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Why Online Training isn't the Finished Article

Online training is often pitched as the best of all worlds: businesses save money, gain faster results and have less staff 'downtime'. Yet, though online training has many merits, this rose-tinted view of the benefits can often lead to eventual disappointment.

We recently polled online training specialists, and saw familiar themes emerging in the experience of online training. Here are some concerns and illustrations taken directly from the audience:

1. You Can't Expect to Copy the Classroom

"If classroom training doesn't really work for the training business in question then if this is taken and adapted for online training, the end result is worse. There are too many online training courses which are undermined because they do not take this new medium fully into account."

2. Profound Change Can't be Achieved Remotely

"f you are looking for behaviour change and business results, I believe online tutorials alone are not enough. In order to create true behavioral change, programmes need to include larger communications and change management campaigns. To get behavioural change you need to engage leaders and make sure they understand and fulfill their role in supporting new on-the-job behaviours. This cannot be done remotely."

3. Different Learning Styles Need Different Approaches

"One issue that has got 'lost' is learner preference or, if you like, learning styles. Most people just don't feel very comfortable sitting in front of a PC screen to learn. We learn best when we are able to use all our senses, and in communication with a machine we lose substantially: gestures, body language, facial expressions, tone, pitch, smell. I could go on. All the things we have in a face-to-face interaction with a teacher."

4. Those Who are 'Lost' can be Spotted

"As a trainer, I see immediately when someone doesn't follow me and I can intervene. As a student, I can signal if I have issues. Online, that is much more challenging (if not impossible), obviously varying by degree, depending on whether you use synchronous methods or not."

5. Meeting Targets is not the Same as Understanding

"As for success, forgive me for being cynical, but isn't it often about "compliance" rather than factual results? I've seen too many examples where compliance training was outsourced online whereas 'mission critical' training was conducted face to face. This is not coincidental. In compliance training you don't necessarily care about the outcome, you just need to get everyone to do it and to be able to prove that. So that's why it's often done through e-learning."

The Answer: the Adaptive Mix

When it comes to preparing your training and learning, it's best not to assume one or other medium is the best possible solution. It's entirely possible that a mixture of online and offline will provide the best solution.

Start with the objectives for the training: if the need is a standard process-type function - for example typing speeds, or word processing, then e-learning may provide the best solution.

However, as soon as the training becomes intuitive or adaptive, for example with project management training, then choosing only using e-learning will almost certainly not produce good results for all candidates.

If the requirement is bespoke, or needs intuitive learning, then we strongly recommend face-to-face learning. There is no 'rulebook' which will make everyone a better manager, nor is there an online package which can field and answer specific questions and concerns in an informed and articluate manner. These kinds of challenges need to be worked through person to person with a knowledgeable trainer.

If you have a training need and want to get the best possible solution, then talk to Black Swan today by calling 01256 323 223 and we'll use our knowledge to adapt the best possible solution for you. 

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