Traditional Classroom Training vs. E-Learning

Recently, one of the participants in our Applied Strategic Thinking Workshop asked if the material being presented was available in an E-Learning format or if we had considered making it available on-line.  Though, I had my answer before he even finished his question, I asked the rest of the group how they would answer his question.  Overwhelmingly the group said what they were learning in the classroom could not be duplicated by e-learning.  In fact, the person who asked the question actually felt the same way.  He just wanted to probe a group of 20 of his peers on this topic because the leaders in his organization seem to believe that everything can be done electronically.

All things done electronically

E-learning advantages, how to e-learn, business learning stylesWhat an interesting concept—all things done electronically.  It has some truth to it.  Many things can be done electronically or will be in the future.  I mean, whoever thought text messaging would be a common norm for just about everyone.  However, it doesn’t mean messages can be received equally.  When getting a text from someone, you cannot distinguish the tone in which it was sent.  Facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical stance gives the intended receiver a clearer message.  The same can be said about teaching sessions.

The Best Leadership Training

While teaching concepts and content can be done on the Internet, it doesn’t mean we can guarantee the same results as we would get with traditional classroom training.  For example, I saw an advertisement for a self-study leadership program.  It “GUARANTEES” that the person will become a “PHENOMENALLY SUCCESSFUL” leader after viewing four 60 minute programs and reading a participant guide which was all on 1 DVD.  I am very curious as to how many successful leaders would agree that a 4-hour self-study program would translate into a successful leader?  Leadership is about what you help others achieve, not about where you take yourself.  It is about interaction.

Electronic Teaching has a place

This group agreed that e-learning, web based learning, and computer based training does have a place.  CMOE’s Applied Strategic Thinking does not give the same return on investment in an electronic format.  The same is true for our Coaching Skills workshop and several of our leadership development programs.  The human element that exists in developing these types of skills simply can’t be fully replicated on-line.  On the flip side, you could see great results using an online training program for product information or employee orientation.  It certainly would save time.  What we have found is that a blended learning approach can work well.  Combining traditional classroom training with e-learning tools to prepare and then sustain what is done in the classroom can be a powerful combination for long term success.

In the end, it’s isn’t a matter of one training method being better than the other. What it really boils down to is selecting the best training method that will get the results you want.  While you can attempt to teach human interaction skills through a computer, it won’t be truly effective without human interaction.  Regardless of your choice, remember that in general, you get what you pay for.

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About the Author

Matt Fankhauser

Matt began his career with CMOE and is a Regional Vice President. Matt has experience in management, marketing, advertising, and sales. He has developed and delivered personnel performance reviews, been involved with hiring, interviewing, and training processes for different employment positions. He has participated in market research and conducted interviewing involved with the research. He has delivered keynote presentations at various association meetings for SHRM, ASTD and others. He has facilitated groups in training sessions involved with the skill development of Coaching, Leadership, Team Building, Facilitation, and Strategic Thinking. He has also been involved with the design and development of Executive Team Retreats, organizational case studies and training materials, as well as the translation of organizational training materials.