Is e-learning replacing face to face training?

Samantha Caine

Blog post by Samantha Caine

Samantha Caine, is the Client Services Director at Business Linked Teams and has over 20 years experience working as a strategic training and recruitment expert for a variety of international businesses. She works with organisations to develop interactive, training solutions and oversees the implementation of global sales and leadership programmes that are aligned with leading edge thinking from across the world

21st November 2017

While e-learning is increasing in popularity, the future is in a blended approach, argues Samantha Caine, Client Services Director at Business Linked Teams

This is one of the burning questions of the moment in corporate training departments around the world, as organisations look for ways to maximise the effectiveness of their training while reducing costs and making sure that development solutions are fit for the current working environment.

As globalisation presents organisations with the challenge of rolling out desired behaviours and skillsets consistently across workforces in dispersed regions and markets, a definitive and proven approach is required.

Challenged by constant changes in those dispersed markets as well as other local factors that include language barriers and cultural differences, organisations need an approach that can overcome these obstacles and help them deliver their global business objectives. What they don’t need are unproven approaches that lean too heavily on new ideas, or old approaches that are no longer effective in today’s global marketplace.

The rise of e-learning

Studies have found that e-learning typically requires 40 percent to 60 percent less employee time and increases retention rates 25 percent to 60 percent[OH1] . With such complying statistics, can face to face training compete?

It’s certainly possible to train sales teams and future leaders of global organisations with e-learning and the rationale for pursuing this path is clear. Firstly, [SC2] training departments are increasingly challenged by the business to deliver development programmes that are more efficient in terms of both from cost of the training and the cost of the employee time for each training participant.

Secondly, there is a strong demand from workforces for training that effectively embraces the technology that they have in their hands. The training must reflect the ways in which workforces have become accustomed to using this technology, taking in short, sharp inputs of information in a ‘just in time’ manner.

Thirdly, online solutions have plenty of appeal for organisations rolling out technical training. It’s true that some processes can be learnt better online, especially where there are only ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of doing things.

The blended solution

But while e-learning can support organisations in adopting a stronger, more efficient approach to employee development, one of the seven principles of human learning is that it is enhanced through socially supported interactions. It is this type of interaction that is important for the development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self.

Soft skills such as communication, teamwork, positivity, confidence and behavioural training need the interaction that takes place in more traditional face to face training programmes. When it comes to implementing behavioural change or the development of soft skills, training content needs to more job, business and customer specific, so much so that generic programmes cannot provide the right depth of knowledge or the skills that organisations need to achieve a real competitive advantage.

Face to face workshops provide the ideal environment to allow people to network, fully engage and focus on a particular topic as well as have the opportunity to discuss their own challenges and collectively find solutions together.

By blending workshops with online training, we are starting to see virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games, business simulations, one to one and group sessions. As well as being better for the employee, this approach enables organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to reflect technological advancement and changing market environments.

A study conducted by the US Centre for Digital Education found that 73 percent of educators who utilise a blended learning model observed an increase in learner engagement. It is clear that e-learning is becoming instrumental in professional training for new behaviours and skillsets, but it yields the most successful results when deployed as part of a blended approach that in-corporates face to face learning elements too.


 [SC2]I like the addition of stats but I'm slightly worried that at this point in the article we are basically saying e-learning is better (later on we counteract it which is good).  As it's currently written, it comes across as the stats say it all.  Somehow, we need to say at this point, that for some types of training , these figures are correct but when it comes to behavioural training its the not the case at all - e-learining is not the may be part of the picture but certainly for sales and leadership training, it's not enough on it's own.