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The Pros And Cons Of Digital Learning

African American girl looking at digital tablet

A recent report from by the CMI and Oxford Strategic Consulting highlighted how attitudes to online learning have started to shift in the workforce. Many employees now believe that companies choose online learning methods as a way of cutting costs rather than as a smarter alternative to traditional classroom learning.

Gil Mulders, the head of learning at InterContinental Hotels Group, was speaking last month at the 2017 HR Tech World Conference in London, where he touched on the difficulty of finding the right balance between teaching methods.

“Emotion is key and you can’t deliver that digitally,” he claimed, before going on to say that global digital learning, however, can still play a role in helping companies achieve business objectives.

To help you to decipher which avenue your company should be heading down in the future, we’ve rounded up six simple pros and cons to online and offline learning that are worth taking into consideration:

Pros

Cost.

Over the long term, the cost of learning online is considerably cheaper than a classroom-based environment for both students and employers. Not only is there no travel costs involved but also the number of students that an online course could reach is potentially unlimited.

There are a number of different types of online boot camps, from one on one tuition all the way through to self-paced tutorials, which can dictate the level of investment a company may have to make into a digital learning venture.

Flexibility.

Many online courses offer a person the chance to study part time, leaving them free to learn whilst being in full-time employment.

This option makes it much easier for employers to upskill their own workforce without reducing the productivity of their employees.

Adaptability.

The world changes on a daily basis, with technology, and as a result, history, evolving constantly. This can make certain parts of traditional classroom materials, such as textbooks and worksheets, obsolete overnight.

Thankfully, online learning resources can be continually adapted, not just in terms of content but also in its ability to utilise the latest equipment to make learning more engaging.

Cons

Industry fit.

It’s hard to get away from the fact that certain industries are better suited to online learning than others. Positions that involve a hands-on approach very rarely translate into an efficient online learning experience.

While the construction sector, for example, does benefit from the fact that many employees can take online licenses, there are few jobs in the industry that can be taught without the ability to put theory into practice.

Lack of Networking.

One of the main benefits of learning in a classroom-based environment is that students have the ability to bounce ideas off one another. This social learning not only improves communication skills but also helps them get used to working in a team environment.

At the other end of the spectrum, online learning is very much still an independent learning experience. While some courses do offer tuition guidance and online message boards, it fails to compare to a real world learning environment.

Relevancy.

Despite a boom in online courses over the last ten years, very few employers or students tend to view online qualifications as comparable to traditional learning qualifications. This largely due to the fact that the relevancy of any online course could be called into question, especially when compared to a university degree, which is much more likely to cover a broad range of useful topics.

It’s not all bad news, however, with many sectors related to the digital field embracing the online learning culture. Online websites that promise to teach people how to code, such as Coder Camp, for example, have proved incredibly successful, with nine out of ten graduates finding a position relating to the field within 90 days of completing the 12-week course.


Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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