The Benefits of Online Learning – Part 2
As you might expect, there are many benefits to adopting an online learning process and technique.
1. You have greater flexibility with online learning.
With online learning, you can do many things you wouldn’t usually be able to do. For example, you might be able to attend a (virtual) webinar by an industry-leading expert whose sessions are sold out or booked up well in advance or unfeasibly expensive. You can attend training that would typically require costly business trips across the country. You can participate in various forms of training, all of which might conflict with one another if attempting to attend them in person.
Additionally, you typically have flexibility within the programme. Employees being trained can complete the courses at their own pace, learning in whatever way they’re best at learning. Even lengthy trainer input can be recorded and watched at their own pace, instead of having to follow along at the trainer’s pace, even if they fall behind.
2. You gain a greater variety of programme access.
One of the most significant benefits of online training is the opportunity cost is much lower. Employees don’t need to take time off work to complete training, don’t need to travel from one end of the country to another, don’t need to dramatically adjust their diaries. The opportunity cost of in-person training is even higher with full-team training; your team needs to be off work entirely, which sets back productivity and effectiveness an untold amount.
With online training, all of these costs are significantly reduced. They aren’t gone; after all, every moment spent in training is a moment not spent working. They are, however, a lower barrier to training than the additional physical and in-person requirements would be.
3. Online learning is dramatically cheaper.
The expense of in-person learning is often relatively high.
If you’re bringing a trainer into your workplace, you need to pay their fees, which sometimes can be prohibitive. If they’re training online, you need only pay a much smaller fee, with some options even cheaper due to online learning platforms archiving videos and lectures.
If you’re sending your employees out to a course you can have even more costs. Transport costs (from plane tickets to vehicle wear/tear and gas), accommodation costs, meal costs, course costs; all add up.
4. You may have increased networking opportunities.
One of the fringe benefits of in-person training is the potential opportunity to meet and network with others throughout your industry. With in-person training, only those with the resources to attend are present to network. However, with online learning, the option may exist to network with people worldwide, many of whom would never partake in in-person training due to difficulties in attending an in-person face to face training.
However, this does require the online courses to exist in a format that includes networking opportunities. Asynchronous training, such as courses presented through a learning platform (typical e-learning courses), do not offer this opportunity.
Next time we’ll look at what you lose with online training.
What You Lose with Online Training
It’s not all benefits with online learning; otherwise, there would be no debate. Online learning loses out on a few aspects of training that can be beneficial in certain situations.
1.You lose hands-on experience.
One of the most significant benefits of in-person training is the opportunity to learn hands-on. You can’t digitally train a skill that requires manual dexterity and hands-on access to niche, expensive, or massive tools and machines.
Some forms of training can’t easily be completed without access to facilities, resources, or in-person demonstrations. For example, machine repair on an assembly line, hands-on welding, and other physical disciplines need in-person training in order to be effective.
2.You lose in-person nuance, body language, and clarity.
One of the foremost benefits of in-person learning is the ability to work closely with a more knowledgeable and experienced human being. There are thousands of tiny aspects of communication, from body language to the opportunity to ask minor questions that wouldn’t be worth an email, that are all lost with online learning.
The caveat here is that many – though not all – of these small benefits are returned when using a virtual learning space or even just video conferencing for learning. Body language can be conveyed through video chats, though not as effectively as in-person.
3.You lose synchronicity.
One of the benefits of e-learning and online training is the ability for employees to learn at their own pace. This benefit is, however, also a drawback. If you want to train up a workforce across the board, encouraging them to attend in-person learning courses and seminars ensures that they’re all on the same page, learning at the same pace. Online courses split up employees into smaller cohorts based on how quickly they progress through the material. This split can lead to various adverse outcomes, from resentment from those who fall behind to those who rush ahead not retaining the information, just passing tests.
To an extent, this can get mitigated through gated and time-limited training options but can be difficult for the people on both ends of the scale. The people who progress quickly may forget aspects of training, while those on the slower end feel constantly rushed.
4.You lose some satisfaction.
Studies from 2005 and 2008 indicate that students generally had unfavorable opinions of the online training they undertook. This lack of satisfaction comes from a variety of sources, including uncertainty about the quality of the training or dissatisfaction with the platforms used.
Fortunately, this is getting better. More recent studies, like this one from 2021, indicate increasing satisfaction in online learning options. They still lag behind in-person training, but the gap is closing.
“The highest areas of satisfaction for students were communication and flexibility, whereas 92.9% of trainers were satisfied with students’ enthusiasm for online learning. Technical problems led to reduced student satisfaction, while trainers can be burdened by the higher workload and design time required to prepare the training and assessment materials. Study-load and workload, enhancing engagement, and technical issues (SWEET) were the themes that emerged from the thematic analysis as affecting student and trainer satisfaction.”
5.You lose flexibility.
Different students will learn at different paces and have different areas where they struggle in any training course. With an in-person course, the opportunity exists to adjust the course progression to focus more on those areas, spend a longer time on them, and answer specific questions. With an online course, this opportunity may not exist.
This holds true primarily with pre-recorded or large group formats. For smaller, live training courses, students may be able to interrupt a session to ask their questions and get answers in real-time. As technology evolves, so too will these opportunities.