Online Training – Clickable Pros and Cons

So many factors have to be taken into consideration when deciding how training is to be delivered. What are the training goals; what do you need people to know, do or perform after they have been trained? Who is the training audience and where are they? How long will training take or will it be ongoing? How much money can be invested in the training creation? How much time do we have to design and develop the training? Will we need to re-purpose or modify the training material for future use?

The answers to all of these questions help in the decision between a classroom training delivery or online training. Most of us are more familiar with classroom training but there are many advantages to online training that should be considered. Click on any of the advantages below for details.

Advantages of Online Training

Increased Training Effectiveness
Increased Training Effectiveness It’s a given that learners do not retain all the training delivered in the classroom; accepted figures are an average retention of only 10-20% within as little as 3 days of training. Online training is a long-term resource that allows the learner to revisit the training when needed.

Just-In-Time Availability
Just-In-Time Availability. If a trainee needs to access or review a given area of the training, that material is available, when and where they require it, allowing the learner to drill down to the level of understanding they need at that time.

Improved Training Costs
Improved Training Costs While initial investment for online training is higher than that for instructor-led classroom training, the savings emerge in the ongoing re-usability of the material, the unlimited number of trainees to whom it can be delivered, and the enormous savings in travel cost for either trainers or trainees.

Worldwide Distribution Potential
Worldwide Distribution Potential Trainers and trainees do not have to travel across the world to receive the training they need. Online training allows the trainer to reach a global audience.

Fewer Work Schedules Interruptions
Fewer Work Schedules Interruptions Booking off large blocks of work time to attend training can seriously interrupt the efficiency and productivity of your company. Training can be fit in around company needs.

Standardized Delivery
Standardized Delivery Online training ensures that there are no discrepancies in the scope of information delivered to trainees, or the standards of training outcomes. Training on the same material can differ widely from trainer to trainer; even the same trainer may vary in quality of delivery depending on the time or place.

Personalized Learning
Personalized Learning Everyone has their own unique and preferred ways to process information. Adult learners want control of the learning process. Online learning can provide the flexibility to let the trainee work through the material in a way that best suits them.

”My Pace” Learning
My Pace Instructor-led training goes at the pace of the trainer; if a learner already knows a portion of the material, they may kill hours sitting through training they might have just needed an overview on. Conversely, some learners may find they need more time than the trainer can afford for them to master the material. Online training allows the learner to learn at their own pace.

Immediate Updates & Modifications
Immediate Updates & ModificationsWhen a product or procedure changes, the online training material can be easily and rapidly updated to reflect changes. Online training also presents the option of sending update notification to all learners where necessary.

Linkable to Further Resources
Linkable to Further ResourcesHaving training material online allows easy linking to further internet resources to support and strengthen the training experience.

A Green Initiative
A Green InitiativeA study by Britain’s Open University “study found that producing and providing distance learning courses consumes an average of 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional face-to-face courses.” It can easily seen how similar effects can be achieved by the application of online training for business purposes.

Of course, online training is not always the best way to go with training delivery. There are definitely times and situations where instructor-led, classroom-based training is most suitable. Training that requires physical contact for skill transfer, wholly kinesthetic learning, or high-level gross motor skill training, such as dance, figure skating or the like may be extremely challenging to deliver solely via online training. There are other scenarios where online training shows itself at a disadvantage.

Disadvantages of Online Training

Uneconomical for Small Audiences
Uneconomical for Small AudiencesIf the entire body of people to be trained can easily and feasibly be gathered into a classroom, the expense of creating online training may not be justifiable. Uploading some version of the classroom training used, however, can still serve as a valuable resource for future review by the trainees.

Lacking the Personal Touch
Lacking the Personal Touch Admittedly, a good classroom trainer can create an energy and excitement that just cannot be recreated through online training. Where emotion and interpersonal connection is essential to the training, online learning cannot compete.

Larger Initial Investment
Larger Initial Investment If, for whatever reason, the larger long-term ROI is outweighed by the up-front sticker price, online learning may prove problematic. While a simple PowerPoint to E-Learning conversion has proven to take about the same amount of time as creating instructor-led training, it may or may not satisfy the requirements of the training and the trainees.

Inappropriate for Some Audiences
Inappropriate for Some AudiencesFor some training audiences, online learning may prove a challenge. Elderly participants unfamiliar with technology (a narrowing cohort) can be ill-suited to online training. Other challenges are posed by semi-literate or preliterate audiences where care must be taken to avoid text-heavy content, using, instead, well-crafted interfaces and content utilizing more graphics than text, which can increase cost.


As stated at the outset of this post, neither classroom-based or online training is a panacea for all training needs. Careful attention has to be given to the factors involved. With today’s technology, however, online training does present a great many advantages for most training requirements.

© September L Smith, 2011

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