When Should You Choose Self-Paced Learning vs Live Online Learning?
Instructional Design

When Should You Choose Self-Paced Learning vs Live Online Learning?

While many organizations and eLearning institutions might naturally assume that the most important aspect of any educational platform is the content, this is not necessarily the case. While the information users will be receiving is all-important, how you deliver that information can make a world of difference in terms of knowledge acquisition and retention.

As such, selecting just the right LMS implementation plan is key. So, the question is: when should an organization choose self-paced learning versus live online learning?

In this article, we’ll discuss the basics and benefits of both methods, and discuss some of the things you may want to take into consideration when choosing the implementation strategy that’s right for your organization.

The basics of self-paced learning

Before we delve into its benefits, let’s first attempt to touch upon the self-paced meaning: Self-paced learning is, as the name suggests, learning that moves at a pace set by the learner. The learner isn’t required to be online at the same time as the instructor or the other learners. In fact, in some cases, an instructor may not even be necessary, as all of the lessons are designed to be completed without a facilitator on-hand. For example, there may be detailed instructions and quizzes at the end of each lesson to gauge a learner’s progress and performance.

There are a variety of benefits of self-paced learning, such as:

  • Learners are able to go at their own pace and even participate in courses when they are on-the-go (thanks to mobile phones and tablets). For example, if a student would like to review a core piece of content within the lesson for a longer period of time, in order to boost their retention of the information, then they are able to do so.
  • There is no scheduling involved. Therefore, if you are trying to train a large number of employees or provide coursework for eLearning students, you won’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts or venue capacity. You only need to tell the learners the deadline for completion and then let them go at their own pace.
  • Ideal for permanent content. If you happen to have content or information that isn’t going to change in the near future, such as company policies, that new employees must memorize, then self-paced learning is a great option. This is due to the fact that you can distribute key information quickly, and to a large number of people.

And while self-paced eLearning courses have a number of advantages for the trainer and the trainees, they also do have some disadvantages. One of the most significant drawbacks of self-paced learning is the absence of a facilitator. This means that there is no opportunity for feedback or assistance from an experienced instructor, unless the learner is able to communicate with the instructor via the LMS. Also, individuals do not have the opportunity to work in collaborative environments, or to learn from other learners, as they are learning on their own.

The basics of live online learning

Live online learning is a form of learning that takes place at a scheduled event or time. The student is online at the same time as the instructor and other students. In this instance, the instructor or facilitator is playing an important role in the learning process. In fact, the facilitator is the one who generally sets the pace and distributes the information, as well as provides instructions for the students.

Here are just a few of the benefits associated with live online learning:

  • Rapid acquisition of knowledge. Learners who have a tendency to learn new information quickly can avoid repetition and feel more challenged (which can lead to more effective eLearning).
  • Ideal for content that changes regularly. If you have core content that needs to be updated regularly, then opting for live online learning may be the best choice. For instance, if there is a course that involves material that constantly needs to be changed or adapted, live online training can allow you to modify the materials quickly before the lesson begins.
  • Immediate feedback. The student is able to immediately get feedback for the work they’ve completed, as well as benefit from the experience and knowledge of the instructor. They are also able to learn from others, given that there are several chances to work in collaborative environments during online courses.

There are drawbacks to live online learning, however. For example, scheduling can become a concern, particularly if you have a large group of people who need to complete the course at once.

Also, if a student wasn’t able to complete a course or failed the course, then you would have to reschedule them for another live training session. This is not only time consuming, but also costly.

Why taking a blended learning approach may be the ideal solution

In many cases, a blended learning approach will allow instructors and learners to experience the best of both worlds. They will be able to benefit from the many advantages of both self-paced and live online learning, while avoiding the drawbacks of each method. With blended learning, students are typically asked to work at their own pace, while attending live online courses with the facilitator in other instances.

This means that an instructor need only be present some of the time, which allows them to focus on developing core curriculum while still offering assistance to the students. Learners are also able to receive immediate feedback for the coursework that is completed during courses, and delayed feedback for work that is finished during self-study sessions.

To take a more blended approach to eLearning, you would simply need to determine which courses or tasks can be completed via self-paced learning, and which are better suited for live online learning. For example, if you have a subject that may be more involved, such as discussing company policy or an in-depth process, then you may want to take the live online training approach.

However, if you want to educate employees or students about a particular customer service procedure that doesn’t change or a scientific process that won’t be altered anytime soon, then use self-paced training courses.

When determining which eLearning approach is best for your organization, it’s important to first look at the objective and training process involved. Then you’ll want to choose the option that will lead to the acquisition, retention, and recall of this vital knowledge and skills.

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