Stephanie Morgan shares her ideas for free and cheap tools that L&D professionals can use to build and deliver a blended learning strategy

Charity learning and development practitioners have told me they’d like to evolve their learning to incorporate blended but think they don’t have the budget. Sharing my advice with them at Charity Learning Consortium events gave me the idea to put some of these tips out there for everyone else too! Finding solutions that can be put together on little or no budget is a challenge, but it’s one I’m happy to help with. So here are a few of my tips for building an inventive, economical blend that does a great job without breaking the bank.

Learners love video

Making use of free external sources can be a great way to keep costs down. There are plenty of tools and content that you can use to help you build your blend, and they don’t need to cost you a penny. For example, we all know that video is fantastic for engagement. Capitalise on the popularity of a resource like TED Talks, which gives you access to a library of videos that can be filtered using tags like leadership. In fact, there are thousands of TED Talks available on most topics, and you can even filter them by length for bite-sized learning. The Clear Lessons Foundation video library – which is completely free for charities, their staff and volunteers – is even better, as it contains sector-specific topics like fundraising.

Build in curation

Keeping a Pinterest board or Evernote notebook of your found content is a great way to ensure you can easily find and call on it later, when you need it to make up part of your blend.

Develop a marketing mindset

Marketing professionals love Mailchimp for its simple, free-to-use email campaign templates, automation tools and mobile app – not to mention the advanced reporting dashboards that mean you can see when people are opening your messages. This will help you get key marketing metrics to help you understand your learners. So when it comes to rolling out your learning strategy and letting your people know about the latest courses, or even automating an email to remind people to finish their online modules, Mailchimp can be your friend.

Marketers also love Canva, which is great for graphic design, offering thousands of free templates. Medium is one of the best free blogging platforms out there, while social platforms like Slack, LinkedIn and Facebook can offer private channels for your people to discuss and share social learning.

Network and collaborate

If you’re already a member of the Charity Learning Consortium, you’ll know the benefits that come with networking with your peers. Putting your head together with someone who has the same problem as you can be a wonderful opportunity, perhaps to create something new. It’s easier than ever to form connections with others in your field on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more.

Although it will take a portion of your budget, professional bodies such as LPI or CIPD can also give you the opportunity to get help and share knowledge at conferences and online events.

Leverage your connections to look for partnerships and potential support. keep your networking skills sharp, make contacts and check in with them regularly. It doesn’t cost anything, and staying front of mind can lead to all sorts of opportunities.

Put yourself out there

There are plenty of opportunities around to volunteer on someone else’s podcast, webinar, or blog. In exchange for your time and input, ask for permission to include created or future content in your blend. For example, Bray Leino Learning run a monthly webinar in which we talk to learning practitioners about the challenges they face in their work; trends and opportunities for our L&D community; new technologies, and other upcoming issues. If you’re interested in presenting one of our webinars, please drop me a line.

Ultimately, delivering your blended strategy on a budget is about more than just finding free and cheap elements to include – it’s about getting inventive, knowing your people, and really zeroing in on spending your time and effort in the right places. Having no budget to spare can help you really focus. For this reason, I recommend every learning practitioner tries to create a blend out of repurposed and curated content. These skills are a great step towards gaining and using an engagement mindset.

Please get in touch to let me know if any of these ideas work for you – and I’d love to know what’s been successful in the past.

Stephanie Morgan is Director of Learning Solutions at Bray Leino Learning.

Her role combines her extensive experience of delivering exceptional learning with her passion to help individuals and organisations develop. Her personal experiences and natural honesty, passion, clear thinking and sense of humour supports her mission to help individuals and organisations grow through developing and challenging themselves to be better.

Her career has given her a complete L&D knowledge base, which she continues to develop and hone in order to share her expertise. Stephanie is a confident and engaging speaker and has encouraged many individuals to initiate change in their organisation.