In Class v/s Online.?….You be the judge!

How do you like to learn.? Are you old school and like a desk a book and a teacher or are you new age and prefer the freedom to learn with technology, giving you the ability to access a computer 24/7 and learn at your own pace.?

Today we have various options to learn and no longer is work place learning an option we can choose to opt in or out of…our fast-moving careers demand we constantly upskill to keep our knowledge and hard-earned qualifications current.

Let’s just take a moment to consider your learning style and the benefits and pitfalls of the different learning options available.

The workplace is filled with young and old learners who all learn in different ways and at a different pace. Many of us learn visually, we see, touch and feel our way through an exercise to comprehend what is taking place and then we manually repeat the task for ourselves. Other people, especially the younger generations, see this as a barrier to learning and prefer to “get to the point”. What do I need to know and how do I apply it to my work environment? The different styles of learning present challenges to institutions that need to cater for the different students and their different learning needs.

Learning institutions can no longer take a “one size fits all” approach to providing learning content and delivery. Considerable time and money need to be spent to try and cater for a range of learners from all different learning styles. This is not an easy task.

Old school learners like the security of knowing that there will be a hard copy learning resource, a teacher and the ability to question “on the run”. There is little doubt that this style of learning is familiar and robust, the student knows exactly what they will be paying for. None the less, it is the most expensive option to deliver for learning institutions needing qualified teachers, learning manuals and a comfortable learning environment. Studies have shown that better learning outcomes are still being achieved in the classroom with students demonstrating a better application of material presented when back in the workplace.

By contrast, online learning is always available and may suit the needs of students who simply don’t have time to attend a classroom. This type of learning can be considerably more attractive as firstly, it is a cheaper option than attending a classroom, it is more flexible……learn on the beach or on the bus and it is “too the point” meaning you can take out as much or as little as you need. Do you comprehensively learn everything available or do you learn just enough to meet the assessment criteria.? The choice rests with the student.

Opinions vary but one overwhelming statistic from surveyed online learners is that the learner engagement still has a long way to go with online learning. In most cases you may receive a pdf learning resource and a power point slide presentation and that’s about it. You are basically left to figure it out for yourself. Access to support such as further learning resources and trainers and assessors is also an issue. “What do I get before I click PAY NOW?” is the question that needs to be asked.

The costs to developing engaging, interactive online material is expensive and therefore prohibitive to learning institutions…especially smaller companies that have a narrow field of expertise. But as technology improves and advances in software make engaging online content affordable, online learning will move ahead at light speed and classroom-based institutions will become somewhat old fashioned and be the choice of the older learner or those with little computing knowledge.

That said, there are just somethings that can’t be taught on a computer screen and there will always be a place for a teacher/student demonstration and ongoing mentoring, particularly with skills that involve some form of human element. These are life skills that can only come with practice and experience.

Right now, the decision is evenly split. It is a 50/50 on what is the best way to learn with no clear winner at this point in time. The same students are coming back to class, enjoying the interaction whilst our younger learners appear constantly on our electronic enrolment lists, never to be seen or heard from. It seems we are creatures of habit but as the older learner moves on and advancements in technology deliver a better user experience, the days we will spend in the classroom are sadly set to shorten.