Is Asynchronous E-learning Better or Worse than a Traditional Classroom?
A lot has changed since technology took center-stage in our daily lives, and one of the biggest benefactors has been education. Today’s students have a choice in the way they absorb knowledge; whether that be in a traditional face-to-face setting or through a virtual platform. While many students, businesses, and educational institutions are taking advantage of the benefits of e-learning, there is still support for the traditional in-person format.
In this article, we examine the pros and cons of brick-and-mortar education as compared to the modern, asynchronous, online classroom seen in e-learning. If you’re considering adding an educational program to your business, agency, or organization, continue reading to make the best choice for yourself, your employees, and your goals.
What is Asynchronous Education?
An asynchronous education is one that puts the student in the driver seat. Course materials are accessible during a window of time when students are expected to read, contribute to discussions, complete assignments, or take a test to prove their level of understanding. Once they’ve achieved the expected outcomes, students can move on to the next level, chapter, or module of their course.
Students taking asynchronous courses are free to complete their coursework when it’s convenient for them. Because asynchronous education moves at the pace of the student, it’s most often used online in an e-learning environment. This environment provides even more freedom and flexibility for students because they can also complete coursework where it’s most convenient for them.
This modern twist on nontraditional education has quickly been adopted as the norm for working adults who are earning an education on their own, or as part of their employment. Within the asynchronous e-learning environment, students, or employees, can complete requirements before or after professional duties are complete, easily access course materials on mobile devices, and plan study time around other responsibilities.
While the benefits of an “anytime anywhere” education may seem obvious, there are multiple factors to consider when thinking about your own education, or that of employees.
Choosing the Best Type of Education for Your Needs:
As with any major business decision, it’s necessary for leaders to evaluate the pros and cons of their choices before integration. Consider the following factors in your unique business, agency, or organization as we identify the strengths and challenges of asynchronous e-learning and face-to-face classroom environments.
- Cost to the organization or employee. Can the organization afford to provide this service for employees?
- Employee access and familiarity with technology. Do employees have access to the technology required for e-learning at home, and are they able to use it efficiently?
- Employee ability to travel to and from a physical location. Do employees have reliable transportation and the time necessary to get to the classroom location?
- Employee availability to meet at set times. Are employees available at the time classes are held?
- Curriculum development resources. Will the organization write their own curriculum, or will a curriculum development provider be necessary?
- Feasibility of curriculum delivery based on format. Do learning outcomes require hands-on demonstrations?
- Acceptance based on company culture and employee expectations. Will employees buy into the educational format chosen based on the established culture?
Weighing Your Options: Face to Face vs. Asynchronous E-learning
Consider the following pros and cons in these four crucial sections of education implementation. You may find that one or more is actually a deciding factor that cannot be denied.
Access to curriculum is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing the type of education best for your environment and employees. One of the most obvious benefits of e-learning courses is their availability on any device that has access to the internet. Employees can choose when and where they complete their education, making it easy to work around a full-time job, family, and other responsibilities.
In a face-to-face environment, there are set locations, times, and schedules that every student must be able to make, regardless of their own, often demanding, professional lives. Some businesses have switched from the traditional format to an e-learning environment after low enrollment rates and a high incidence of employees missing the course. Lack of employee adoption can quickly reduce return on investment which is why it’s so important to choose the correct format for the environment.
If employees are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with today’s technology, the demands of e-learning could be challenging. Some organizations, especially in the nonprofit and government sectors, turn this challenge into a teachable moment. Employees may be incentivized to take on the e-learning format, along with guides and tutorials, in order to increase their technology skills. Considering that technology will only get more advanced as time goes on, this is a good opportunity for both the organization and the individual to increase their technological capabilities, while upskilling or adding certifications at the same time.
Depending on what the curriculum is, an e-learning environment may not be conducive to achieving the learning outcomes expected. Trade schools, for instance, that teach hands-on skills through demonstration, modeling, and trial and error, are better taught in the field rather than online. On the other hand, there are far more subjects and skills that can efficiently and effectively be taught in a custom e-learning course. Everything from business-specific policies and procedures, to industry-specific skills in information technology, human resources, and even teaching can be delivered online.
If you’re in a business or industry that uses both practical hands-on skills, as well as technical skills learned through reading retention, the face-to-face format can be combined with e-learning. For example, many degrees require that students complete a practicum or internship in their chosen industry. To gain the real world skills expected from the experience, students or employees must physically be on location. However, the coursework leading up to, or required as part of the practicum, can be done online. This combined method utilizes the best of both approaches to give employees flexibility when possible, without removing the experiential knowledge that will impact future success.
Cost has been one of the most influential factors motivating the shift to e-learning. Businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations are all concerned about reducing cost without negatively impacting return. Fortunately, many e-learning software and curriculum development providers have refined their tools to quickly and easily implement educational systems, often at lower costs than compared to the traditional model.
Without a physical location, necessary supplies, and an in-person instructor, e-learning courses don’t have nearly the same overhead as that of face-to-face courses. Instead, curriculum development providers collaborate with clients to create online courses that achieve the learning outcomes expected. This one-time process creates a foundation for the course that can be updated as necessary. Often times the same curriculum development provider will also guide clients through implementation and maintenance. Not only does this process streamline how curriculum is delivered, thus ensuring more uniform skills, but business aren’t burdened with much of the legwork necessary to implement an educational system.
When considering the best educational avenue for your business and employees, evaluate both e-learning options and the traditional model. Depending on your goals, resources, and expectations, you may be surprised at what makes the most sense. If you’re unfamiliar with e-learning options, start by contacting a curriculum development provider or one of our online education consultants who can outline their services, provide case studies for reference, and help you make the right decision, even if it puts you back in the classroom.