What has 10 years of IT Training taught me? Humans crave interaction!
We work in an environment these days very different to when I started working in IT 22 years ago. Almost everything can be done virtually. Mail is sent without requiring a postman, calls no longer require a physical phone, we are not tied to our desks and can work remotely from wherever we please. Companies like Microsoft and Google provide tools such as Office 365 and Google Drive that enable us to access our documents and files anywhere, anytime.
Undeniably, all these advances in information technology make our lives easier. Communication is instantaneous, convenient and cheaper.
So how does this translate to an industry like IT Training, where historically training sessions are conducted face to face in a classroom environment?
When it comes to education, distance or virtual learning has become an increasingly common alternative to classroom-based learning. I’ve been an IT Trainer for 10 years and I have definitely noticed the shift away from classroom training. We are in the throes of globalisation with many of us working for companies that have offices in every corner of the world. It’s not physically possible (or financially viable) for a small team of IT Trainers based in one location to deliver face to face training to everyone.
That hasn’t stopped companies from trying though! I spent a large part of 2010 and 2011 travelling around the world delivering training on Office 2010 and Windows 7 as part of a global roll-out project. Initially, I thought this was fabulous! I get to see the world! Meet new people! In reality it was expensive for the company to send me away, not to mention the toll it took on me personally being away from home for months.
It wasn’t long before my former employer realised it could not sustain sending trainers across Asia for long periods of time. Gradually, this was replaced with remote training which consisted of live webinars and designing online courses. The shift to internet based learning delivered the same content but reached more people, without anyone having to leave their desk. However, the question always nagged in the back of my mind; is this training better than classroom training? For a long time, it didn’t feel like it to me.
Online learning may provide an excellent opportunity for accessing training, but this method is not ideal for everyone. Many companies still favour face to face training over online, and have proven results to back up their reasons why. So, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each?
Face to face training
Classroom training provides an environment that’s hard to recreate online. One of the key elements is the relationship that is forged between fellow students and with the tutor. Work can be undertaken in groups with fun exercises that get people up and moving. Through these exercises people feel comfortable to express themselves and ask questions.
It's also always been harder for companies to judge how engaged learners are when a course is completed online. I’m sure we’ve all been through those annual ‘Health and Safety’ compulsory e-learning modules where you just click next, next, next without really absorbing the content. If the e-learning is not engaging or designed well it’s highly unlikely the knowledge will be retained.
Classroom training is also more suitable for delivering large bodies of content. I have often run all day training sessions in the classroom. I wouldn’t even consider running an all-day webinar or force people to sit through 8 hours of online training. People just don’t have the stamina to sit staring at a screen all day with little to no other stimulus.
It’s undeniable that online learning enables companies to reach more students quicker, costs less and provides a convenient way for people to learn from wherever they have an internet connection. In my experience, the effectiveness of online learning very much depends on the way the course is designed. I have sat through some horribly boring online courses and webinars. A relentless montage of clip-art laden, PowerPoint slides with little to no interaction. My mind would wander off onto more interesting things, I would check my emails, look up a recipe for dinner, and send a tweet complaining about my impending death by PowerPoint.
However, when done well, online courses can be just as good as classroom training and offer many additional benefits. We live in a busy world. Time is money and money is time. We don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to spend an entire day in a classroom with a trainer learning Excel. Particularly if we are only really interested in the 40% of Excel that we don’t know. We spend half a day sitting through the basics before we get to the good stuff! It’s not an effective use of anyone’s time.
At Filtered, we’ve thought about this problem a lot. How can we get to a place where online training is tailored to each user, only delivering the content they need to know? This was the question that our business was built around. Our online courses are broken down into short, 5 minute modules. To give you an idea, our Excel 2013 course contains 160 modules. Bite-sized. Easy to consume! Tasty!
Before you start our courses, you take a comprehensive test. The data you provide is fed into our patented algorithm developed by our in-house data science team and compared against a number of criteria. The course is then ‘filtered’ (see what we did there?). The modules you already know are removed, leaving you with a syllabus comprised of just the ‘stuff’ you need to know. The modules are short and easy to digest and it’s entirely up to you the speed you work through them. Throw in demo videos, engaging voiceovers, multiple choice test questions, downloadable practice exercises and poll questions, and there is plenty to keep you interested.
Whilst there are still so many benefits to face to face classroom training, online training is the method of choice for many people. Whether you are a student, someone returning to work after a break, a stay at home mum or someone who just loves to learn, the flexibility and cost effectiveness of online courses is what pushes the latter over the finish line first.
I hope you enjoyed my post. Feel free to share any thoughts you have in the comments section below. And before you shoot off, I recommend you check out this latest post by our Head of Development, Sam Hennessy on the incorporation of chatbots into Learning & Development. It’s a great read!
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This post is part of a series that my colleagues and I at Filtered are working on. It’s broadly about how recommendations help us to make sense of all the content clutter, especially in learning. Have a look at our other posts here.
Also, we’ve recently launched a free new tool to provide personalized learning experiences for L&D and HR professionals called globalfilter for L&D. It's an online recommendation engine with over 180 high-quality learning assets to read, watch, practice and apply for our industry. Click on the link above to try it out.