After a year of “new normal” in the middle of a global pandemic, educators and learners around the globe are facing a question:

What is learning going to be like after COVID-19? Will it go back to how it was? Or will it be changed forever with people being used to doing things online?

This is about change. More importantly, it is about a prediction of the future based on unique data from having close to 400 professionals attending professional B2B (business to business) training.

We had delivered traditional classroom courses to businesses for over ten years. The last traditional classroom course we held before the pandemic was in February 2020. At the time, multiple traditional classroom courses had already been canceled. And what could have become a total disaster for the company, ended up being a surge in demand for our online courses and a rapid change in how our training courses were delivered. This resulted in organic growth by 27% during the year of the pandemic.

Just like many others did in response to the lockdown, we quickly changed a few courses to virtual, instructor-led training. But was this really going to be the long-term solution? Even before the pandemic, we had delivered online courses, as well as a rare type of course: blended, or hybrid courses.

What does “blended” mean exactly?

“Blended learning involves leveraging multiple platforms to deliver training content to learners. Blending online theoretical content with a hands-on practical application or mentor-based instruction is an efficient, cost-effective delivery method for workforce training.” (Lothridge, Karen; et al. (2013). “Blended learning: efficient, timely, and cost-effective”. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 45 (4): 407–416.)

In the period from June to December of 2020, Medical Device HQ delivered close to 50 blended courses, with around four hundred participants. The participants did a pre-course assessment quiz, then attended an online course, and took a final exam qualifying them for a one-day live virtual class on Zoom.

Schedule

The topics were mainly design control and risk management for medical devices, and 99% of the participants were B2B customers. Typically, course participants spent 14-20 hours on the courses.

Surprising results

In the course evaluation, the course participants were asked what type of learning they would prefer. With a large part of the adult population experiencing fear and anxiety amidst the global pandemic of COVID 19, it is not hard to realize why people would have a strong preference towards online or virtual instructor-led training.

However, we did not ask what kind of learning they would want during the pandemic, but after.

And the results were shocking.

Of those who had an opinion, an astounding number of 80,3% preferred the blended (online + live virtual) course above other types of courses after the pandemic as well.

Course preference after Covid-19

A total of 157 B2B course participants from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands were asked during the period from 18 November 2020 to 18 February 2021. 4.76% did not know or have an opinion, and have been excluded – the reason mostly being that they had only ever attended a blended course and had no experience from other courses to compare with.

The main reasons behind the course-taking preferences, as stated by the surveyed participants, were that they found the blended courses more engaging and interactive. Several common points that the majority stated were:

  • particularly enjoyed the theory being done first, then the practical part
  • could take the recorded online course at their own pace
  • appreciated the atmosphere where they got to work practically, hands-on, in the workshops
  • had the space for asking questions thanks to fewer participants on the live virtual class

What works better?

With demanding B2B customers that require a high return on the investment in training, one question would be how much people learned from a blended course compared to other types of courses. Not that shocking, but still very encouraging, were the results of asking the participants how much they had learned on the blended course compared to a traditional 2-day classroom course.

The typical time spent on the blended courses was 14-20 hours, thus the investment in time is similar to a 2-day traditional classroom course. If travel to a classroom course would be included in the equation, the time invested in blended learning would be shorter by comparison. Nevertheless, the 2-day classroom course was used as the benchmark to which blended learning was compared.

Out of all the people who took the blended courses on design control and risk management, a total of 85% thought they had learned more, or a lot more compared to a 2-day classroom course.

The comparison of the learning quality – blended vs. traditional

Measuring the results according to the participants’ answers is fairly easy, and when transferred to a visual representation, the results speak for themselves. The data shows that taking the blended course has proved to be more effective as opposed to traditional course-taking.

In the medical device industry, it is a regulatory requirement to evaluate the effectiveness of training actions taken. This means that when medical device companies are audited by external certification bodies or authorities, they may receive the question of how they know the training had the desired effect, and the companies must be able to show it. The blended format provided a good way of showing the effectiveness of the training by measuring results on a quiz before attending the training and after attending.

Pre-Course Assessment vs. Final exam

The diagram shows results from a course and how it is reported to the client after the course to provide a record of the effectiveness of the training. Orange bars represent the pre-course assessment results and the blue bars represent the final exam results.

On average (n=236), the participant went from 53% on the pre-course assessment that was made up of 12 random questions from question banks, to 96% on the final exam with 45 questions from a question bank.

The future is different

Based on the course evaluation results, we predict that even after COVID-19, a strong move towards blended training in B2B, in favor of the virtual instructor-led training where the course has been moved to Zoom or Teams, will be seen.

According to dr. George Siemens et al., it has been concluded that: “In the case of blended instruction, meaning both online, and any type of face-to-face time, the academic achievement of those students was higher than that of students who had either only online, or only face-to-face mode” (Preparing for the Digital University: A Review of the History and Current State of Distance, Blended, and Online Learning, 2015, pp. 71).

Because we’re living through a time of great fear and uncertainty, it is easily understandable that people would feel more comfortable learning from the comfort and safety of their homes. Many of us had wished to learn or work from home even before COVID hit.

Precisely for this reason, the current situation has brought about the need to rethink education and the nature of learning as we know it. We might even be so bold as to say that the global pandemic has (forcefully, but perhaps necessarily) opened a door to a new era of learning that could, ultimately, largely improve future endeavors in pursuing knowledge. And we mean this not only in terms of education itself, but it could also be more cost and time-effective, as well as environmentally friendly as opposed to a traditional type of courses.

Time will tell.

Medical Device HQ is a company that specializes in offering risk management and design control training to the medical industry. The courses (blended, online, and public) at MDHQ, held by highly educated and skilled professionals primarily focused on quality, are:

For over a decade now, MDHQ’s chief goal and vision has been to help as many as possible bring medical devices to market in the most efficient way.

Peter Sebelius

Peter Sebelius (PMP) is a highly esteemed trainer, consultant and entrepreneur in the medical device industry. He is a member of the Joint Working Group that is revising the ISO 13485 and ISO 14971 standards.

He has vast ‘hands on’ experience too, having developed, amongst other things, a mechanical chest compression and an ex vivo perfusion machine for lungs. He has received numerous awards including the Great Design Award and the title “This year’s specialist” by Veckans affärer.

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