Corporations that choose to invest in the education and upskilling of their employees often benefit from motivated employees who possess the specific abilities necessary in their niche industry, field, or role. One major decision that corporations must make is the methodology used to teach employees. While e-learning courses have become popular in recent years, face-to-face training can still be a viable option. Keep reading to explore the benefits and risks of each method to make the best choice for your employees and business goals.

What is E-learning?
The mainstay of e-learning, and what has made it so popular in recent years, is the access and customization possible with the Internet-based curriculum. While all e-learning courses can be different, online organization training and instruction typically incorporates the following:

  • Text-based information is delivered to learners on screen, typically in short blocks, so as not to overwhelm the reader with too much information at once.
  • Clickable hyperlinks connect learners to applicable resources like articles, videos, and presentations to provide additional context if and when learners want to advance or build on the standard curriculum.
  • Interactive exercises like online games, quizzes, texts, scenario problem solving, and simulations reinforce the curriculum as it applies to real-world professional settings.
  • Active “discussions” take place in forum-type settings where learners can interact with peers and trainers by posting and responding to opinions, thoughts, and questions in real time.
  • Deliverables that prove both employee use of the training and proficiency in the subject matter defined by the organization as it applies to their unique setting or industry. For example, learners may be asked to create a strategic plan or budget for their department or develop a PowerPoint presentation through a video that demonstrates how outcomes will be used in their particular role.

E-learning vs. Face-to-Face Training: Weighing the Benefits and Risks

As you can see from the list above, there are many attractive aspects to choosing e-learning for your corporate training program. While these high-level staples in e-learning provide the obvious benefit of customization, there are more benefits that may not be so apparent.

When making the decision to use e-learning or face-to-face training, corporations have more to consider than just the obvious. Here are some of the reasons so many organizations choose digitally-based training methods over the traditional in-classroom environment that was relied on in the past.

  • Consistency: E-learning courses are consistent from employee to employee because the curriculum is set-up and delivered exactly the same way regardless of who accesses it. The technology is created, developed, tested, and optimized to meet the needs and desired outcomes of the corporation. In face-to-face training’s the curriculum is dependent on the quality and consistency of the trainer, their familiarity with the subject, their personal experience, and their chosen methodology of teaching. With so many factors up in the air, corporation’s risk not achieving the outcome of getting all employees trained to a level of consistency.
  • Tracking and Feedback: E-learning courses can track how employees are interacting with the material. If employees are having trouble passing one section more than others or spending an abnormally long time in one area, these inconsistencies can be automatically reported to the training department, thereby highlighting a need for change. These disengagement and confusion points can quickly and easily be manipulated to provide more, or different, information to better convey outcomes to learners. While participant feedback may be collected in face-to-face training, it’s not guaranteed that it will be conveyed to the training department. Nor is it guaranteed that a trainer will pick-up on issues experienced by employees. The risk here is that corporations will continue to invest in training programs that are not able to achieve their goals.
  • Individualization: One of the biggest benefits to e-learning is the individualization and customization available. Yes, all learners are getting the same curriculum, but there are options for how they move through the information, demonstrate proficiency, and apply learnings to their respective positions. Because e-learning is asynchronous, employees can access course materials when and where it is convenient for them. Employees who have experience in one section can quickly and easily breeze through it while spending additional time on new learnings. E-learning is learner-paced education, while face-to-face training requires the entire class to move at one speed as set by the trainer. While in-classroom training can provide employees with a social aspect that is important to many corporations, training is typically focused on the goal of advancing employee skills, rather than employee relationships. With that goal as the motivating force for training implementation and investment, face-to-face environments can leave some employees left behind if they don’t understand and don’t speak up. Similarly, employees who already have the knowledge could become bored and disengaged with relevant aspects of training. Again, the goal of achieving consistent outcomes may not be reached in face-to-face training.
  • Cost: Once a corporation has created their e-learning course it becomes a tangible asset that can be used an infinite number of times without additional training course costs. Of course, there may be an update or change as employee feedback, policy changes, and industry shifts mandate, but the core curriculum will remain. In face-to-face training, the value is dependent on the trainer and training costs are directly correlated to the personnel paid to provide them each time the training takes place. Personnel costs could increase with time employed, if a trainer leaves their position and resources are necessary to find a new trainer, or if outcomes aren’t being met and the curriculum needs to be rewritten. Corporations risk paying more for training that may not be meeting the goals of the program.

Regardless of your industry, investing in employee education and upskilling can be an important factor in business growth and goal achievement. When searching for the right solution for your corporation consider the benefits and risks of these two teaching methodologies against your goals. While face-to-face training might have been the norm in the past,  custom e-learning has been leading the new wave of employee education for years, and there’s a reason why.