Right now this has become a BIG debate. With schools and businesses opening or not opening soon, the pros and cons of eLearning have come to the fore front.
eLearning and classroom training are two different forms of learning that have their differences but also quite a few similarities. The most obvious one is that the purpose of all types of training is to help the learner acquire new skills and knowledge. Both systems coexist and blended learning is introduced in many schools and colleges, which is a sign that online courses are being embraced more and more as a useful and even necessary form of learning.
We cannot predict whether eLearning is the future of education, but we can say that it has its advantages that are worth being taken into consideration. Classroom training, on the other hand also has a great number of benefits. When we compare the two systems we can see that they have a lot of common ground. Here are six of the most important elements of learning and the place they have both in eLearning and traditional class room training.
Time and Place of Learning
Perhaps the biggest difference between online and classroom learning is the time and place of learning.
Traditional training is much more conservative and there is a strict schedule that needs to be followed by all learners. No matter if we are talking about school classes or company training, the time of its beginning and end are fixed and it applies to all participants. The same goes for the venue. The place of learning is set and it can rarely be changed or moved with time.
With online courses, the time and place of learning can be determined by the learner. eLearning gives great flexibility and allows training to happen at any time and at any place. The learner determines the length of the session and has the freedom to brake one module into several parts depending on the time they can devote to learning. The place is also not fixed in any way – the learner can attend the virtual classroom from their home, working place or even while commuting or stuck in the traffic.
Type of Learners
Both eLearning and classroom learning can be used for all type of learners, from all ages and levels of education. However, one or the other form of training can be more suitable depending on the target audience and the overall goal of learning.
Classroom training is better for kids, school students, teenagers and young adolescent who are not working yet. The fixed schedule and setting helps them be more disciplined and teaches them to follow patterns and be responsible.
We can argue that online learning is suitable for all ages and learners. Perhaps only those who experience serious issues with the new technology, will find it difficult to follow an online course. Of all types of learners, however, eLearning is mostly preferred by working individuals. It gives them the flexibility to learn when they can and to feel that they are in control of the process. Companies prefer online company trainings to traditional settings and have discovered that eLearning can help their business grow as they can train their employees, management, vendors and even clients.
Type of Instructional Material Used
The instruction material used and its proper design are of great importance both for online and traditional learning. All the texts, animation and/or videos used need to be clear and easy to understand.
In the setting of the classroom training there is a teacher who presents the new material orally. Students can ask questions and receive clarifications. During the presentation the teacher can use additional props such as PowerPoint presentation, videos, models, etc. In some cases, the learners need to take notes that they can review further, in other there are written materials that they have at their disposal for further learning and consultation.
In eLearning you mostly use text to present the main ideas that need to be taught. Therefore, you need to make sure that the overall design of the course is made in line with the preferences of the target audience. As people are going to skim through the text on the screen, it should be presented in a proper way – shorter sentences and paragraphs, clear headlines, appropriate font and colors. Using bullet points, bolded or underlined words and phrases help the learner visually recognize the important moments in the module. Using animation, gamification and videos makes the course more attractive. With the right materials and approach, you can make eLearning fun both for children and adults.
Level of Personalization of the Course
In order for a training to be successful it should answer the needs of the learners. There is a level of personalization both in traditional and online training but the approaches to achieving it are different.
In a classroom setting the teacher can see how the students react to the new information and adapt it accordingly. The teachers can also judge whether a given student is not feeling well or is struggling and pay them some personal attention. In smaller groups it is easier to personalize the material and adapt it to the needs of the learners. In general, however, there is a certain program that the teacher needs to adhere to and there is not much freedom for changes. The material is created one and the same for all learners and the teachers need to use their creativeness to adapt it to the group they teach.
In eLearning the approach is much different. Each course is developed in accordance with the specific needs of the target audience. A module can be further translated and localized, so that it can serve a specific group of learners. We can say that personalization occurs at the very design and development of the e-learning course and can continue upon receiving feedback from the learners.
Course Focus: Instructor vs. Learner
Another significant difference between traditional and online learning is the focus.
Class room training is usually instructor-focused. The teacher has the leading role in the training. They determine the pace and manner of learning as well as the overall goals. Hence, this type of learning is more suitable for kids and younger adults, who have not formed clear ideas and purposes yet.
eLearning, on the other hand is learner-focused. The learner is the one who determines the overall goal of the training and how to achieve it. It is suitable for people who are highly determined and self-disciplined and who do not need external stimuli to finish the course.
It is often argued that eLearning does not provide the same level of social interaction as does the traditional form of training. While it is true that in the classroom students physically meet their teachers and peers, online there is also a well-settled form of interaction through virtual class rooms, chats, video lessons, etc. With technology advancement people from different locations can “attend” one and the same course, see each other, talk to each other and discuss different issues. Hence, we can conclude that the level of social interaction is not that different in both eLearning and traditional class room training.
The fact that both eLearning and classroom training continue their development shows that they are both needed by the learners. Each system meets the specific needs of a given target group and is useful in a given setting. What is even better, is that both types of learning can be combined together in order to give the learners the complete approach and access to new knowledge and skills.