An instructor with a monotone voice that just wouldn’t stop talking. Photocopies with the day’s lesson. A projector showing some awful PowerPoint presentation. Keeping notes on a notepad while bored to tears.
All the familiar ingredients of an enterprise offline training session circa 2000. The stuff nightmares are made of.
No wonder most enterprises have since embraced web training software with both arms. Not all of them, of course, and not in equal measure in different parts of the world, but any business that has seen the advantages that web based LMS platforms bring to the table in terms of time, cost and training efficiency is not going back anytime.
As for the rest, we hope that by the end of this blog post we’ll have them convinced, if not to immediately adopt web training software, at least to start evaluating the available options.
Offline training is costly
Let’s be clear about the biggest pain point with offline training first: it’s expensive.
You need to pay instructors, buy course books, print and distribute hardcopies, and find a classroom, which usually translates to devoting some (precious and costly) office space for training purposes — space which you of course need to furnish with desks, chairs, whiteboards, projectors and all these kind of things.
What’s worse is that those costs only go up as the number of learners increases and you need to have more instructors, textbooks, teaching materials, and training spaces.
Contrast with eLearning, where, in the case a web based LMS platform like TalentLMS, you just need to pay a monthly subscription that’s good for hundreds of learners, or –in case you need to cater to thousands or even hundreds of thousands of learners–, a small flat per-user fee.
Plus, thanks to the way eLearning works in general, but also thanks to the powerful automation features in TalentLMS, a single instructor is often enough to create and manage all your different courses and to supervise all your learners — even across different departments, branches, offices and countries.
Offline training is a disruption
What makes offline learning expensive is not just the costs inherent in maintaining a training space and paying for instructors, hardcopies and the like.
Also expensive, and perhaps even costlier than the above, is the fact the offline learning, due to its synchronous nature, disrupts your normal business hours and operations.
“Synchronous”, in case you’re wondering, is a fancy IT term meaning: “learners have to be there at a specific time to take the course”.
With offline learning enterprises either have to devote working hours to training their employees, or keep them late after work (when they’re exhausted and can’t wait to get back home) to attend their classes. In both cases productivity plummets. This, of course, gets even worse if the training has to take place in some remote location away from the office.
That’s why one of the best features of online learning is its asynchronous (the opposite of “synchronous”) nature. You just need to put the material up there, and your learners can go through it at their own convenience and at their own pace.
And if you go with an always available and accessible from everywhere web based learning management system, employees can not only study from their home but even go through their lessons while commuting to the office, through the magic of “mobile learning”, which makes eLearning content accessible to smartphones and other mobile devices.
Offline training is ineffective
If offline learning was vastly more effective than online learning, it might be worth paying more for it.
But, as you probably expected, that’s not the case.
In fact a recent meta-study led by researchers at the Imperial College of London concluded, after examining the results of a total of 108 scientific studies, that students acquire knowledge and skills through eLearning as well as or better than they do through traditional teaching.
For enterprise training it’s of course even worse, since it’s often performed in an ad-hoc manner, by instructors who lack pedagogical skills and/or teaching experience (e.g. senior employees assigned by upper management with the task to train new hires), and with low quality (and, dare we say, boring) training material, dreadful bullet-laden PowerPoints, hard to read lecture notes written the night before the lesson, etc.
A web based learning management system allows instructors to prepare and plan a course in advance, and enables them to incorporate all kinds of supplementary material in it, such as PDFs, images, videos and web content, but also interactive elements, tests and quizzes.
This way online lessons can provide a far more rich and rewarding experience compared to having to squint at some PowerPoint slides across a room, or having to endure the slow pace of some instructor repeating the same things over and over.
Offline training is hard to evaluate
What’s worse about the low quality of offline enterprise training is that enterprise managers are none the wiser about it, as it’s hard to evaluate its efficiency.
Online training again comes to change that.
TalentLMS for example, the popular web based training software whose blog you’re reading, comes with advanced built-in reporting capabilities that let instructors track the training progress of individual learners as well as groups of learners.
From test scores to lesson attendance and skills acquired, everything that can be measured is, and is made available in the form of easy to comprehend charts, tables and lists of information.
Offline training has slow reflexes
The difficulty of updating your training content when doing offline learning is perhaps a minor point for businesses whose training needs and materials rarely change, but it can be of big importance to more fast-paced industries and organizations.
If your enterprise training needs are frequently changing (e.g. having to quickly adapt to updated industry regulations or to train your users to new technologies and products as they arrive in the market) then offline training, with its ties to the physical world, just doesn’t cut it.
As with “snail mail” vs “email”, manipulating and distributing bits is way faster than manipulating real physical objects. Or, to use a concrete example, a single instructor can update online course materials and have them made available to all your learners in less than the time that it takes your photocopier operator to prepare and bind 50 copies of the handouts for a single lesson (and with much less waste for the environment, which counts for something too).
Offline training is not standardized
If you need to have multiple teams of employees, across different branches, offices and even cities and countries, go through offline training, you inevitably need to employ multiple instructors, which in turn might give more emphasis on different things, and generally teach in their own different ways.
Sometimes that’s OK, as it’s not a big deal to have some employees in one of your enterprise office learn this, while others in another office learn something slightly different.
Other times, as when you’re dealing with delicate processes, precise regulations, and important procedures, that’s not OK.
With online training you can be sure that all your learners have seen the exact same training materials, presented in the exact same way by the same instructor. What’s more, standardized and automated tests used across all your offices and employees (even if they reside in different continents) ensure that all the important parts have been absorbed.
Offline training is offline (duh!)
Perhaps the worse offense of offline learning in today’s interconnected world is its “offline” nature, which makes it an isolated island out of reach from your other business activities and systems.
A web based learning management system, on the other hand, is in perfect tune with today’s increasingly online (and web-based) business workflows. It can connect to your back office apps, it can share training statistics with your other systems, it can be accessed globally through a simple web browser and it can even connect with your legacy infrastructure through various APIs.
Offline and online training are not mutually exclusive
Of course not all businesses can totally ditch offline training.
When training needs to convey practical (that is, physical) skills to employees, offline training is often the best way. That’s just a small part of enterprise training, though — for all other needs online training is just as good, or, in terms of cost and flexibility, even better.
Besides, it’s not like it’s an either/or proposition between offline and online training.
TalentLMS, for example, offers “blended learning” functionality, allowing instructors to combine physical classes with online ones, and even manage all of them, regardless of type, from the same web-based user interface.
Blended learning, or instructor-led-training as it’s also known, let’s you have the best of both worlds: asynchronous, cost-effective and flexible online training for most things, combined offline (classroom based) training when the latter is called for.
In fact TalentLMS also supports a third possibility, “webinars”, which are real-time seminars that take place online (e.g. through teleconference).
Web based training software VS offline learning
In this post we had a look at the benefits that a web based learning management system has compared to the traditional, classroom based, offline training, and especially as it pertains to enterprise training.
But don’t take our word for it. Take TalentLMS for a test drive with your free account and see for yourself how a modern web based LMS platform can take your enterprise training to the next level.
Originally published on: 02 Dec 2015