The COVID pandemic was certainly something that brought change into all our lives and presented all of us with challenges in how we could still deliver value to our customers. Operationally, many businesses had to shift into new ways of working and communicating with existing or potential clients. Online communication platforms suddenly became the normal way of meeting and chatting with our networks both business and social to accomplish this.
As our clients tackled their own operational issues and preferred being in a room with other learners and the training consultant anyway, training demand just stopped overnight.
It took a few months for events to settle and the world to realize it could work and learn in other ways, so we started getting enquiries from several people wanting to take up some form of remote learning. From the conversations we were having a few common questions arose about what the differences are between a virtual course and an e-learning one.
Because they are both online so must be the same, right? No!
So here is a short guide to what both types of remote learning look like.
Courses that are advertised as ‘virtual’ will try and recreate the physical classroom environment only remotely.
With a physical classroom you will have a live training session with a training expert in the room. You may be provided with books about the subject, hard copy of the presentation with notes and there may be other printed materials you will be working with.
Courses are structured by topic and at the end of a session you could be divided up into smaller groups to work on an exercise.
If you are taking an exam at the end of the course the room will be configured like a school classroom and the trainer can become the invigilator and run the exam session.
A virtual training course will attempt to recreate this classroom environment remotely.
The trainer will be broadcasting a live session as they would in a classroom, and this is sent across a conference call platform out to the learners who are positioned anywhere.
Documentation will typically be sent electronically and if the learner wants to have physical copies, they can arrange this themselves.
Depending on the broadcast platform being used the trainer may be able to split the learners into smaller groups to do the exercises.
The learners can interact live with the trainer and the rest of the group as if they were all in the same room.
Exams will be taken separately and will be sat either at an approved exam centre or some subjects can be sat from a laptop connected to the internet anywhere.
Courses advertised as ‘e-learning’ will be structured differently.
These courses are typically modular in format with separate files held on a learning management system that the learner accesses one at a time across the internet.
Content in these files will vary from one training provider to another. Some will record video and audio sessions, or the files may just be documentation to read.
Learners progress through the material at their own pace and access is sometimes limited by time frame. For example, the learner pays for 90 days access and then uses the material within their own preferences during that time.
If there is an exam this will be taken in a similar way as the virtual courses.
Which one is best?
As we all emerge from our restrictive environments, blinking in the sunlight and looking around at a world we haven’t seen for a while, we will notice it has changed a bit.
When it comes to investing our resources to gain knowledge that will help our businesses, the remote learning option has increased its visibility. As more people have experienced this type of learning it may have increased viability for many people as a learning option.
There are several factors to consider though when choosing the right option for your learning.
Physical training events are still many peoples’ preferred way of learning as it provides not only an opportunity to gain new knowledge, but it also provides an opportunity to meet new people and expand our networks.
It gives the trainer more options for practical exercises to help embed newly acquired knowledge as the learners can practice new ideas in a safe environment.
Virtual courses will give you a live environment to which you can interact. You have immediate direct access to the training expert and the course will be just like attending a normal learning event.
You must commit to being in front of the screen when the session is happening to get maximum value. This can be 7 hours a day for 3,4 or 5 days in a row. It’s the same commitment as going to the physical venue just without the travel.
Practical exercises could be different as there are certain constraints with the virtual delivery platforms.
E-Learning courses are often cheaper though you lose the direct support and access to a trainer. Support is often through peer groups setup on social media style platforms. If you cannot commit to the time needed for the virtual course the e-learning option offers you more flexibility.
If you want more time to review the sections again that can be done by replaying the modules. With some courses the modules can be done in any order you wish again adding to the flexibility.
Which one is best being therefore dependent on your own circumstances, learning style and what you are hoping to accomplish at the end of your course.