Elearning is establishing itself quite firmly as a viable solution, and often replacement, for classroom learning. I for one don’t believe elearning is the best for every scenario, but it certainly can hold its own.
In the training design & delivery world, you will find mixed feelings regarding elearning when compared to live classroom training. There could be a variety of reasons here, but I suspect it’s because some live trainers don’t want to be replaced. Naturally, this will never really happen, as no amount of elearning can replace the human element provided by live training. However, I do know it to be a concern in some circles.
The best way to think about elearning is as a supplement to live training sessions. Yes, in some cases it is a viable replacement altogether – often saving time and money for an organization. The great thing about elearning is that experts build the content, and it can exist for years, whereas there is often a shortage of well-trained teachers and the delivery is variable (compared to the consistent delivery of elearning). That said, live training can certainly be more engaging and allows for in-person collaboration.
When it comes down to the bottom line (costs), the reusable nature of elearning is by far and away the best solution for the price conscientious. The cost of a live training session quickly reaches four (sometimes five) figures given the associated costs with logistics. Before the training even begins the costs are enormous.
When deciding if elearning or live training is the best solution, the key thing to consider is the content itself, and if it is conducive to self-controlled learning. In other words, does it make sense to entrust the learner with controlling the learning experience. In elearning, the learner sets the pace, which can be beneficial in many settings, but ultimately the discipline to completely understand the content also rests with the learner. For complex, new topics this may be too much to ask of students. In this case, a live training session should probably be used, perhaps supplemented by an elearning prerequisite.
If you are responsible for creating a training program, take a look at the complexity of the content, duration of training, and your allotted budget. Depending on these factors, you will be able to come up with a viable mix of both elearning and live training. If your budget doesn’t allow for classroom based training, consider supplementing the elearning modules with webinars instead. In the end, it’s best to use a variety of methods to delivery training as everyone learns differently.