An organization needs to go beyond conventional plays to survive this extremely competitive market. Exceptional service delivery and elevated client experience are the prime variables that distinguish the best-in-the-business from the rest. To fulfill the previously mentioned variables is a tricky task. One of the most significant contributing factor to such a feat becomes knowledge enhancement and service improvement, both of which can only be achieved by efficiently training the workforce. Research published in the Annual Review of Psychology outlines the immense impact that ‘continued training’ has on individuals and teams which leads to an assured growth for any associated organization and its stakeholders.
Training is conducted in two ways
- Traditional Employee Training
- Online Employee Training
Traditional Employee Training may be defined as training that is conducted in person and attended in person. In-person training imitates the conventional classroom which has a teacher with a room full of students. Such a method of delivery has been an integral part of corporate training since decades.
Online employee training is web-based training which may or may not have a virtual face-to-face interaction with the trainer. Here the training modules are shared with the employees through employee training system in a digital format. In case there is a live or virtual in-person interaction with the trainer, then many employees may join in and receive instruction over the web. In online learning different approach has been used to enhance employee training.
When it comes to applying professional knowledge, the stakes are just too high. Imagine a freshly graduated engineer tasked with a mission-critical database server maintenance. A single mistake could lead to a severe revenue loss. Thus, the critical nature of professional knowledge puts corporate training at a much sensitive stage when compared with any other teaching-learning pedagogy.
Traditional training had been the preferred way to train for many decades as it offered a personal connection with the trainer, opportunities to clear doubts in real-time, and provided occasions for socio-emotional learning. Also, till a decade ago, web-based technologies were not as developed as they are now and were a source of limited training (i.e., for coders, IT engineers and professionals). Even though training was costly, organizations undertook training projects/programs with the utmost enthusiasm.
Web-based learning has made waves, transforming the way we perceive corporate training, ensuring a more cost-effective learning experience. Fixed timetables have been replaced with selectable study times guaranteeing learners opt for training sessions as per their convenience, paper with eco-friendly and more elaborate electronic-media and the learners control the pace with which the course proceeds. For those who prefer a classical approach, trainers can conduct a conference tutorial, replicating the feel of a live face-to-face session, imparting training online. Learners from across the globe can access such courses even with computational/mobile devices.
Communication has been facilitated to an extent where, even a device as compact as a cell phone, would suffice to successfully undertake an entire online training course while sitting at a beach enjoying a sunset.
Here are seven fundamental differences between online employee training and the traditional instructor-led employee training approach.
- Flexibility– Besides giving a learner the choice of time to opt for a course, most online courses provide the flexibility to set the pace with which they go through each section. In a traditional classroom, a specific time window is pre-set within which the learners have to engage with the instructor. In-turn putting a lot of pressure on them to match up to the generic pace with which knowledge has to be acquired.
- Reach– Since online training modules are delivered via the internet, anyone from across the globe can access it. With minimal dependencies – a compatible device and a client portal to access the learning session, and of course, an internet connection – learners can be ready to begin their training in practically no time. Compare that with a traditional classroom which requires a physical institute at a specific geographical location, for a class with a predefined set of tools, either prepared by the instructor or the learner.
- Platforms of Delivery– With the advent of cross-platform programming and designing tools and extensive web-based application support provided by most modern browsers, it is no longer necessary to have a dependency on a specific device or operating system. To participate in an online learning program, an employee would only need to be eligible academically, as most courses have minimal technical pre-requisites. A simple setup that offers generic features such as standard input-output functionalities is all that is usually required to enable online training. In the traditional training set-up, the employee has to be present physically in the training classroom to receive training. The instructor may not offer training material in case the employee is absent. When the delivery happens online, the sessions can be recorded and shared with the employee anytime.
- Cost– Planning and executing an employee training requires extensive resources, especially if it is a recurring activity. Beyond the usual price-per-student, an instructor-led classroom would incur much higher expenditure regarding training facility, logistical spending, and expenses incurred to develop training material, among others. Travelling, accommodation and other administrative costs transform such a venture into a highly expensive one. Compare that to an online alternative, and a clear distinction is drawn between the two regarding cost-effectiveness. Such expenditure is minimized using technology that facilitates a virtual interaction, reaching out to employees located globally.
- Methods of Learning– Another contributing factor to the rise of online learning platform is the paradigm shift of the sessions being instructor/teacher-centric to learner/student-centric. The change has answered several critical questions that prevented students from acquiring the most out of any learning session – Has the student understood the concept? If not, how can it be delivered so that it can be better understood? With a world full of resources, quite literally, at one’s fingertips, it is easier to access real-world case-studies and additional training material to facilitate comprehension of a topic for a learner who is struggling to understand it. In a traditional classroom, the instructor can only provide limited explanation around a topic, that too with limited resources to back it up.
Accessing a course online also fosters learning autonomy and induces enhanced knowledge acquisition (Ally, 2004). Learning without assistance is attributed to the curious nature of our human mind. In such a scenario, an instructor becomes a mere mentor, a guide, facilitating a rich learning experience that would otherwise have a challenge in a traditional setup where the instructor is perceived as a dominant entity.
The traditional classroom too is changing fast and is implementing different learning methods like blended learning and flipped learning which involves usage of eLearning software.
- Re-usability of content– The usual training material that instructors design to impart training in a traditional corporate training scenario is rarely archived, let alone re-used. While there could be some interesting discussions during such an interaction, due to technical limitations, employees can struggle to archive all the essential aspects of the session. Since online training relies on extensive use of technical resources, most of the material is available for re-use and reference purpose. Just add, modify or remove content according to the changes and deliver the updated reference material to learners for a quick session to update their knowledge. Quick updates can prove to be invaluable for imparting information related to service/product enhancements, within organizations, across all employees without enforcing them to re-learn the entire product line-up.
- Timelines– Online employee training enhances knowledge retention and upgradation since courses, and the training material can be archived and accessed repeatedly and as soon as information is published. Not only does it prove to be an invaluable archive, but online courses can also provide the much-needed knowledge over almost all aspects of the organization, including new products and service offerings. Compare this with a traditional set-up where most of the training resource would either be irrelevant after a short span of time or not exist at all and would need to be revised and printed-taking time to reach employees.
The choice between learning in the traditional setup vis-à-vis a virtual set-up should be an informed decision taken by the training managers. However, that being said, the Web presents organizations with endless possibilities for leveraging core-competency through enhancing knowledge and learning resources. The web-based opportunity to learn redefines learning not only with regards to improved delivery, but also to a more current, dynamic educational content, personalized, relevant learning experiences, and secure collaboration with experts and peers.