Should I convert my training to a virtual classroom or eLearning?

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

The world as we know it is changing. With COVID-19, or the coronavirus, in almost every single country worldwide, many businesses are converting their training programs to online platforms. But some may be wondering: Should I convert my training to an online format, or just wait until this all passes? What's the difference between a virtual classroom and eLearning? When should I choose one over the other?

Should I convert my training to an online format?

In short answer, yes! This has been a trend for many years, but now is becoming more of a necessity. Here are three basic reasons why you should convert your training to onlinev

  • Save costs: Online training has been a trend in recent years due to the simple fact that it saves costs. In-person training includes costs for travel, location fees, materials (such as projectors, pens, paper, nametags, swag, etc.), food (such as snacks and lunch), and facilitator fees. Not to mention in-person classes require taking multiple people away from their jobs for extended periods all at the same time. A great example of this is when Chipotle offered food safety training and had to shut down all of their restaurants nationwide on the same day.

  • Invest in your people: We all know that the number one investment we can make in a company is to invest in our people. Providing employees with training ensures that they have the knowledge, tools and skills to tackle whatever challenges lay ahead. Given the current circumstances, it may be tempting to put training initiatives and programs on hold, but this is actually a great time to invest in your people. We're all facing uncertainties right now, and having a company that puts their people first makes things a bit easier to get through. It's also a great way to keep employees up-to-date with the changes we're all facing on a near-daily basis.

  • Save lives: With the current pandemic, in-person training just isn't an option right now. Converting your training to an online format ensures that we all do our part in maintaining social distancing and keeping each other safe. Experts are saying stay at home orders could last through the end of May, and even after we may see second waves of the virus. Investing now to convert your training online may keep you ahead of the curve and prepared for the uncertainties that lay ahead.

What's the difference between a Virtual Classroom and eLearning?

Some may think that these are the same thing, but they're actually quite different. Here's a quick explanation of the difference:

  • Virtual Classroom: These are live online events with multiple participants at once, presented by a facilitator or trainer. These may also be referred to as webinars or virtual instructor-led training (vILT).

  • eLearning: These are courses that learners complete individually on their own at any time that is convenient for them. They do not have a live facilitator or trainer and are most often deployed through a Learning Management System (LMS) to track learner completion.

How do I choose between a Virtual Classroom and eLearning?

There are many factors to consider when choosing between a Virtual Classroom and eLearning, such as the type of content, length of the training, how often the content changes, etc. Here are a few items to keep in mind. Remember: these are just suggestions, and each training should be evaluated separately to determine the best approach.

Choose a Virtual Classroom when:

  • You have a complex topic that participants may have many questions about. The live facilitator or trainer allows questions to be answered on the spot.

  • You have content that changes frequently. In a virtual classroom, you will most likely be presenting a PowerPoint presentation. This presentation can be updated as often as needed, right up to shortly before the event.

  • You want learners to be able to discuss the content together and learn from each other. Many ILT activities can be converted into breakout sessions in virtual classrooms without sacrificing the loss of any peer-to-peer learning that may happen in person.

  • You don't have a problem getting learners together all at the same time. Be sure to take into account time zones (morning sessions for the west coast may fall during lunch time on the east coast).

  • You need to get the training converted to online as fast as possible. For virtual classrooms, your development will include the development of a presentation, facilitator guide, and training for facilitators and tech support.

  • You have content that is one hour or longer. When getting participants together, you need to make it worth their time. Virtual classrooms are typically about an hour long, but may sometimes be 4 or 6 hours long, depending on the need.

  • You have the resources to facilitate the training. Think about how often the training will need to be provided and to how many learners. Virtual classrooms require a lot of scheduling, as well as a facilitator and tech support. If you have training that needs to be offered on a continual basis, it may be best to consider eLearning.

Choose eLearning when:

  • Your content is straight forward and learners do not often have too many questions. If questions do come up, you may provide a way for learners to email questions to a specific subject matter expert or refer them to their supervisors.

  • Your content does not change often. eLearning courses require development, publishing and testing, so changes often take some time before rolling out updated courses. Courses are typically reviewed on a yearly or bi-yearly basis to ensure content is still up-to-date.

  • You have more time to develop the course. eLearning requires more time up front to develop, including a design document outlining the content and activities, a storyboard phase providing a mock-up of the course, and actual development of the course.

  • You do not want to worry about continual facilitation of the course. eLearning does not require scheduling or facilitators, allowing you to create the course, load it online, and not have to worry about too much follow-up. After launching a course, you may have to answer technical questions regarding the deployment and completion of the course, but this is often handled by an LMS administrator. You can also run reports to track completion and/or quiz scores.

  • You have many learners who may need to access the content at different times. If it's not feasible to get your learners together all at the same time, eLearning is probably the best option for you, as it allows learners to access the course whenever it is convenient for them.

  • You want to provide training in smaller increments. eLearning works best in short doses. eLearning can be as short as 5 minutes, or up to one hour, although we often recommend to break up anything longer than 30 minutes into smaller modules.

As mentioned previously, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a virtual classroom or eLearning course. Each training program should be assessed and evaluated separately to determine the best delivery mode. If you have a training program you're thinking of converting to online and would like to get some recommendations, fill out the contact form on my website. I'd love to provide you with some suggestions and help you choose the right format for your learners!