Classroom vs. Online Learning? Which is Better for Training & Retention

Although there are many new opportunities for training because to technology, it is not always as successful as traditional classroom instruction. The best training format can be difficult to choose when deciding what to employ for a course. Not all subjects are suitable for online learning. We’ll examine the benefits and drawbacks of both online and in-person training as well as some strategies you can use to decide which is best for you.

Online training

All the time we would have spent going to a training facility is eliminated with online training. I’ve discovered that webinars are a really efficient approach to provide information, such as updates on employment regulations and other HR-related subjects. When you include in travel time, an employee who attends these trainings in person could lose a half-day of work. A webinar simply takes up the presenting portion of the time; as soon as it is through, the employee can resume work. Reaching people in various areas is also possible with online training. Without anyone leaving their office, you could train individuals everywhere across the world.

Even while you can ask questions via chat and occasionally even by phone during most webinars and online learning opportunities, the degree of interaction will never be as high as it is when everyone is present in the same space. You can’t tell if your audience is preoccupied with their phones, a magazine, or other activities while your presentation is playing on their screens if you aren’t in the same room as them. Because of this, online training works best when users voluntarily participate. When delivering required training, as I shall explain in the following section, I like the classic classroom setting.

Classroom training

Classroom training is useful for topics where you want a high level of interaction and when training is mandatory. Participants at training deemed mandatory are not always enthusiastic to be there. These are the people who might turn into more passive learners if they are getting the information from a computer screen that has no way of knowing if they are engaged or texting a friend.

In a classroom situation, although people will still use their phones or doodle in notebooks, you as the presenter have much more influence over preventing these distractions. Additionally, by being able to view your audience, you can gauge how well your presentation is working and make changes as you go if you observe individuals starting to daydream.

Here in California, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide harassment training to supervisors every two years. There are a lot of online options that fulfill the requirement; however, this is a topic that is not always effective in an online environment. I have noticed a lot of people who complete the training online do the minimum amount of work required to fulfill the requirement. This means participants are only passively engaged in the material.

I include situations that participants must address, questions based on real-world instances, and plenty of opportunity for question and answer sessions when I provide classroom training on harassment avoidance. A level of participant engagement that isn’t always possible in an online situation is brought by classroom instruction. Additionally, I can address people who are not paying attention to the presentation right away because I am aware of who is doing so.

How to decide what’s right for your training

Online and in-person components are both necessary for effective training. Determining which subjects lend themselves to each format is the key. Never always use the online alternative just because it seems simpler.

Start by comprehending the subject and what you want employees to learn from the training when you have the tools to compare the two possibilities. Online training is generally an excellent alternative if it is a simple training on a new rule or policy. Classroom instruction is your best option if your subject requires a high level of participation and/or has a high danger of having passive learners.

Online training is undoubtedly the finest option regardless of the subject if you need to train personnel in several locations and do not want to waste the money sending a trainer everywhere. Your presentation should include interaction. Ask the audience for questions while pausing the presentation. Chat or opening phone lines can frequently be used for this. When gathering everyone together into one place is not practical, it can be a smart way to approach online training. It won’t be exactly the same as having everyone in the same room, though.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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