eLearning or Classroom Training: Which is More Effective?
What is so special about eLearning? Well, if you look at the evidence, nothing. Here’s what I mean. Numerous studies that show no significant difference in the effectiveness of learning between live, classroom training and online training.
This is what I mean when I say there is nothing special about eLearning. It is no more or less effective than live, classroom training. On the other hand, when you consider that many people *believe* eLearning is not as effective as classroom training, then the fact that evidence shows eLearning is every bit as effective as classroom training is remarkable.
Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer cite many of these studies in their book, eLearning and the Science of Instruction.
Of course, there is a catch.
eLearning must be carefully planned and designed. According to a study reviewing the online education literature cited in the Clark and Mayer book (p. 20), participants who completed well-designed online courses learned significantly more than those who completed online courses that were poorly designed. So if you are a fast growing software company looking to scale by getting customers to adopt your product, use more features, and renew their subscriptions, one question you are asking about your growing need for customer training is probably, “Which will be more effective for our customers, live training or online training?”
This is not the right question.
The right question is not about which method is more effective. The right question is about how best to reach your customers. You may want a training program that provides a high-touch opportunity for your customers to interact with your brand and your product. Live classroom training is the right answer here. On the other hand, you may want to reach as wide an audience as possible, anywhere in the world. In this scenario, self-paced eLearning is the right answer.
In some cases, offering both methods is appropriate. Whichever method you choose, keep in mind what the evidence is telling us about eLearning: to be most effective, it must be well-designed, just like classroom training.
About Bill Cushard
Bill became a training guy early in his career when a group of 20 new hires showed up and there was no trainer. When HR came looking to find someone to do the training, Bill yelled, "I'll do it!" He has been a trainer ever since.
Bill has built and led training organizations and eLearning projects at service organizations like E*TRADE, Accenture, and TimeWarner Cable.