Businesses have been pretty slow to adopt e-learning for their organizations when considering the introduction of technology to the learning process. In the early 1920s, machines were introduced to take tests that helped with grading - think the scantrons of today - and yet, it took another 80 years for organizations to really use these types of tools for the betterment of their companies. While the widespread use of the internet, relatively low costs of personal computers, and ease of use with present-day learning management systems have definitely increased the adoption rate for internal training and an abundance of on-the-job education opportunities, there is still a long way to go.
There are still opportunities for both types of educational formats: online and offline learning, however, and typically a more blended learning approach is favored to achieve the best outcomes. For example, in a business that operates across the United States in many different locations, training that is online would be best suited to ensure that everyone receives the same training and a customer can expect a similar experience regardless of where they interact with your business. In another example, when departments or job roles are based out of the same location and continue to experience similar problems that are not addressed at the company level, the learning that can take place within a classroom setting can resolve the issue quickly and effectively without developing an entire course.
Online training is very effective for scaling business operations. An example: for a business that experiences a lot of turnover, using a learning management system and tracks for taking courses throughout an onboarding experience can be helpful especially if the overall environment and working procedures do not change frequently. This will help unify your culture and produce employees that have been similarly trained. An example of when online training may not be as conducive to producing the desired results, in an ever-changing environment, such as marketing. With so many moving parts, training can quickly become outdated and producing online training material will quickly expire and create more work. Here, there is a lot of merit to producing a more hands-on learning experience in a classroom setting to discuss the changing nature of the industry and keep everyone abreast to changing theories and practices.
It would be foolish to believe that moving solely from an offline environment for teaching could equally duplicate the results within an online environment - and instead it is likely that both approaches to training will be necessary even as technology continues to adapt. For corporate trainers, and equivalent positions, tasked with creating training material for a variety of job roles, it is a great idea to learn about the benefits and advantages to each type of training and then use that guidance to determine which parts of training are best used in each scenario.
Of course it’s prudent to mention that no two learners are alike and taking a teaching approach that touches on multiple styles of learning and development would be helpful to capture the largest audience. If your company has the resources, it is advised to take the approach of blended learning to cover the widest audience and also to touch on all aspects of job training whether that is emotional, technical or anywhere in between.
There are ways to mimic certain styles of teaching within each of the environments: on or offline, that can be very effective if there are minimal resources at hand. For example, within an LMS creating a portal in which students are able to interact with other students and learn from each other would be similar to a classroom setting. Similarly, in a classroom setting, the use of testing tools to automate those types of processes can bring an “online” feel to the classroom - even submitting assignments online for grading is a great step towards blended learning.
Ultimately, will online learning and any sort of e-education efforts ever thwart classroom education? I don’t see that shift happening for quite some time if at all. There are too many benefits to be gained from a mix of these two training styles, or supplementing in-person training and educational efforts with online training.