Online course vs. instructor-led training – how to develop your team’s new skills?

Online course vs. instructor-led training – how to develop your team’s new skills?

The e-learning market is anticipated to be worth $37.6 billion by 2020. On the other hand, the dropout rate of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is upwards of 87%! It’s tempting to send your team to any of the popular e-learning platforms to pick up the new skills they need. An important question, then, is are online courses superior to instructor-led training.

The opportunities online education brings

Online learning opens up a raft of benefits, flexibility foremost among them. You don’t have to look for a suitable time for everyone in the team to start training as they can adjust other responsibilities and study on their own schedule, no matter where they are.

Some courses are offered in collaboration with top universities, which provide a wide range of topics to choose from, and further guarantees quality. Moreover, leading companies and industry experts participate in creating the courses, so you can be sure that the educational content is up-to-date and has practical value.

There is also the issue–or non-issue, as the case be–of location. Instead of doing research and looking for a decent vendor, you can just send the team to a data visualization course at the University of Illinois, a Python course at the University of Michigan or a data science course at the Johns Hopkins University, all while your business is headquartered in Australia.

Your employees will surely appreciate the fact that you invest in their development and will be proud of the certification they get after finishing the course. Participants can learn at their own pace, and, if receiving a course certificate isn’t the aim, dedicate more time to one thing while skipping those parts with less value.

Last but not least, MOOCs are usually affordable; you can receive a group discount or wait for a sale season. Some platforms even offer free courses.

So why is the dropout rate so high?

We have already agreed that online education provides a lot of freedom. Of course, there is a set of guidelines and rules students should follow. The question is, do they have enough self-control and determination to stick with it? Online courses, especially ones in demanding and ambitious fields such as machine learning, require great self-discipline. It is essential the student be able to balance their priorities to finish the course. The dropout rate of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is north of 87%!

Although MOOCs have enjoyed wide publicity and numerous institutions (including MIT and Stanford) have invested heavily in developing and promoting such courses, the jury is out on their effectiveness. Staying motivated and keeping up with assignments is not a piece of cake, even if you work in a team.

Teams need support when learning

Online learning is awesome, no doubt. But it comes with a few drawbacks. The absence of direct interaction with an instructor makes online education more of a monolog than a dialogue. When it comes to educating teams, face-to-face communications is paramount, as everyone has to have the same understanding of the problem and the solutions. It therefore should not be replaced by technology. Learning from a live instructor helps students remain focused while enabling instructors to keep students motivated. Online courses don’t provide these opportunities, which may be a, a huge hurdle.

Online course vs. instructor-led training – how to develop your team’s new skills?

According to a study conducted by Susan Dynarski, professor of education, public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, online courses tend to be more beneficial for proficient students, while keeping the less motivated off track. Without a teacher present to help students with problems, online courses tend to lose their efficiency, while instructor-led sessions can be adjusted to the actual level of the team being trained.

The lack of an individual approach and support exactly when your team need it make the transition from theoretical learning to practical application required for the real-life problems challenging. During an online course, students won’t receive instructor support when the subjects become more and more difficult, leaving some feeling overwhelmed.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, instructional approach and instructor or peer feedback have a huge impact on the effectiveness of training. Direct and interactive instructions, experiential learning and an individual approach all increase participant engagement. Online courses use peer reviews to enhance learning, and they allow students to learn from each experience by providing feedback. However, this approach is not fully controlled by the instructor and may not always give students constructive feedback. Instructor-led courses can do that, giving the less focused or motivated attendees an opportunity to actually benefit from the course.

Related:  What is the best method of efficiently training machine learning for teams?

Why companies choose online courses vs. instructor-led training

According to Capterra, reducing costs is one reason companies decide to train teams online. But can low price give you the quality you need? The problem with MOOCs begins with the fact that, as their name says, they’re “massive” and “open”. They address many student profiles and the materials are not tailored to their particular needs. Companies sometimes choose courses with little understanding of what the course requires and have unrealistic expectations of it or of their employees abilities. Aside from their attractive price, online courses are easier to arrange than instructor-led training. You don’t have to look for a vendor and arrange a program. Just choose a course covering a relevant topic online.

Nevertheless, managers should look forward and think about the future outcome. Will the team put to good use the knowledge it gains during the online course? An internal instructor-led training program grounded in real projects may cost more than an online course, but that money will soon enough be recouped. Ask yourself whether you can afford ineffective training.

How to effectively develop technical skills in-house

Interaction with others can help you boost your knowledge and increase your interest in a particular topic. Indeed, nothing is more motivating than the people around you. Group training can help your team develop practical skills that are increasingly important in the professional world. Thanks to teamwork and brainstorming, they can tackle more complex problems than they could do individually–for example, develop new approaches to resolve an issue or pool their knowledge.

Some instructor-led courses provide the learning experience tailored to the technical goals and business strategy. Teams learn by building projects using hands-on, code-based training to be able to apply new skills and experience in practice. This practical approach can be followed up by a mentoring program to ground new competencies. A group can potentially understand a given technology more thoroughly when it applies it to specific business use cases. Online course can’t address a company’s particular problems.

So if you have a team which needs new skills which are crucial for your company, are online courses really the answer, or is instructor-led training the way to go? The former seem the riskier of the two, particularly if it is quality results and maximizing  budget efficiency you’re after. Finally, the Association for Talent Development has stated that companies offering comprehensive training sessions to their people have 218% higher income per employee. This is a win-win situation for the employee and employer. It takes into account both the individual employee’s development and the company’s strategic goals. The optimal solution combines the best educational practices with real-life business cases. Participants can then turn around their knowledge and use it in their everyday work.

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