Is online learning as good as face-to-face learning? The truth revealed

In the not-so-distant past, face-to-face learning was the only choice. But now, with the rise of technology, online learning is rapidly becoming more and more popular. Despite this, you might still have some doubts about its effectiveness. Before jumping aboard the e-learning ship, take some time to learn how online learning holds up against traditional face-to-face methods, and see if it is right for your organization. 

Online learning vs face to face learning
Product Owner
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Table of contents

  1. What is online learning?
  2. Is online learning effective?
  3. Some things to consider
  4. Which one to choose: online or face-to-face learning?

What is online learning?

Online learning is a form of distance learning that takes place over the internet. It is interchangeable with the term e-learning.

Is online learning effective?

Good question. Face-to-face learning has been the standard for centuries, so it is natural to assume that online learning can’t compare to it. Some common assumptions are that people cannot retain information learned online, or take learning seriously when it is conducted online. So, let’s start by taking a look at some facts that indicate online learning’s efficacy in the workplace:

  1. Online learning increases participation rates. The first step towards learning is showing up. In a survey [1] of over 700 corporate learners, 87% preferred taking online courses during work hours. Why? Between all their meetings and other job commitments, one of the biggest challenges for employees to participate in ongoing education is time. Deloitte found that the average employee only has 1% of their time to devote to learning! That boils down to 24 minutes a week for full-time workers 😖. Online learning, which takes much less time than face-to-face learning, lowers this barrier for your employees.
  2. E-learning increases engagement with the material. It is tough to concentrate for a full two-hour lecture. But online courses can be split up into smaller chunks with knowledge checks along the way. This style, called microlearning, means that an employee can start and complete a course in a quick five to ten-minute time frame. Not only is this convenient, but research [2] also shows that microlearning increases note-taking and decreases distraction.
  3. The amount of content learned with online methods exceeds that of traditional face-to-face methods. E-learning allows people to learn in their own style and at their own speed. Taken together with the increased engagement, these aspects of online learning benefit knowledge retention. According to a study conducted by WR Hambrecht + Co [3], online learning increased the retention rates of the learning material by 25-60%!

Some things to consider

We are not arguing that traditional learning is obsolete! It is important to consider whether the complexity of the topic, your employees’ level of motivation, and their comfort with technology best suits online learning.
Some topics are best for a face-to-face setting. Online learning, and especially microlearning, are not ideal for learning complex topics. You wouldn’t want to get heart surgery from a surgeon who only did online simulations 😉. Other topics, like safety standards and information about products, lend themselves better to e-learning.

Creating motivating materials for your employees becomes more important than ever with online learning

Another determinate in the success of online learning is your employees’ motivation. We can agree that motivation is always important for learning. Yet, online learning strips away extrinsic motivators, like an encouraging instructor or set due dates. For this reason, creating motivating materials for your employees becomes more important than ever with online learning [4].

Not everyone has integrated technology into their daily routine. It is important to consider whether your employees have frequent access to electronic devices and the internet. If your employees are not computer-savvy, accessing the content and navigating through their materials can become challenging and affect their motivation levels.

Which one to choose: online or face-to-face learning?

Online learning is a great alternative and supplement to face-to-face learning

Online learning increases employee participation, engagement, and knowledge retention while cutting down on the costs and inconvenience associated with traditional learning. When you combine online learning’s effectiveness, and the economic benefit, it stands out as a great alternative and supplement to face-to-face learning.

Are you convinced by the efficacy of online learning? Consider using Easy LMS to get started with creating a culture of online learning in your organization. With Easy LMS, you can create and manage effective training courses, check their knowledge with exams, and generate custom certificates. Our tool will help keep track of your employees’ progress, and our automation options will save you time.

Useful resources

  1. Athabasca University
  2. Harvard University 
  3. WR Hambrecht + Co
  4. eLearning Industry

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