Our top 5 advantages and disadvantages of online learning

Offering online learning is a great, revolutionary alternative to traditional training. And corporations have taken notice. In fact, up to 90% of corporations use a form of online learning today, compared to just 4% in 1995. And the e-learning market is predicted to grow another 8% by 2026! Not sure about jumping on the e-learning bandwagon just yet? Before replacing traditional learning with online learning at your organization, carefully weigh its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages and disadvantages of online learning
Anna
Written by Anna Implementation Consultant
Posted on
Reading time 7 minutes

What is online learning?

Online learning is a form of distance learning that takes place over the internet. It is interchangeable with the term e-learning. Online learning can include online courses, exams, gamified quizzes, and certification training.

5 advantages of online learning

1. Reduced costs

The most obvious advantage of online learning comes down to economics. A half-day of classical training is equivalent to a one-hour e-learning course [1]. E-learning increases productivity. In 2019, U.S. training expenses amounted to $83 billion! Of that, $29.6 billion [2] was spent on travel, training facilities, in-house training development, and equipment. Online learning cuts many of these costs, including those associated with hiring an instructor, booking a facility, printing materials, and travel.

2. Increased convenience and flexibility

The average full-time employee only has 1% of their time to devote to learning

Employees often struggle to fit ongoing education into their busy and rigid schedules. In a survey of 204 employees [3], 93 employees indicated that time constraints contributed to why they were unable or unwilling to complete a course in one attempt. Another 56 contributed it to work interruptions. The average full-time employee only has 1% of their time to devote to learning. That amounts to just 24 minutes a week! Online learning allows your employees to learn on a personal schedule that suits them best. It also takes much less time than face-to-face learning.

3. Improved employee knowledge

Online learning allows people to learn in their own style and at their own speed, which helps them absorb more information. If someone needs more time with a particular topic, they can go through it as slowly and as many times as they need. As you can imagine, this aspect of online learning benefits knowledge retention. WR Hambrecht + Co found that online learning increased the retention rates of the learning material by 25-60%!

E-learners truly bring what they learn into practice

4. Increased revenue

The American Society for Training and Development (2011) surveyed 2,500 companies and found that companies that had comprehensive training programs had 218% higher revenue per employee, and 24% higher profit margins [4]. More research confirms that e-learners truly bring what they learn into practice. 87% of 204 surveyed employees indicated that they had put their newly acquired skills and knowledge to practice at work! This translates to tangible benefits, whether it be increased sales, improved processes, or satisfied customers.

5. Ease of content update

In today’s world, information and knowledge change fast! With printed materials, the only way to keep up with these changes is to reprint the material, and if you did that it would be quite costly (not to mention the poor trees 馃槈). Updating online courses not only allows you to keep up with these changes without breaking the bank, but makes the process easy as pie. The best part is that any change you make to your online content becomes immediately available to your whole learning audience!

5 disadvantages of online learning

1. Requires self-discipline and time management skills

41% of a sample of 204 employees indicated that self-motivation was a barrier to participating in online learning. Why? While we can all agree that self-discipline and time management are always at play when it comes to learning, online learning involves less guidance from an instructor than traditional learning. Typically, online learning also removes scheduled meeting times and deadlines. As a result, your employees must put themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to their ongoing education.

Face-to-face interactions are a must to bring the material to life

2. Diminished social interaction

When you imagine a traditional classroom, lively group discussion, and students raising their hands to ask the instructor questions likely comes to mind. Admittedly, these moments do not arise as naturally in online learning. For some individuals, these face-to-face interactions are a must to bring the material to life. Nevertheless, it is possible to bring more social interaction to online learning through competition, scheduled Q&A sessions with an instructor, and discussion channels.

3. Not suitable for every topic

Which would you rather learn via online learning: how to fly a plane, or government guidelines on disposing chemicals? Our choice and we imagine your choice as well, is the latter. It is safe to say that you wouldn’t want to be a passenger on a plane with a pilot who had only ever flown a plane in a flight simulator. Complex topics, operative techniques, and practices that require a physical environment are best conducted in person. Yet, more repetitive topics in a high turnover environment lend themselves naturally to online learning.

4. Lack of practice-based learning

E-learning cannot replace the knowledge that comes through hands-on experience

Online learning is often theory-based and lacks practice-based learning. Theoretical knowledge refers to facts, theories, and reasoning whereas practical knowledge is based on hands-on endeavors and tasks. For example, online learning would be a great tool to learn the theory-based side of football, like its history and the rules of the game. However, it cannot be used to transfer practical knowledge like how to actually play the game. Only getting out on the field can do that. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that e-learning cannot replace the knowledge that comes through hands-on experience.

5. Reliance on technology

Younger generations entering the workforce, and technology being adopted broadly, has driven the popularity of e-learning. However, not everyone has integrated technology into their daily routine. 26% of adults were found to be computer illiterate by a 2016 study. Therefore, it is important to assess whether your employees are computer-savvy and whether they have the appropriate setup for online learning. Do your employees have convenient access to electronic devices and the internet? Do they have working speakers if there is video or audio in a course? If accessing online learning becomes a burden, motivation might plummet.

Is online learning right for your organization?

If you are thinking of replacing traditional learning with online learning, we encourage you to weigh the complexity of your training topics and your employees' level of motivation along with this list of advantages and disadvantages. If you have more questions about online learning’s effectiveness compared to face-face learning, check out this article.

Easy LMS is one of the systems you can use to implement online learning in your organization. With Easy LMS you can create and manage effective training courses, challenging exams, and grant customizable certificates. It comes with a great analysis tool, and automation options too.

Useful resources

  1. Chapman Alliance 
  2. Training Mag
  3. Industrial and commercial training 
  4. Cegos

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