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E-learning vs classroom courses.

Can a 45-minute online course compare against 4-hour classroom training?

Written by Liam Jones (Founder)

The short answer is no, but that’s not really the point of e-learning. First things first, the power and benefits of classroom courses can’t and shouldn’t be brushed over. We provide lots of classroom courses and we believe classroom learning is the most effective way of teaching a group of people a set of topics. Having like-minded peers in the room for a whole day or more means the content of the course can be explored more thoroughly, questions can be asked and positions can be challenged. It really is a powerful tool and in most cases is the go-to form of teaching for a lot of course types.

It’s because of these benefits to classroom learning that those who are opposed to e-learning base their comparisons on. But we don’t think that’s fair.

Classroom and e-learning are different tools for different applications. In most cases, when a beginner is learning any topic, classroom training should be preferred.

This is because most people will benefit much more learning a new topic which is being delivered directly from a tutor with first-hand experience and thorough knowledge. Most people will have a learning style which is best suited to human-human interaction.

The increased learning time which a classroom course provides also benefits the learner more because it provides a thorough base for understanding and more time to explore the course content.

For example our Level 1 Fire safety course would last 3-4 hours in the classroom, but the equivalent Fire safety awareness e-learning course would take on average take between 45-90 minutes.

Why is e-learning so short? Is it because the learner is rushing through or perhaps the course content just isn’t as detailed?

The course content as actually very similar. When you consider that a classroom course promotes conversation between up to 12 delegates, at least one break, and a tutor who is delivering the content in their own way (often including stories, past experiences and group activities) it becomes more feasible to understand where those two hours disappear.

But used in the correct circumstance, the short duration of an e-learning course isn’t a reason for it to be avoided – instead, it is a benefit to embrace.

It means that e-learning is the perfect tool to use for refresher training. All organisations should be conducting a risk assessment and then basing their frequency of training on that assessment. Most of the time, organisations are not providing training regularly enough to meet these assessments and realistically they would probably struggle to do so if classroom training was their only option.

For example if a small bakery with two staff required accredited food safety training for their insurance, then they will send those staff on a classroom course. Because the staff are handling food every single day, it could be argued that the risk is high and they should have an annual refresher to ensure the knowledge is retained – but it’s very possible the bakery won’t be able to or want to release the staff for two days every year to refresh their learning and because the original certificate will last for three years, they don’t ‘have to’.

Now consider a different business, a recruitment agency working in an office block for example. Their insurance most likely won’t specify their employees need a specific course such manual handling, fire safety, DSE or stress awareness – in most cases the employer wouldn’t send the employees away to complete a classroom based course so e-learning is a great option.

In reality the real comparison most of the time is not e-learning versus classroom learning but e-learning versus nothing!

By using e-learning, organisations can quickly, efficiently and affordably roll out training to larger section of staff and refresh it more regularly with very little or no disruption to the business and little financial outlay.

This is the really powerful benefit of e-learning. Not as a replacement to classroom training but as a supplement.  

So in summary, my verdict is simple. Classroom training should always be preferred when a learner is undertaking a new subject or the content is of a high level. But then in the following years while the certificate is ‘valid’ before expiry I believe learners should be making use of e-learning regularly to make sure they retain that knowledge.

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