The pandemic has dramatically transformed the world of learning and development. The imposition of lockdowns around the world led physical classrooms being shut down and online learning has become the new normal. Although online learning has managed to keep adult education alive and kicking in these never before experienced times, can it completely replace traditional face-to-face classroom learning? It is one of the most debated topics in the education world at the moment, with both online and offline learning have their own distinct set of advantages and disadvantages.
While online education has been around for many years, its importance came to light at the start of the pandemic. In much the same way as most professionals found themselves suddenly attending regular Zoom meetings, those who had previously only ever attended face-to-face classroom learning turned to online training for their professional developmental needs.
With training providers no longer permitted to hold face-to-face classes, the learning and development industry experienced a dramatic transformation in the way training was conducted.
Live instructor-led classes held on Zoom, Webex, MS Teams, or Google Meet enabled companies to continue developing their employees, giving them some much needed balance during the pandemic when the majority were working from their homes.
Without a doubt, the two main benefits of online learning are cost and convenience. This is especially true for companies who previously held offline (classroom) training for groups of their employees.
Not only is offline training itself up to 30% less expensive than the amount charged by training providers, companies no longer incur costs for hotel training and meeting rooms, employees’ travel costs, as well as often expensive food and beverage costs. It is also a lot more convenient for organisations to simply send their employees an online training link with a set of simple instructions, rather than making travel plans for 20 of their employees to attend a workshop.
When it comes to online classes, learners can benefit from being able to easily access their course materials from anywhere in the world, provided that they have access to an internet connection. They can even follow a live facilitator led class from their mobile phones.
There are professionals who long for a return to the physical classroom and say that the interactivity and variety of training methods experienced face-to-face outweigh the convenience of online training. On the other hand, live online classes now provide facilitators with a number of interactive learning tools including videos, audios, animations, virtual whiteboards, breakout rooms and live chats with their learners.
Offline classroom learning provide students with a practical learning environment within the walls of a physical classroom. This allows facilitators to closely interact with their learners and participate actively in live discussions, debates and physical, kinaesthetic activities which contribute to the overall interactivity and stimulation of the learner.
Traditional classroom training also allows students to have regular face-to-face interactions with both their peers and trainers. Whilst live online sessions allow two-way communication which significantly increases the interactivity of sessions, there are some learners who maintain that they prefer the personal touch of offline learning.
Facilitators can easily monitor learners’ responses and behaviour in a physical classroom and can better identify any issues a learner maybe experiencing. This can enable them to address the learners’ needs as and when required.
Whilst offline learning does allow students to immediately address any concerns or doubts with their facilitator, receiving quick feedback, modern facilitators have developed new innovative ways to engage online learners, giving them an outstanding learning experience.
There is a school of thought that offline, classroom training is less frequently affected by technical issues as it is largely unaffected by internet or connective issues. There can always however be issues with sound systems, projectors, compatibility and even building issues that impact the training (fire alarms, electricity issues).
There fact that both individuals and organisations can make substantial cost savings from conducting their training online makes it very attractive. The range of choices of offline training now at our disposal gives us the opportunity to attend training we would otherwise not have had access to without the need for costly travel.
With no end in sight to the pandemic, multinational organisations have opted to prioritise the safety of their employees, imposing blanket bans on offline training at their organisations. HR and training and development departments often have the decision of whether to go online or offline taken out of their hands.
Once these policies are changed, it remains to be seen whether companies will still see the benefit in offline workshops, or whether we will all have adapted to learning online in much the same way as working from home or some kind of hybrid work has become the new normal for modern professionals.
Flexible and accessible from anywhere with a device and internet connection
Technical glitches, especially in remote areas
Less distractions and access to devices means learners should be more focussed
Time management can be a challenge for those who need to travel to training
Some participants may feel isolated
More individual attention for each participant
No option to view a recording for participants who attend late or are absent
Convenient to attend and to organise training
Group work not as interactive as in person learning
More expensive with numerous additional costs to consider
Recordings easily accessible if you are absent
Can result in prolonged screen time
The advantages and disadvantages listed above will differ from person to person. Online education is more favourable for adult professionals, as they are less prone to distractions than young learners. Children are more prone to distractions where students may surf on other online platforms or pay less attention than in an offline class.
The pandemic flipped the traditional dynamic of our training deliveries on its head. At KPI Consultancy, in 2019, 99% of our soft skills training workshops were delivered offline, usually at our clients’ offices or at hotels or conference centres. The past two years have meant we have redeveloped our training content, making it ready for the new demand in online learning.
Not only did we redevelop our content to create a new range of top-quality online workshops, we also developed the skills of our facilitators. All KPI trainers are now highly trained in the latest online facilitation techniques, ensuring every online workshop gives each participant the most interactive and enjoyable learning experience possible.
From 2020-21, whilst we have continued to deliver a small percentage of our corporate training workshops offline, we have seen a massive rise in uptake for online courses in the areas of Leadership, Selling Skills, Effective Communication Skills and Emotional Intelligence.
With many of our clients choosing courses such as Public Speaking and Business Presentation Skills to be facilitated as face-to-face engagements, the vast majority of our corporate clients are choosing to train their teams remotely, online.
To find out more about how KPI Consultancy can help develop your team, either by online, offline or a hybrid training solution, please find out more by clicking the link below.