Online education has been on the rise for the last decade, and the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated its widespread use in unprecedented ways, particularly for professional career advancement. Degree-based programs and expensive learning and development (L&D) initiatives are no longer required to foster an efficient ongoing training environment for those seeking career advancement.
Online learning has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, but the disadvantages alone are no reason to shy away from this education revolution. This approach is here to stay as a valuable additive. Without disregarding its limitations, from my vantage point as a leader in the online learning space, I believe that online learning for professional development is worth rooting for. I want to share a few notable reasons why.
Learners can work at their own pace.
Many learners and employees prefer web-based solutions due to flexibility: They can learn at their own pace by prioritizing topics and scheduling learning per their needs.
Every learner has their own learning methodology and life demands. Expecting everyone to digest information at the same rate ignores this crucial success factor. The pacing of in-person corporate learning solutions has been a gatekeeper for non-traditional learners, like those with family caretaking responsibilities or varied learning abilities.
A self-paced learning environment empowers employees to progress at their own momentum. In fact, web-based learning tools aid corporate training, requiring 40% to 60% less time to complete the same material. Employees can schedule when they want to learn, and time-consuming travel to training facilities is no longer required.
Self-paced learning, however, is not an ideal environment for all learners and should not be treated as a one-stop-shop solution. Online programs generally require a greater amount of reading to gain mastery. Without strong motivation for completing an online program, many learners may fail to utilize this solution. These added demands can be a hindrance and should be considered when selecting a web-based solution.
Online learning is cost-effective.
Online learning is, overall, more cost-effective for learners, educators and L&D teams. As opposed to in-person career advancement programs (which include costs of facilities, transportation, resources, etc.), remote education cuts costs drastically.
A study by Dr. Brent Peterson reveals that learning effectiveness is due to three factors: 25% of learning is from the learning event, 25% is from individual preparedness and 50% is from follow-up activities. However, companies invest 10% of training budgets on pre-learning event activities and only 5% on post-learning event activities. This means that 85% of training dollars are wasted.
For remote corporate learning solutions, the upkeep costs are far cheaper than in-person training events. Costs for management, travel and event preparation are reduced. Instead, teams can reinvest in real-world applications. Web-based solutions are also an excellent choice for smaller companies that cannot implement a full-scale LMS.
Of course, the success of an online learning corporate learning solution depends on the engagement of each employee. Cost-effectiveness alone does not guarantee learning success. These solutions do require a sustained investment. Some companies instead may opt to integrate web-based solutions as part of their toolkit rather than a wholesale replacement.
Online learning offers more variety.
The offerings of online learning are vast. Learners can access step-by-step instruction on a variety of career advancement topics that were once inaccessible. Most organizations lack in-person specialists for diverse subjects, preventing employees from learning the topics they need to succeed or expand their career internally.
With a web-based solution, the choice of subjects a learner can tackle is limitless, and L&D teams can easily curate specialized programs. Advances in official accreditations make it possible for learners to showcase skills and for L&D teams to track program completion.
However, variety alone does not guarantee quality. Many online solutions are not accredited to offer relevant training. Similarly, web-based solutions cannot properly substitute certain disciplines, particularly those that require hands-on practice (such as online medical education). L&D teams should be cautious while investing in web-based solutions to determine if it matches demands.
Online learning is accessible globally.
Learners from almost anywhere in the world can enroll in online programs, aiding organizations that manage multiple branches around the globe. Online learning systems make it easier to reskill employees at the same time, no matter where they are. Teams around the world can train on new materials simultaneously.
Online learning also opens the door for employees to relocate while attending web-based career advancement programs. A location-independent, technology-empowered lifestyle helps any company form a lasting web of global learners who can reclaim their lifestyle without sacrificing career goals.
The equity of web-based technologies, however, may still be a barrier for certain populations. While 73% of Americans own a personal computer, the rates of global computer/mobile literacy are far lower. For example, in India, a larger gap in computer literacy remains. Therefore, as L&D teams consider learning solutions, it’s essential to consider these barriers.
Online learning is agile
In 2021, companies need to be more flexible than ever. The economic crash last year revealed that companies succeed when they quickly respond with technology rollouts and reskilling strategies. Web-based enterprise learning programs support pivots like these, providing an agile solution to a fast-paced market.
An effective learning department must be agile, and web-based solutions make it easier to quickly produce relevant content. Web-based solutions can also be regularly pivoted to accommodate new market dynamics.
However, administration and management are crucial to the success of an online program. Unsuccessful implementation of an online program can inhibit growth. Organizations that do not have a solid foundation in online training, particularly for support, may suffer from poorly administered web-based solutions. Organizations should consider carefully if they have the proper resources and cultural adaptability.
All in all, online education is here to stay. It is a valuable additive to our enterprise learning methodologies and can make an organization more future-proof. Investing in online education is investing in an accessible future for all.