on history will prevent us from having to "relearn" what has been learned before.

In the evolutionary steps which led us to where we are today, we start with traditional instructor-led training. (See Figure 1.2.)

Instructor-Led Training

There will always be a role for the teacher, professor, or subject-matter expert to teach and entertain us in a classroom. Instructors convey enthusiasm, expert knowledge, experience, and context. They can answer questions and change the pace and direction of a class based on the audience. Even more importantly, as we have learned in e-learning, instructor-led training has a cultural effect: people interact and learn from one another.

The biggest challenge with instructor-led training is lack of scale. If you need to train thousands of students, there are only two options: large class sizes or lots of travel. Large class sizes greatly reduce effectiveness and travel is very expensive.

The second challenge with instructor-led training is long deployment times. Most business-critical training problems are time-driven. They must be accomplished within a tight deadline-and the number of hours available to learners is limited. We call these issues "deadline time" (time to complete the entire program) and "duration" (elapsed time for the program).

If a program relies on instructor-led training and has strict deadline times and limits on duration, you have a problem. You can schedule large classes (i.e., fly the entire organization to a convention center and sit them in a huge auditorium) or hire many instructors and send out to teach many classes at the same time. The large class approach (i.e., conference) has strong cultural benefits (it brings people together)-but makes one-on-one teaching and hands-on experience nearly impossible. Flying instructors all over the world is expensive and often impossible if you do not have a cadre of qualified instructors.

Technology is intended to solve these problems: extend the instructor model in space and time. Theoretically, if we use technology we can reach more learners in a shorter period of time-and as a bonus they can learn at their own pace and speed.

Mainframe-Based Training

The first technology-based training approach came with mainframe and mini-computers in the 1960s and 1970s. These systems had the limitation of character-based terminals but the benefit of reaching hundreds to thousands of people at their workplace. A pioneering example of such a system was Plato, a system developed in 1963 by Control Data and the University of Illinois. Plato pioneered the use of computers in traditional educational settings and still exists today.

As Figure 1.3 shows, mainframes were not graphical or visually interesting. Nevertheless, they provided the first platform to extend learning to large audiences through technology.

An Example of Blended Learning

My own experience in e-learning began in the mainframe era. In the 1980s I was first hired by IBM as an entry-level sales engineer. For my first fifteen months as a "trainee" I needed to learn how to sell, implement, and support many complex mainframe hardware and software systems. IBM had developed a well-structured blended curriculum for new hires made up of online product education at the local branch office and a series of classroom and simulation exercises in Dallas, Texas.

In the branch office we used a manual (job aid) and series of online courses (self-study) to learn about the basics of online systems, networking technologies, and business principles. Every exercise we completed at the branch was scored and graded and then sent to both our manager and the sales training organization in Dallas. When we traveled to Dallas for our next set of real-world experiences the instructors already knew how well we had done on our branch exercises.

The entire fifteen-month program was a long, simulated sales call on a company called Armstrong Sporting Goods. During the program we learned how to make a sales call on the IT manager, the CFO, the CEO, and the VP of Sales. We learned how to deal with sales objections by performing real sales calls (which were graded). The instructors in Dallas simulated their job roles and treated us exactly as we would be treated when we went out in the real world.

This program had all the elements of a well-designed blended learning program. It was well-structured (all steps were well-defined and scheduled in advance); it took advantage of best-in-class media of the day (mainframe computers); it saved us time (we were working in the branch while taking courses); it created a social culture (learners spent a lot of time together); and it used demonstration and experiential learning (we actually had to "make the sale" in order to pass the course).

The lesson here is that creating a blended program is not dependent on technology. Rather it is a process of problem identification, defining the blending model, and carefully managing and measuring program execution. These are all topics we cover in detail throughout this book.

Bottom line on mainframe based training: it was the beginning of an evolution, and despite its clear limitations in user interfaces, formed the basis for our thinking about blending technology with instructor-led training.

Satellite-Based Live Video

As Figure 1.2 shows, the next step in the technology evolution came in the 1970s when companies started to use video networks to extend the live instructor. Take the problems with instructor-led training above and use TV-based technology to extend the live experience. Learners could sit in a classroom, watch the instructor on TV, chat and interact with other students, and even ask the instructor questions.

A well-run example of this approach is the Stanford University Interactive TV network, which is still used throughout Silicon Valley. Stanford invested in a community-based video network in the 1970s and 1980s that enables Stanford professors to teach courses all over the San Francisco Bay Area without leaving the campus. The students never have to leave their workplace to learn. They submit exercises and tests via courier.

I took live video courses at Stanford and also during my time at IBM. The experience is very close to a real classroom experience. The classrooms have TV cameras that enable the instructor to see the entire class. Students can push a button to ask questions. It truly extends the classroom model into a global delivery solution.

Live video continues to be an important training approach in many companies. General Motors, for example, relies heavily on video-based instruction to train dealers. If the audience is not particularly PC-literate or does not have access to computers, live video training is very appropriate. The challenge is expense: building and maintaining video networks is costly and this approach is rapidly being replaced by lower-cost digital IP-based systems like web-casting, web-based video, and conference calls. We learned from live video that the face, body language, and visual cues from the instructor are an important part of training programs.


