With the advancements in technology, companies are increasingly turning to online training in place of classroom training as a means of saving money and time. A lot of resources are required to conduct classroom training, not to mention the time away from work to attend classroom training.
Many companies are turning to an e-learning model where users can attend training online from their desktop at their convenience. They envision creating a self-directed learning model where all of the information needed is sought out by the student during a web based course. Many companies are trying to copy the online model used by many universities. University online courses are months long with additional assignment given to the students to complete outside of class time. This is not the same thing as Business training. It is comparing apples to oranges.
Many types of training, especially soft skills can be taught using the e-learning model using development tools like Articulate, Captivate, or other rapid development tools. This can be effective for some types of training, like teaching communication skills or management skills. Training topics where there are not a lot of questions or ambiguity work well with self-contained courses.
However, some types of training require a student/teacher interaction to present the material effectively. As a teacher with over 35 years of teaching experience, I have found learning happens during the discussion; not during the lecture. An instructor can lecture all day long, but if a student can’t explain the concept or information back to me in their own words, they probably have not learned the material and I can try to explain it a different way. My experience has shown me learning happens during this back and forth student/teacher interaction.
Self-contained e-learning courses do not allow for this student/teacher interaction. If a student does not understand a concept or instructions and cannot ask a question to clarify, continuing the e-learning course tends to be a wasted exercise. I remember my father, who was a public educator for 40 years, telling me he learns sequentially. So if he gets stuck on step 3, nothing after step 3 registers with him. He is still thinking about step 3 and doesn’t process the information for step 4, 5, and beyond.
I have provided Oracle training for the last 15 years for a number of different companies. When it’s time for training, companies believe they must choose between classrooms or e-learning, so they do a cost/benefit analysis to determine the best delivery method between online Oracle training and classroom Oracle training.
Two big advantages of the e-learning model are no travel cost and users can take it at their convenience. Users can work at home or the office and attend training when it is convenient, and there is no time or cost traveling to and from a classroom. The drawback to e-learning training is the general loss of student/teacher interaction.
The advantages of classroom training are student/teacher interaction, shared experiences, and eliminating ambiguity before continuing with new information. The drawback is cost and time loss from work to attend training. So it usually comes down to does the cost savings of e-learning outweigh the better learning environment provided by classroom training. But don’t forget to include the cost of developing and maintaining e-learning material vs. instructor led material.
But there are other alternatives. It is not just between classroom and self-contained e-learning. Virtual training has evolved as a compromise between classroom and self-contained e-learning courses. Virtual online training offers the benefits of student/teacher interaction and class participation while maintaining the cost savings of e-learning. The development and maintenance cost are more in line with instructor led development than with developing e-learning material, which is another savings.
However, many companies haven’t been impressed with Virtual training because of what is being offered in the marketplace. Most of the Virtual classes I’ve run across are what I term as webinars. This is where students connect to a shared meeting room and one person’s computer is shared while everyone else watches. Sometimes it’s the trainer’s screen that is shared and sometimes one of the students demonstrates something. But this is a webinar, not the true Virtual classroom experience. Webinars are great for sales training or presenting a new product, but not software training.
The iLearningInstitute has developed a true Virtual classroom at www.ilearninginstitute.com where they offer online Oracle applications training. The classroom is truly a virtual classroom where every student is monitored throughout the entire training session and every student works through every exercise on their own computer. The student/teacher interaction and class participation and discussion are conducted using VOIP.