A Case for Classroom trainings

Every once in a while I see an advertisement on LinkedIn about companies that conduct online Trainings. Each time I see such ads I am reminded of how people have adopted technology to make their lives better as well as worse. In this post I am going to dissect what is wrong about online trainings. Coming from an IT background you would think I’d be happy to see how technology has become so pervasive in our lives. I would argue that technology is great when it serves the core purpose for which it was designed. This argument extends to other fields like data science, big data etc. Every problem has a digital solution but that doesn’t mean the digital solution is the best.

Let’s look at how the digital experience helps us first and then see how it applies to Training in particular. You can see that the below points apply just as well to online Banking as they do to trainings or even blood pressure monitoring.

Ease of use

A digital solution be it a wallet a Fitbit or mobile app is always more convenient. We all know this to be true, it’s the convenience of such solutions that has resulted in smart phones being universal today. Netflix has overcome TV because you get to watch content your way.

It is Cheaper

Naturally with automation comes lowers costs. The internet is cheap and doing things on the internet is cheaper still. Why go through the trouble of purchasing from a shop when you can get great bargains at home via the internet. It’s a volume game and so the more people using a service the cheaper it gets.

At your pleasure

Unlike shopping or banking in a brick and mortar shop online experiences let you do things in the middle of the night from the comfort of your own home. Who wouldn’t want that?

The above points are also the most commonly quoted advantages for online trainings. While writing this post I found a number of links that listed more advantages but they seem frivolous to me (one said its eco-friendly, another that it helps students concentrate). To be honest it felt like they were reaching. So I’ve stuck with the most obvious and common sense ones I found.

Here is my argument against online trainings.

It doesn’t work for the participant. Often I hear from companies, their LnD teams, the Project Managers, the training vendors that a training needs to be conducted online. They often site the above advantages as reasons for why they consider the online training the best fit. However during the course of our conversation no one ever talks about the impact the training has on the participants and how they will be able to leverage what they learnt to further their careers. The LnD, project manager and Training vendor measure the success of a training by Cost first and the feedback second.

The learning benefits for the participants is often an afterthought.

If trainings were so effective online I would argue that we could provide schooling the same way. But that’s not how it works. The ability of a person to stare at a screen is far shorter than the ability to be engaged in a classroom. Most importantly the benefits of online training are secondary to the first and most important criteria:-

Did the training help the participant learn something that makes them better tomorrow than they were today?

Without meeting the core objective the advantages listed above are just money down the drain. It would be like hiring an Uber who is very kind, punctual, great conversationalist but dropped you off at the wrong location. Many secondary benefits are not the same as a primary benefit.

A classroom training provides that atmosphere, the level of engagement and the interactive session needed for a group to learn from a trainer as well as each other. If you need further proof. The pilots of the Boeing 787 max were certified after watching a video to get type certified instead of simulator training as for other planes. When it comes to learning the cheaper options matter only if the core objective is met first.

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