Can Online Training Be as Effective as In-Person Training?
In 2020, the shift to remote training accelerated. There was –– in most cases –– no other choice. With offices shut and employees working remotely where they could, almost everything moved online.
As we try to put the pandemic behind us, it might be tempting to return to the old way of doing things, which for some companies, means in-person training. But is in-person training still a valid way to deliver training that engages employees and leads to the best learning outcomes?
This article looks at whether online training still has a place in a training department’s delivery options, and whether or not it can be as effective as in-person training.
Delivering the Right Training for Your Business
There are benefits to in-person training, as well as specific use cases where it makes sense. If you deal with sensitive material that needs to be kept on-premise, then in-person training makes sense. If you’re delivering training on a highly complex product or to non-tech-savvy students, then having an instructor in the room could lead to better outcomes. Some companies also need a combination of consulting and training, where an instructor needs to facilitate a discussion to agree on internal business processes, and then provide product training that reflects this decision.
In all of these cases, it makes sense for companies to consider returning to pre-pandemic in-person training, although they might still consider combining it with online training. If, however, the type of training your company needs doesn’t fall into one of the 3 scenarios above, then you should consider shifting your training to be mostly (if not entirely) online.
The Benefits of Online Training
Was your pre-pandemic, in-person training effective? For many companies, in-person training was expensive, didn’t engage learners, and didn’t lead to positive learning outcomes. Maybe you were already considering how to make your training more effective before the pandemic hit?
If that’s the case, online training can help lower costs, improve engagement, boost training complement, and help you reach the desired outcomes. Here are some of the benefits of online training.
Scales Up as Required
With in-person training, if someone misses the class, then there often isn’t a way for them to easily catch up on what they’ve missed. They either have to attend a rescheduled course, try to teach themselves via a PowerPoint (which was intended for in-person delivery), or get their peers (who are not SMEs on the topic) to show them what they missed. With online training, however, once you’ve created the content and made it available online, you can deliver it to as many users that register for the course.
Adapts to Different Learning Styles
Not everyone learns in the same way and online training allows you to deliver training that is tailored to your users, with personalized content that fits their role, career paths, or interests. Of course, you can do this with in-person training as well, but it often requires scheduling multiple training sessions or different instructors to speak on the personalized content.
And speaking of learning styles, with online learning, there are a variety of features available for you to keep users engaged during the online course. This includes videos, quizzes, surveys, games, leaderboards, and virtual IT labs.
Your users can also make their way through self-paced training at a speed, time, and location that suits them, which improves completion rates. Learners can choose the courses that suit their role or that plug a specific knowledge gap, rather than having to sit through hours of in-person training waiting for the relevant, 15-minute section in the course.
Online training is ineffective if it’s not designed in an interesting and engaging way. Users won’t feel motivated to complete the training if they’re bored. Virtual training labs give learners access to a sandbox environment that they can use to play around with your product without worrying about breaking it. They can also go through real-life scenarios that they would encounter in their role and understand how the product would make their lives easier in that scenario.
Deliver Highly Complex Product Training
In the past, companies have chosen to go down the in-person training route when they wanted to train users on a highly complex product because it’s easier to have an instructor present to answer questions and resolve issues. But, learning styles have changed. Digital natives don’t want to be lectured by an instructor; instead, they want to figure out the product by themselves as they would with consumer electronics.
Virtual training labs are a useful tool here as well because learners can take a self-paced course, then practice what they’ve learned in a hands-on, learning environment. This aids in learner engagement, boosts content retention, and in the case of developer marketing, helps to boost product adoption and product awareness.
Supports Remote Teams
The world of work is training. As Millennials and Gen Z make up a higher percentage of the workforce, you need to adapt to their work styles. This includes remote working. If you don’t already have remote workers, you likely will soon. The days of flying instructors or learners around the world to deliver or attend training sessions are gone. With online training, users can learn wherever they are, regardless of location, and you can recruit instructors from around the world.
Increases Revenue and Decreases Churn
Online customer training can increase product knowledge and adoption, which in turn boosts loyalty, increases customer lifetime value, decreases churn, and opens up new revenue streams. It also reduces the burden on your customer service team by giving users the understanding they need to solve problems themselves, rather than submitting a support request.
Designing Effective Online Training
Online training programs are not the silver bullet and are only as effective as the courses and content it is delivering. Effective online training can solve a lot of the scale and deliverability issues that training teams face with in-person training, such as: lack of resources, scaling the training program, or poor learner engagement and completion rates. Once you get over the initial disruption of moving from in-person training to online training, you’ll see the significant impact that it can have on your training department.