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As a company that creates online learning and training resources for businesses, we talk a lot about the benefits of virtual employee training. After all, it doesn’t get much better than being able to complete a training module from the comfort of your own couch.

But as much as we like to rant and rave about its benefits, online training can sometimes be too much of a good thing. Striking the balance between online and in-person training is the key to ensuring your employees are getting the optimal blend of resources that will maximize their training experience.

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of online employee training, then outline where it can sometimes fall short. We’ll also offer up our solutions for employing a well-balanced blend of both online and in-person learning for making the most of your employee training program.

The Benefits of Online Employee Training

Let’s start with the positives, shall we? Here’s why online learning can be a fantastic resource for your employees:

Online learning allows for employees to move at their own pace.

Each employee has a chance to properly absorb the material at a tempo that supports how they learn. As long as they’re hitting their learning objectives, they can go as quickly or as slowly as they’d like. It also enables employees to work their training around their own schedule; a sales manager who’s on calls all morning may dig into her training in the afternoon, whereas a delivery driver whose shift starts in the afternoon has the availability to complete his training in the morning.

Woman taking online employee training courses

It supports remote work.

The flexibility afforded by e-learning programs can’t be overlooked. Since the onset of the pandemic, employees greatly value the option to work remotely or in a hybrid environment; as a result, online training programs align with employees’ values, which boosts engagement and retention. Employees can complete their training from anywhere they have a stable internet connection, whether that’s from their home office or at a beachside resort in Bali!

Online learning can be delivered in flexible formats.

We love online training because of its versatility — employers don’t have to stick to one type of training material. Instead, they’re able to offer their employees any kind of material they’ll learn best with, whether that’s audio clips, videos, written content, or interactive components or simulations.

E-learning programs deliver lower costs over time.

They’re essentially a one-and-done scenario, allowing for less time and resource expenditures. Once the training content has been created, you don’t need to touch it (outside of making occasional updates and adjustments). This isn’t the case with in-person learning, which requires employers to spend funds on full-time instructors, travel, food, and other costs associated with training people in a physical space.

E-learning can be more engaging than in-person training.

That’s because the digital format allows for interactive quizzes, videos, and games, which tend to be more exciting than a simple lecture. Online training can also be more engaging because it can be highly tailored towards employees and their individual roles. In a traditional classroom setting, an instructor might teach in a way that doesn’t resonate with each student, but online, it’s easier to match the content to every individual’s needs.

Online learning provides more resources for further development.

Training employees online can help you provide them with tons of extra resources for additional learning. 59% of employees invest in their own upskilling, signaling a strong desire for additional growth and development opportunities. Creating an online library of accessible, on-demand training resources gives your employees the opportunity to satisfy that need.

Where Online Employee Learning Falls Short

Learning online has its pros, but now, let’s take a look at some of its cons. Relying too heavily on online learning can disrupt the training process in a few ways. Here’s how:

Not every type of learner can thrive with solely online learning.

In fact, learners in online-only training programs tend to learn slightly less than their in-person and hybrid counterparts. Research suggests this is because online learners have more trouble concentrating on the material and feel less connected to both their peers and instructors.

Let’s talk about that, too: online learning can make people feel disconnected and isolated from their colleagues and mentors.

If learners don’t have the ability to form a solid relationship with their peers, learning can suffer. In fact, employees tend to learn best from their peers, a fact that should inspire employers to conduct in-person learning to encourage what’s known as the protégé effect. Collaborative learning can create a highly skilled and engaged workforce, and peer learning is known to contribute to upskilling (and skill transfer between peers).

Screen fatigue is real,

and conducting online-only training can exacerbate that. Too much screen time can lead to burnout, eye strain, and increased tiredness. Your employees’ focus will quickly wane if they don’t get time to recharge from being on screens and online all day.

A group of students in person training on construction site

Online training doesn’t make sense for every job.

Take the construction industry, for example — it would be banal to use an online training program to teach employees how to properly level cement. Construction employees would fare much better with in-person training that allows them to learn by doing. That being said, using an LMS might be great for teaching employees the basics of construction job site safety online, but tactile learning is the way to go for hands-on components of the job.

E-learning doesn’t always allow for prompt and personalized feedback.

In face-to-face training, learners who are experiencing problems in the curriculum can resolve them quickly and directly. Online, however, it might take several hours for a learner to receive a response to a question, which can slow down the learning process.

The Best Of Both Worlds: Hybrid Learning Is The Solution

Online training has its benefits. So does in-person training, which allows for face-to-face communication, direct feedback, tactile learning, and deepening peer-to-peer relationships. The best way to maximize benefits of both is to tap into the best of both worlds by employing a hybrid learning solution for your employees. Here’s why:

  • The hybrid model gives employees a chance to learn on their own and then refresh their memories with in-person learning activities. Alternatively, it also gives them a chance to take online checkpoints or quizzes about what they learned offline. This helps with tracking, retention, and keeping the material outlined in an organized structure.
  • Kinesthetic learners won’t be left out! Hybrid caters to all different learning styles; visual, reading/writing, and auditory learners will be able to find their sweet spots online. Kinesthetic learners will have the chance to experience online learning while going hands-on during in-person training sessions.
  • The hybrid model allows employees to put what they learned online into practice. In-person training sessions give them the chance to apply their knowledge in practicing scenarios they might run into on the job.
  • Hybrid gives learners the chance to engage in peer-to-peer learning that not only strengthens their relationships (and your company culture by extension), but also boosts engagement and sharpens their retention. 

Last Words

Online training is a fantastic resource for employers looking to heighten employee engagement and foster a culture of continuous learning. But like all indulgences, online training can sometimes be too much of a good thing. That’s why employers should do their best to launch hybrid training programs, leveraging key benefits of both online and in-person learning to maximize their training program ROI — and build a stronger, more successful company culture overall.