The Inconvenient Truth of E-Learning

April 2, 2020   Martin Jones
Technical e-learning requires more time than instructor-led.

Before delving into details, I should be open in that I am an instructor, and therefore I like running instructor-led training sessions. They’re my main source of income so it would be fair to assume that I might be slightly biased against e-learning. You know what, I probably am, but I do develop e-learning resources with my clients, and I do believe that it can be an effective tool, as long as it is being used for the right reasons.

Actually, that’s not quite right. As long as it is not being used for the wrong reason.

The wrong reason is time. Technical e-learning does not require less time than instructor-led sessions. It requires more.

Instructor-Led training sessions are time efficient because the instructor tailors the session to the needs of the attendee. There are several ways that an instructor can do this. Here are some:

The attendee’s misunderstandings are addressed much sooner with an instructor. This personalization is unavailable to e-learning in the same way at the moment.

Therefore, if a company wishes a similar outcome to instructor-led training, they must allocate more time. This is the only way that attendees can explore and develop their mental model. It’s not just the number of hours; it’s also the quality of that time. An employee that’s taking e-learning is unavailable to background emails and questions, just like they should be during an instructor-led session.

That’s not to say that there aren’t ways of reducing the time needed for e-learning based training, e.g. scheduling sessions with experts, group chats, bringing in an instructor occasionally, etc. We just cannot assume that attendees can magically take less time learning because it’s e-learning.

It’s important to note that I’m writing about technical training, not a two hour HR session in which there is information but no complex model. That kind of training can indeed be more efficient through e-learning.

There are valid reasons for using e-learning for technical training. But it’s unreasonable to think reduced learning time is one of them.