The global e-learning market crossed USD 315 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at CAGR 20% from 2022 to 2028. This exponential growth of the sector has been augmented by the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted the conventional ways of working and presented possibilities of virtual collaboration that were almost inconceivable a decade ago. What’s even more incredible is the mass adoption of technology this triggered across multiple sectors of which education has arguably been the most robust customer.
At the peak of the pandemic, due to multiple lockdowns online learning had overtaken physical classroom learning across the world. This included a wide spectrum of training platforms from school-level tuition and exam prep services to corporate upskilling and industry-recognised qualifications in professional courses like accounting, software development, marketing and more. At present 90 percent of corporations are using eLearning, compared to only 4% in 1995.
In this article we’ll look at the five main differences between online and in-person learning and explore the main pros and cons of each.
Differences between Online and In-person training
1. In-person provides more hands-on learning
In-person settings enable better live exchanges between trainers and trainees. Online or remote platforms, no matter how sophisticated the tech, simply cannot match the real feel of physical interactions. The human connection of a face-to-face engagement promotes better communication than texting or even live chat. This is particularly true when considering larger class sizes where it can be difficult for students to get individual attention – more so when learning about a new technical subject or methodology.
In-person learning allows more instantaneous feedback from instructors and faster response to questions on account of being a ‘live’ environment.
The physical proximity of an in-person learning environment also enables more effective non-verbal communication.
For example – a trainer is able to read a trainee’s body language to determine whether they are struggling to understand the course material and can adapt their approach to produce better learning results for the class.
Further, while online learning can be adapted across a large number of fields, there are practical functions that require some degree of hands-on training that is simply not possible online. A variety of medical roles including paramedics, construction, and electrical work among others necessarily require in-person learning.
2. Online provides more flexibility
Geographical flexibility is arguably the biggest proponent of online learning. The flexibility to learn from anywhere in the world was a surprising benefit of the pandemic adopted by millions of students and education providers around the world. However, even after the return to normal, the flexibility to access training outside the confines of a classroom are being favoured by many. This is because, online learning caters to several different learning styles.
For example – some people are able to focus better in the privacy of their own space, away from the distraction of peers.
Again, several online training courses provide the option to choose the time of day you want to spend learning. This is very useful for those balancing training around other work commitments or childcare. Karishma Charlwood joined the FDM Tech Returners Programme in May 2022 and after an intensive 14 weeks of training was placed with an international financial services conglomerate.
Speaking of her experience on the FDM training programme she mentioned how all the sessions were recorded so if there was any need to attend to childcare during the daytime, there was always an opportunity to catch up later.
She said, ‘the trainers were also very considerate and made allowances for appointments, school drop offs and pick-ups etc. We usually had the tutoring sessions in the morning and were given some afternoons to work through exercises.’
This kind of flexibility is what people like Karishma need to facilitate their return to the workplace. With more and more companies realising why hiring returners makes sense for business the case for training methods that enable flexible learning gets stronger.
3. Better relationship building among colleagues
In-person training facilitates relationship building among peers particularly within organisations setting up learning or upskilling programmes that require teams to collaborate on projects. In-person learning provides opportunities for colleagues to have organic conversations and learn from each other.
In a recent study by Oxford Learning College, 45.6% of students cited ‘missing out on social interactions’ as their reason for not liking online learning.
In-person learning allows participants to collaborate, discuss and learn through trial and error in real time. Being part of a group also builds accountability among individuals.
4. Online learning is not immune to tech glitches
One of the biggest disadvantages of online learning is that it is not immune to technical glitches. The quality of internet connectivity can vary across geographies and has an impact on speed and bandwidth. Even with a stable internet connection, there are possibilities of encountering other tech glitches that can disrupt a class. Obviously, in-person learning is not affected by this issue so in this instance at least online training is the more reliable option.
5. Online training is more cost-effective
Online training is increasingly being favoured by students and training providers alike for being more cost-effective than conventional in-person learning. Some of ways in which online training can help save money are -
Travel costs – the geo-flexibility of remote learning has the added advantage of cost savings on commuting to and back from the training centre. For example – a standard ticket for a round trip from Brighton to London costs around £40. A daily commute can add up to a significant expense at the end of the month. Remote learning does away with these travelling costs.
Accommodation costs – Courses or certifications that require people to be physically present in a specific town or city entail making accommodation arrangements in these locations that can be extremely expensive.
Course Costs – online learning has led to a 90% reduction in energy consumption as compared to in-person training. The energy is saved from lighting and heating in buildings and parking lots. Training providers that have moved online have also saved additional overheads like property maintenance and the retention of onsite staff. This has enabled them to charge lower fees than traditional in-person courses.
The case for blended learning
Even with the return to schools and the workplace, opinion and preferences are divided between online and in-person learning.
Blended learning aims to provide the best of both worlds. This system combines a mix of online and instructor-led training. However, the proportion of both can vary. For example – the breakdown could be 90% of online learning sessions with occasional in-person training days.
45% of higher education students prefer a combination of both learning methods.
Going forward, blended learning seems likely to be the preferred training method for students and businesses alike. It offers the flexibility of online training with its ease of access from anywhere in the world and the convenience of self-paced learning. On the other hand, it provides occasional face-to-face interaction opportunities to foster better collaboration and relationship building among peers.
FDM’s training model
In a pre-Covid world FDM’s training was entirely in-person and conducted in our FDM academies. However, the pandemic necessitated remote training and we have been successfully following this model ever since. So, what does the future of training at FDM look like?
Gangotri Bhatt, EMEA Head of Training at FDM Group says,
‘Online collaboration tools allow our students to enjoy trainer led lessons unhindered by physical location or geography. Not academic theory, our lessons are designed to create a real-world experience to build confidence and ability to get things done. Various digital media supplement our training to facilitate personal development and growth 24*7. Looking forward: Remote training, inter-dispersed with necessary collaboration sessions in the office, is rapidly becoming our standard mode of operation. This has proven to be a win-win all around as our selection of students is no longer constrained by proximity to one of our physical academies, it reduces costs for our students and to the company, and it opens doors to new clients too!’
At FDM we have over 30 years of experience in recruiting, training and nurturing top talent to help businesses build successful teams aligned with their goals. Our consultants benefit from not just our intensive instructor-led training programmes but ongoing support and development services to ensure they are happy in their new roles and have the resources they need to keep learning.