To really understand the issues we face today with blended learning it is valuable to understand the CD-ROM era, which forms the basis for much of the web-based training we see today.

In the early 1980s when the first PCs arrived, trainers and educators rushed headlong into PC multimedia technologies. Training technologists love to work on the cutting edge. Computer companies saw this market and started to create special PC models and features designed for multimedia training. Microsoft even went so far as to create a Multimedia PC (MPC) specification.

I call this period the CD-ROM era. Vendors and training departments realized that computers could deliver graphics, sound, video, and rich interactivity. With the extensive storage media available in CD-ROM, these programs could be distributed with ease. The learning experience was rich and perhaps could completely replace the instructor-led model.

The leader in this market was a company called CBT Systems. This company is one of the only major players that successfully made the transition from CD to the web. CBT Systems was the largest provider of CD-ROM training for software and IT professionals. As the CD market started to wane, the company adopted a new web-based approach and relaunched itself as SmartForce around 1999 and then later merged with Skillsoft in 2002. They realized that the CD-ROM era was giving way to new approaches that leverage the web.

It's important to realize that, in the 1980s and 1990s, when companies developed content for CD-ROM they did not use the web-centric approach we have today. They typically relied on high-quality video, complex animations, and professionally developed sound. These titles, often authored in Authorware from Macromedia or Toolbook from Click2Learn, were designed to use high bandwidth media-video, audio, and interactions-elements that do not always translate well to the web. Developers learned that there is a fundamental difference between content authored to run in a CD-ROM (which can house large amounts of video and audio locally) and content authored for the web (where the bandwidth to the PC may be 56k or less in some cases).

Development of Learning Management Systems and AICC

The limitations of CD-ROM technology formed the basis for e-learning as we know it today. The first problem people faced with CD-ROMs was how to manage all the distributed copies of courseware. Who was using it? What were they doing? How could we tell if they were completing? This problem created the need for a "learning management system" (LMS)-a piece of software somewhere on the network that could track and manage all the CD-ROM courses people were taking.

One of the biggest users of CD-ROM technology was the airline industry. Boeing, for example, developed thousands of hours of content devoted to the support and maintenance of aircraft. If the content was distributed to hundreds of PCs, how could Boeing track who was taking these courses and what levels of completion and compliance they were achieving? The answer was the first network-based LMS.

The first LMS systems were developed primarily to manage the enrollment, tracking, and completion of CD-ROM-based content across a network. For this to work, however, the industry needed some standard way for courseware to communicate with the LMS about what the learner was doing. The LMS needs to know when you start a course, what scores you achieve in certain assessments, where you leave off when you are interrupted, and how much time you spend in the course.

To solve this problem, a group of airlines developed a new standard. The Aviation Industry CBT Committee (AICC) developed the most useful and widely implemented approach to enrollment, tracking, reporting, and book-marking electronic content. AICC standards are built into almost every course and every LMS available in the marketplace today.

Today, SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), a superset of AICC, is slowly becoming the new standard for content packaging and interoperability. SCORM builds on AICC and adds concepts such as reusability, sequencing, and searchable metadata.

"More Experience" Is Not Necessarily an "Effective Experience"

One of the learning experiences from the CD-ROM era is that "more experience" does not necessarily result in an "effective experience." When developers realized that they could deliver audio, video, animation, and interactivity through the computer, they rushed into complex and expensive content production.

Learning requires a combination of content plus context. Content is meaningless unless it is fit into the context of the business challenge, the learner's abilities and background, the work environment, and the specific learning objectives. Today, this design "truth" continues to drive Internet-based media. We will discuss these issues in detail and give you guidelines to avoid building "the most wonderful course that no one takes" or "the most interesting course that teaches you nothing."

Cost of Maintenance and Deployment Emerge as Major Issues

One of the big issues we discovered in the CD-ROM era was the enormous problems of content deployment and content maintenance. It has been estimated that over the lifetime of a course (and lifetime is a measure of "content stability," which is discussed later), maintenance can become many times more expensive than the initial development. In the CD-ROM model, maintenance became a nightmare. With thousands of CD-ROMs distributed throughout an organization, it was nearly impossible to replace them with new versions.

Learnings from the CD-ROM Era

Table 1.1 summarizes the lessons learned from the CD-ROM era.

Although the CD-ROM industry grew, it never reached a size greater than $400M or so, largely due to technology limitations shown in the table. Many vendors found that high costs of developing and maintaining CD-ROMs would not sustain a profitable business. Many companies built CD-ROM programs that cost far more than their instructor-led equivalents. The trick was (and still is) to develop a highly interactive experience without going "overboard" on expensive video, authoring, and graphics that were not justified for a given application.

The industry learned extensively from this experience, and the ubiquity of the Internet-coupled with standardized PC software (Windows(r))-has given us a whole new set of options. Already the web-based e-learning market is five times larger than the CD-ROM market ever was.


Excerpted from The Blended Learning Book by Josh Bersin Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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