Last year, the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) published a survey that said that for 2020 ‘for 40% of L and D professionals the greatest impact on the L and D profession would be the virtual classroom’ – then came Covid 19. So is class room training dead? Will all instructor led training be run on line from now on?
For those of us who remember when e-learning first started, a similar question was asked then about the demise of the classroom and it never happened. Why? Well because although the technology around e-learning is exceedingly sophisticated and can be designed to be engaging, it is fundamentally about self-directed study. In many applications this is fine and allows study to take place when ever and where ever and if required, in micro bursts. But, it does rely on the motivation of the learner themselves. Thus, we see that e-learning has its place in the blended learning spectrum but would not replace the instructor led training course.
Covid-19 has accelerated the tale up of the instructor led on line course using tools such as Adobe Connect and Webex Learning. Needs must as they say. Both instructors and learners have been driven to trial the interactive tools, messaging, polling, whiteboards and break out rooms. This is not just a Webinar or web meeting. It is far richer and more engaging than that, or can be in the hands of the right facilitator.
Whilst the recent upsurge has been driven by necessity - what happens after?
Virtual instructor led training still has some challenges. Some are technical such as poor connectivity or invitation emails being blocked by spam filters or deleted. Some are early adoption pains such as poor facilitation and poor understanding and preparation from the participants. But, the main concern is that trainers believe they lose something - the lack of body language and true contact means the trainer cannot be sure that other distractions have been removed. The temptation to answer emails, respond to Facebook or WhatsApp, instead of giving 100% to the trainer is overwhelming for some people.
The biggest advantage of the classroom is that it is a space, away from the day to day working environment, where the group norm is understood, that this is a learning space where individuals are expected to behave in a certain way. And where the trainer can see if they are not.
The biggest disadvantage of the classroom? Cost. Travelling costs, the costs of the room and the opportunity costs of the time getting to and from the training. Whether the additional cost is justified by the enhanced learning experience is probably down to the nature of the training and the skills of the trainer. I suspect that live on line learning will not replace the classroom but be another tool in the blended learning toolbox, but as they say:
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future."
--Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics