The speed of technological advances in online employee training will make most in-person classroom learning a thing of the past, won’t it?

Before discussing the relative merits of different types of intervention it must be stated that the quality of the training is the X factor.  Personally, I have used some great online courses and attended some terrible face to face ones (and vice versa!).  So quality is paramount, no matter what the delivery mechanism is.

An additional point here is that according to research conducted by Bersin Delloitte in 2013, ‘High Impact L&D Organisations ‘, invest more in customised  content and rely less on standard or generic materials than less ‘mature’ companies.  So the lesson here is customising your training to your business, whether it is online or face to face customising it will make it more relevant and have more impact.

So what are the advantages of each?

Online training has a number of benefits such as:

  • Knowledge transfer.   It is a very effective mechanism for transferring knowledge.  With company strategies, products, and technologies changing so fast, it is virtually impossible to keep up if new information can be relayed only in person. Online training streamlines knowledge sharing.
  • Convenience and cost.Learners can progress their development in their own time, at their own pace and for significantly less than the costs of face to face training.
  • Informal learning.Many people now use some form of social media.  Online training embraces social sharing, allowing subject matter experts to directly share information with others.
  • Sophisticated cloud-based training software allows anyone to convert content into a training tool without the need for expensive enterprise license software.
  • Clearly both delivery mechanisms have their own merits and therefore Online vs Face to Face should not be an either or choice, but a choice based on a number of things such as what you are trying to achieve, subject matter, budgets, geography, timeframe, etc.  In the main, online learning works best for information transfer, technical/procedural training, and compliance training.  In these situations you can also check/confirm that the individual has understood it (e.g. with a test).  Whereas Face to face learning works best when you want real business impact and behavioural change.  In the main this is because some of the elements of behaviour change requires skills/behaviour practice, assessment and feedback which cannot be done in front of a computer.

Ultimately, a blended approach probably delivers greatest impact,  with face to face training being supported by on line knowledge frameworks, tools and experience sharing.

While technological advances have clearly redefined workplace learning it is unlikely that online interventions will completely replace face to face classroom learning (well not yet anyway!).


  • Behavioural change.   Knowledge is important but if the goal is to help staff to change behaviour (e.g. as with leadership and management development, communication skills, client experience, sales etc), then face to face training provides opportunities for skills practice, assessment and feedback, none of which can be done in front of a computer, tablet or mobile.
    • A great deal of learning comes from delegates sharing and discussing experiences and solving problems themselves.
      Team and relationship development.Face to face learning provides opportunities for other types of development such as team and relationship development (helping people to understand each other’s roles, challenges, strengths and weaknesses etc.