In an effort to reduce overall training costs more and more companies are now shifting away from purely traditional classroom-based learning towards a more blended, e-learning approach. This article explores the pros and cons of online training and helps answer the question: “Is e-learning the right solution for my organisation?”
It’s true that an online training solution brings with it a great reduction in overall training costs. A study by IBM* estimated that of the total cost of public classroom training, around 40% was spent on travel and accommodation. And when you take that out of the equation, and minus the facilitator fee, it becomes easy to see how costs could be greatly reduced when taking the online learning approach.
Total cost, however, shouldn’t be the deciding factor. In some instances, such as when covering topics with complex issues or grey areas, e-learning is less likely to achieve the desired result than with a facilitator-led session where feedback can be readily supplied to the learner.
Some things to consider when deciding on which training approach to take:
e-Learning solutions are more cost-effective
While cost should certainly not be your only consideration, it is nonetheless an important one. Online training cuts out travel and accommodation costs (as well as in most cases the facilitator cost) which leads to a far cheaper option, especially when training large groups.
e-Learning solutions are more time-effective
Another inherent benefit of online training is that it greatly reduces the time that needs to be spent on arranging logistics (such as flights, taxis, hotels, etc.), eliminates travel time, and affords the learner the flexibility of learning in their own time and at their own pace.
Standardisation of training and scalability
e-Learning ensures that each and every learner, whether a handful or an entire organisation, receives the exact same level of training, regardless of where they are in the world or when they begin the course. This is particularly useful in ensuring compliance, measuring skills, and for mandatory training such as induction training.
Customisation and benefits to the learner
Online learning allows learners to progress at their own pace, ensuring that the quicker learners do not get bored and that the slower learners are able to digest the content sufficiently before moving on. The modular format of e-learning also allows for quick and easy customisation of content, allowing organisations to tailor the solution to their specific employees.
e-Learning requires a somewhat tech-savvy audience
Online training requires the use of technology, and while most e-learning is flexible enough to work on computers, laptops, and even smartphones, it may prove challenging for those who do not understand technology, as well as those who do not like it.
Availability of broadband
e-Learning requires an internet connection (most online learning is hosted on a learning platform and must be completed online), as well as enough data to download all videos and material. Apart from the cost of this, one should also consider the availability of broadband in the learner’s specific geographical area.
Learners must self-motivate
Online learning often means learners work in isolation and are required to manage their own time and progress. This also means that learners need to motivate themselves to complete the course timeously.
Content must be appropriate for the chosen format
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the content of the material may not always be appropriate for an online format. Consider controversial topics that generate heated debate or complex topics that require discussion and deep exploration - without an experienced facilitator present to guide and moderate the conversation learners may be left without clear answers, or worse, with a misunderstanding of the subject matter.
Online training solutions can be hugely beneficial in terms of bringing down training costs, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. When choosing a method of training delivery you should take into account the nature of the material, the technological proficiency of the learner, and availability of internet access in the learner’s region. Even with all those boxes checked, online learning might not be the right solution for learners who need a more hands-on and guided approach to learning, particularly when it comes to training courses with a longer duration. In these cases organisations may find that adopting a more mixed approach where e-learning is combined with classroom learning provides the solution they require.
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*IBM White Paper: The value of e-learning