It wasn’t long ago that options for training and education were limited to face-to-face instruction. Today however, designers have the opportunity to offer much more diverse methods of coaching to maximize the learning potential of every audience member.

Why is this important?

When you improve teaching methods and stimulate the interest of learners, training will better translate into on-site application.

Training is a major priority for companies and whatever approach is used, it must always be consistent, comprehensive and clear to support individual and organizational growth.

The trick is in finding the right strategy, or combination of strategies, to effectively communicate your message in a way that sticks.

What used to be pen-and-paper can now be online, face-to-face, or anywhere in between— to elevate the learning experience of your audience.

Improving Training By Adapting to new Teaching Styles

To illustrate the importance of exploring new training styles, let’s say you walk into a coffee shop and the menu is limited to one brew.

Just like you need the right training to perform a task, you also need coffee to start your day. Begrudgingly, you take the breakfast blend, but it fails to satisfy your craving. It’s quickly an experience you want to forget.

Why? Because you’re a medium blend, with a shot of coconut milk and a drizzle of mocha kind of person.

Keeping training limited and simple will do the job (i.e., the breakfast blend coffee in the example above), but customizing the experience will make it far more enjoyable and beneficial for learners (i.e., the medium blend coffee with coconut milk and mocha). 

That often means that we need to be flexible and explore new strategies and technology to create a better experience.

So…what different training styles are available?

When expanding a training program it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s explore different learning approaches so we can compare their pros and cons side-by-side.

Face-To-Face

Flexibility: Relatively inflexible, since important work must be paused to attend group workshops or meetings

Networking: Easy to make connections

Format: Typically instructor-guided

Cost: Space, facilitation, and food and beverage can be expensive

Delivery: Inconsistent. Much like learners, each instructor has a different style, so training quality and content might be inconsistent

Instructor Difficulty: Familiar and easy. Instructors are typically familiar with in-person presentation formats and tools, such as PowerPoint or live polling

Online

Flexibility: Very flexible, since pre-recorded learning or digitally streamed sessions can be viewed at any time

Networking: Online learning can be prohibitive in making connections

Format: Flexible. Learning can be Independent, collaborative or instructor-guided

Cost: Large upfront cost to develop, but inexpensive moving forward (reusable & recorded modules can be viewed from anywhere)

Delivery: Consistent message delivery. The same instructor and lesson is broadcast to all viewers, with the exact same content and presentation style. Sessions are also recorded for later reference

Instructor difficulty: Unfamiliar and difficult. Many instructors have difficulty engaging audiences online, and have less experience directing webinars and using streaming software

A Blend of Both Approaches

Flexibility: Moderate. Typically requires greater time investment from learners to attend in person workshops and also complete online sessions.

Format: Involves the best features of face-to-face and online.

Cost: Can be high, since in-person and online content is often developed and communicated separately

Delivery: Complex, but can be very consistent. More strategy and planning is usually required, such as deciding what material will be presented online vs. face-to-face.

Instructor Difficulty: Difficult. In-person instructors must present information consistent with online resources. More instructors may be needed to support in-person and online learning.

The Best Learning Method

When you compare the advantages of each, it’s pretty clear that a blended approach to learning offers the most potential.

And, research supports this. According to a 2009 study of learners, 18 years and older:

-Blended learning environments (face-to-face + online) is most educational.
-Online learning is better than face-to-face learning.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development

This conclusion that online and especially blended styles of learning are so great was from a meta-analysis, which is a systematic review of findings from multiple studies (51 in this case).

“So that settles it. All of our learning should be done with a blend of online and face-to-face components, right?”

Wrong. It needs to be considered that there isn’t a one-size-suits-all solution for every group of learners.

Getting Down to Business

The best approach to learning and development depends on a lot of contextual factors:

-How does the intended audience learn best?
-How has a company delivered learning material in the past?
-What is the budget?

In business, the cost in time and money of building a new learning program is important. Once a new learning method is developed, it still takes time to transition from existing business processes and train employees how to use the new system.

Yes, an updated learning training process will benefit learners. But not every company is in the right position to make that investment or shake up existing business processes.

It’s important to evaluate the pros and cons of each approach and consider the best solution for your business and audience. There are always exceptions. But in general, it’s certainly true that blended and online learning are very valuable. Often, much more valuable than we might think.

Research shows that we tend to learn more when we use modern learning methods, so why not maximize our training potential?