The business case for online learning is a compelling one. Whilst it might not be appropriate for all types of training; when an online course is executed well, the benefits to the individual and to organisations can be persuasive.
Cost – The cost of an online training course can range between 10% and 50% of the cost of the classroom equivalent training course. The costs of running a classroom course such as; tutor costs, course materials, refreshments and possibly venue hire are all eliminated. When training budgets are tight, cost is a significant consideration.
Out of Office – When you’re busy or need to be available, being out of the office is real problem. Finding the time for one, two or more days out of the office is a significant obstacle to training. Not to mention the possibility of travel time to and from the training venue. With online training there is not need to leave the office, the training can be consumed in the workplace.
Self Paced – There is complete flexibility when attending an online course. You can spend 10 minutes, an hour, a day training online and squeeze the sessions into the gaps in your schedule. If preferred, training can also be taken in personal time, in the evenings or weekends. This can be helpful for just-in-time learning.
Just-in-Time Learning – Online learning can be Lean learning when we need to gain know-how and gain it fast. No need to wait for the next scheduled course; the next online training course starts in 5 minutes.
Learning Complexity– Explanations of complex concepts sometimes need to be repeated before they sink in fully. With online training, there is the option to rewind and replay a lesson. If the course material is indexed, it can also be used as reference material and watched over and over.
Location and Device Agnostic - Online learning can be taken in the workplace, from home and even on the sofa. It can be watched on a desktop PC, a laptop, tablet or a mobile device. It’s cloud based learning and so the only requirement is for an internet connection.
Efficient Use of Time – Online learning material is often condensed and time is spent on learning only. No need for the obligatory attendee introductions, classroom etiquette or coffee breaks. All these diminish the pure learning time.
Group Training – When working in a project environment, it usually means working in a team. Rather than just have one or just a few individuals with the know-how; the team will work better collaboratively when everyone understands and appreciates the approach being taken. Short, focused, cost effective, training sessions are the only viable option for team training. A rising tide lifts all the boats.
Consistency - In the classroom, not all tutors and not all training material is created equal. Some are definitively created more equal than others. Everyone attending an online training course same be sure that they're will be consistency.
Online learning isn’t a perfect solution. There are some benefits to classroom learning that trumps online learning.
Quality - Online learning is still relatively new and like all new media not all online courses are high quality. If you're forced to watch a narrator reading bullets points and it being described as online training, perhaps you might wish to have seen a sample first.
Q&A - Immediate access to an expert to ask questions isn’t always available online. If the tutor is good, they can answer relevant questions not covered in the course syllabus and such direct and personal feedback will add great value.
Learning by Doing – There is no equivalent online to a classroom breakout session or a group exercise. If learning best achieved by doing, then a classroom course is likely to be more productive. Learning to speak in public is unlikely to work very well as an online training course.
You can take a horse to water – but you can't make it drink. When someone attends a classroom training course, you can be sure they attended. For online courses, it's less obvious to know whether a course was actually fully attended or otherwise.
Pays your Money, Makes your Choice
The online training business case remains an attractive one although it places much higher demands on the quality of the course material. Perhaps 'blended' learning which is a combination of online training and classroom training is the best of both worlds?
Good or bad, what’s your experience of online training?