E-learning has become a popular approach to education and training. While the newer generations may prefer this new method, there are still quite a number of institutions and companies who stick with the traditional, classroom-based approach.
Let’s take a closer look at how e-learning and classroom training differ in specific areas:
Whether you choose e-learning or classroom training—interaction is key to successful learning in both cases. However, the style or the mode of interacting is quite different when you compare the two.
Classroom training allows face-to-face engagement among learners and the teacher in real-time. This initiates a substantive discourse—between a teacher and student, or a student and his fellow students. Communicating happens ‘in the now’, and other issues or subjects not otherwise tackled may have to wait for the next scheduled discussion.
We all need a place to learn.
In contrast, e-learning provides a medium for virtual interaction—in real-time, but without the actual face value that its traditional counterpart provides. A learner may see other participants through video-calling, videoconferences, and webinars, which mimics the classroom setup of several people discussing together. Ideas not discussed may be promptly relayed through e-mail, chat, or virtual bulletin boards which other users may respond to later on.
Classroom training obviously requires a safe, quiet place conducive for learning. However, this is also its biggest disadvantage. The need for an actual, four-cornered space is what makes it less appealing for learners who find traveling to and from the classroom such a tedious, repetitive activity.
E-learning only requires a virtual space. This entails significant costs, as the user must have functional equipment (desktop or laptop computer) or a capable device (smartphone or tablet) and a stable Internet connection. However, when these basic requirements are met, e-learning easily becomes the more convenient option for training.
Learning won’t be half as effective without resource materials.
The teacher stereotype is known to be an authoritative figure in front of a group of students: pointing to a paragraph written in the chalkboard while randomly throwing questions as students frantically flip through the pages of the books spread out on their desks. Textbooks, journals, pamphlets, and other sources of literature found in the library and elsewhere—these used to be the go-to treasure cove for information when traditional learning dominated how people were taught and trained.
But this is not the absolute scenario anymore. Although libraries and study corners are still very much useful and mesmerizing, people have turned to the Internet for quick information. After all, the World Wide Web is a massive vessel of information. It’s remarkable how we can’t tangibly appreciate how limitless its space is for information. While classroom training struggles on space, cost, and disposal of paper, e-learning doesn’t have to worry about any of these at all. Anything—from documents and spreadsheets to photos, videos, and presentations, and even to the most complex of files—can be uploaded, stored, and shared anytime and anywhere.
A lot of training courses are based on a very specific timeline.
With classroom learning, this is often (if not always) the case. Since traditional training is mostly teacher-centered, students have to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the teacher. They have to learn this and that before a certain date, otherwise they will be left behind. In the classroom setup, a lot of factors can affect the pace of learning. Natural phenomena, an unexpected endemic, socio-cultural traditions—all these can influence how learning is delivered based on a rigid timeline. Even the teacher’s mood, humans as they are, may also affect the pace of learning. Try falling asleep while the classroom discussion is going on—you will most likely miss out on a lot.
With e-learning—timelines can be somewhat more relaxed, but not in all cases. Although e-learning courses and programs offered by universities and colleges may enforce synchronous training—that is, all students must log-in and learn together in real-time, there is some degree of flexibility that traditional learning can’t possibly provide. Students may review their learning materials online, interact with their teachers and fellow students on-the-go—and they can do these as often as they wish. If you fall ill, have an emergency to attend to, or experience an unexpected power outage in your area—no worries. Your instructor would have saved all their videoconferences to the learning management system, which you can later access at your earliest convenience.
For the teacher or instructor, evaluation is necessary to check if learning is effective.
This is often a grueling job for a teacher in a classroom setup. One-by-one, the teacher manually computes the grades derived from seatwork, homework, projects, oral recitations, and final exams to arrive at a final percentage or grade point average. Although using a spreadsheet program in a computer makes the tasks significantly more bearable, it’s no easy feat to sift through hundreds of test papers. The margin of error should also be considered, as most of the reporting is manually done.
The best thing about e-learning, in contrast, is how the system itself makes it easier for the teacher or instructor to make reports. One key element of e-learning is its immediate feedback system. The instructor receives regular reports on every student’s progress including smart visuals on how their progress is compared: how they fared per module, where they stand in their overall scores, when they’ve completed the exercises, and what specific feedback they’ve provided. And speaking of feedback, students can promptly let their teachers know what they think—the learning management system makes sure of it. This virtual way of reporting provides transparency without jeopardizing both the student and teacher’s privacy and safety.
The overall experience
So, which is which?
Though we owe much of the past and the present generation’s education to traditional learning, it’s not an approach that will be forgotten soon.
As much as e-learning is convenient, versatile, and cost-effective, it’s not the universal approach to learning. Every learner’s needs are unique but other than that, there are far more factors to consider.
But then you don’t need to stick to one approach. As a teacher, you can use both approaches to take your teaching strategies to the next level. As a student, you can take an e-learning course to supplement what your traditional training is currently providing.
In both ways, perhaps, there is more satisfaction in having a more well-rounded understanding provided by e-learning—all without losing the ‘face value’ of traditional learning.