Should You Replace Classroom with Online Training?

Written by Bill Cushard | Apr 14, 2014 8:43:45 PM

Online training is growing in popularity for a variety of reasons. First, as organizations become more dispersed, classroom training becomes a larger challenge as employees work in offices (and at home) all over the world. Second, online training tools have become so easy to use that the effort it takes to produce online training has dropped dramatically.

This shift begs the question, “Should I be replacing classroom training with online training?” For some, the answer is yes. For others, the answer is a resounding no. I think we should be asking a different question. We should be asking how we can use the best of both training methods to design engaging training that helps people do their jobs better.

There is a place for both classroom and online training. Here is an example of how you could combine the two in a blended approach that seeks to get the most out of each method.

Begin with the idea that a training course has three parts.

Part 1: Use Self-Paced Online Training to Teach Concepts

I know that everyone hates lectures, but they are necessary and the smartest people in the world have learned from lectures. TED Talks are lectures, and you watch those right? I know, listening to a lecture on your company’s new customer service process is not exactly a TED Talk. It’s boring. But that does not mean we should eliminate lectures.

Try this.

Instead of using valuable classroom time conducting lectures, create a (or a series of) self-paced online training courses that explain the new customer service process. In this course, you can explain the new model, discuss examples of how it can be used to improve service, and quiz people on the highlights to review what they learned.

By using Mindflash to create your lectures, you can spend valuable classroom time on application.

Part 2: Use Classroom Training to Teach The Why And How

When it comes to discussing why the new customer service process is being launched and practice implementing it, live classroom training is perfect. As with many things, just understanding something is not enough of a knowledge base to apply it. There is a reason the word “practice” exists. Practice allows us to learn how to apply something, and a classroom environment is a great way to do that.

In part two of your new blended learning design, you bring people into a classroom to do three things:

  1. Review the main concepts from the self-paced online training course
  2. Discuss “why” the main concepts are important
  3. Practice how to apply the main concepts in simulated scenarios that are as real as possible

Part 3: For Reinforcement and Follow-Up Training: Get Social

We have all heard of the stats that people forget much of what they learn soon after a training session ends. Although some of those stats are in dispute, we can all agree that reinforcing something makes it stronger. Reinforcing training sounds great in theory, but once people leave the classroom, it is difficult to get them all back together again to reinforce what they learned. And let’s be honest, no one reads those email updates you send after class.

In part three of your online training course, you will set up online discussion groups, in a tool like Yammer, and facilitate discussions with people about how they are applying what they learned and what their experiences have been (whether it’s working or not). The idea here is to get people talking about their experiences.

In a nutshell, your blended training course has three parts. First is the self-paced lecture in which concepts are taught. Second is the classroom portion of the course in which practice occurs. Third is a facilitated reinforcement phase on an enterprise social network that combines your online training courses and discussions.

How have you blended your Mindflash online training courses with classroom training and with Yammer? What has worked and not worked and why?

Bill Cushard, authorblogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations at companies like E*TRADEAccenture, and ServiceRocket. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+