In recent years, e-learning has become a major part of many business HR strategies, but is it killing employee morale and undermining the value of teamwork? Some experts caution that too much solitary e-learning can lead to employee isolation and a breakdown of the team approach to business.
As a former classroom sales trainer for GEICO insurance for many years, I used a mixture of both, but can't imagine training employees on topics relating to interpersonal relationships through solitary e-learning programs. In this article, I'll explore the pros and cons of e-learning versus organized classroom training and when each format is most effective for success-driven businesses.
What really is "learning" anyway?
To learn something is more than just to memorize answers. To learn is to understand a particular problem and to respond with a new behavior. Just about anyone can memorize the answers to a set of questions, the real test though is weather or not a person can respond with the right behavior at the right time in a real-world setting.
When teaching sales training, I would start the course off with test-type training and assessments to measure knowledge about the technical aspects of insurance. Many students would master this after about 2 weeks, but actually applying those answers in a real-world sales dialogue consumed the remaining 6 weeks of training. Even though the student's "intellectually" knew critical answers, the act of applying that knowledge to real world-situations was far trickier.
The Pros of E-Learning
It's no wonder that e-learning has become so popular in business. Courses can be delivered instantly, without worry of physical boundaries or scheduling conflicts. In busy office environments, employees can take training course at their desks while all of their test results are instantly compiled and fed into a database.
The Downside of E-Learning
Although it's easy to administer and quantify test results, most e-learning courses transfer knowledge through memorization. Learning how to effectively manage people or to function as a key player in a team are not concepts based around memorization, but around actively participating in groups, something that is difficult, if not impossible, to convey through e-learning.
The Pros of Classroom Training
Classroom-based training gives employees the opportunity to connect and grow with other members within the organization. As Darin Hanks, president of Employee University says, "Classroom training gives employees an opportunity to mingle with leadership and folks from other departments or units that they may not otherwise rub shoulders with. It's a connection thing; a teambuilding opportunity."
Many of today's top employers like Google and Apple understand and actively promote social learning environments and team building activities as a way to strengthen the company as a whole. There's no better way to learn how to work together than to learn together.
The Downside of Classroom Training
Especially for large organization, classroom training can pose a bit of a logistical problem. It's difficult for all employees that need training to fit it into their schedules. Additionally, it can be tough to deliver consistency with training since the classroom experience and perhaps the trainer is different every time.
However, there are many training videos available today designed for classroom-based training that come with leader guides, instructing the trainer when to pause the training video and which questions to ask to initiate discussions. Many training video programs even include pre-packed assessment tools.
Which to Choose: e-Learning or Classroom Based Training?
In general, e-learning is best for subjects that require memorization. Speaking in terms of insurance, e-learning was wonderful when teaching facts like how to apply points to various drivers and when to apply discounts.
Classroom based training, led through discussion, role play, or training videos in conjunction with discussion work best when teaching complicated ideas or methods of interacting with other people. Sexual harassment training, leadership training, sales training, interview training, and other types of real world interactions are best suited for a classroom training environment using training videos as a supporting resource.
Businesses should utilize a variety of different training strategies in their employee learning programs including e-learning, classroom training, and interactive training videos. Assess each topic before deciding on a type of training. If the subject is one that requires memorization of specific information or rules, e-learning is ideal. If the topic is one designed to teach people how to interact with other and react to real-world social environments, choose classroom training and utilize professional training videos and assessment tools to keep training consistent.
Christine OKelly is a writer for Employee University, a leading producer and distributor
of employee training and development training videos. To view a full selection of training video titles and subject matter areas visit the company's website at http://www.employeeuniveristy.com.