Face to Face vs online learning: Why is e-learning better?

Face-to-face learning vs online learning. What’s better? One takes place in person while the other takes place online. But besides the obvious, there are several key differentiators to consider when choosing between both learning formats. We’ll take a closer and highlight the unique benefits of each.

By Alexandra Hemmer on Apr 26th

What is online learning?

The meaning of online learning (or e-learning) is all in its name. It refers to any kind of learning that takes place digitally — whether it’s a corporate training program or a university degree. All you typically need is a stable internet connection and a device, like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Apart from that, learners can log on from anywhere.

Online learning can happen either synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous learning happens in real-time, like through a live training session on Zoom. An instructor is usually required to facilitate this type of learning environment. Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, doesn’t depend on the presence of an instructor, enabling learners to engage with their learning materials at their own pace, in their own time. This could be through recorded video lectures, an e-learning course, downloaded PDF resources.

Depending on your goals, you can tailor online learning to a wide range of learning styles.

What is face-to-face learning?

Face-to-face learning, by definition, takes place in person. This means both learners and instructors need to be in the same room at the same time to be able to engage with each other. As a result, face-to-face learning can only be facilitated synchronously.

The traditional classroom setup is probably the most familiar example of the benefits of face-to-face learning. This is where an instructor delivers a timed lesson as learners sit in the same room, taking in the content. Face-to-face learning could also involve group discussions or collaborative work with peers, so long as it takes place during the scheduled period at a set location.

Face-to-face vs. online learning

Besides where and how the courses take place, there are several important differences between face-to-face and online learning. They each come with unique benefits and challenges for learners. So, let’s compare face-to-face and online learning:

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Face-to-face learning

Online learning

Format

Learning can only happen synchronously since learners and instructors need to be in the same room at the same time. 

Learning can happen either synchronously or asynchronously through a variety of content types and teaching formats. 

Instructor

Unlike when online, educators are required in a face-to-face setting to deliver lessons in real-time.

An instructor isn’t required. Learners can engage with content on their own at their own pace. Instructors can still be available for any help learners may need along the way. 

Feedback

Learners can ask questions and get feedback in real-time since they’re in the same room as their instructor.

Unless they’re engaging in a live lecture or discussion, online learners can’t expect instant feedback. Instead, they’ll have to reach out to instructors via email or chat and wait for a response. 

Peer interaction

In a traditional, face-to-face classroom setup, learners can easily turn to their fellow learners and engage in real-time discussion. 

In an online setting, peer interaction is limited since learning is largely asynchronous. Still, any conversations take place through online mediums like discussion boards, video calls, or group chats. 

Assessments

Assessments usually take place in person in the form of quizzes or exams. An instructor is usually in the room, monitoring learners throughout the session. 

Assessments can take place in the form of online quizzes or exams. They can be timed or completed at the learner’s own pace. But the assessment is not place-based. 

Learning materials

Learners may be assigned digital or hard-copy materials, either to refer to throughout an in-person session or to engage within their own time before discussing the content together in person. 

Learners are assigned digital learning materials. These can be e-learning coursesrecorded video lectures, articles, or downloadable PDF guides they can engage with at their own pace. 

 

Top 5 reasons why online learning is a good choice

So, which style is better? Is online learning as good as face-to-face learning? Up until the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, most learning programs were occurring face-to-face. Since then, organizations around the world have had to move their classroom training programs online so learners could participate from home.

Now, the debate on comparing face-to-face and online learning seems more relevant than ever. Though each has benefits, we believe the flexible nature of online learning is more suitable for the future of corporate education. Of the several benefits of e-learning, here are our top five reasons why online training is better:

  1. It allows learners to study at their own pace

    E-learning makes it possible for learners to access content anytime, anywhere. When it comes to corporate learning, this flexibility can be especially appealing to employees with busy schedules; people who have other pressing commitments outside work. Not having to show up to a specific room at a set time means learners can have more control over their schedules and learn at a comfortable pace.

  2. It makes up-to-date content readily available

    We live in a world where knowledge is constantly evolving. When it comes to creating learning content, it’s important to keep it up to date so learners always have access to accurate information. Thankfully, online learning makes this process a lot simpler. For example, you could store your content in a Learning Management System where you can make changes or upload new content anytime without interrupting learner access. You could also use an authoring tool with LMS-light features. Easygenerator, for example, allows you to edit a course you’ve already shared with learners without having to share it all over again.

  3. Tracking learner progress is easy

    Many e-learning tools also provide analytical insight into your learners, like how long someone spent on a course or how many attempts they made at a quiz question. This can offer a more precise look at how much progress your learners have made. It can even help you decide whether you need to update your content or follow up with additional resources. Finally, it also allows you to share more meaningful feedback that resonates with your learners —something that’s harder to do just by glancing at their responses to a hard-copy quiz.

  4. It saves time and costs

    Face-to-face training requires a lot of resources, from the availability of a room to teaching utilities, and sometimes even refreshments. Opting for e-learning saves organizations time and money that would otherwise be spent on these resources.

    At the same time, e-learning enables a bottom-up approach to learning that isn’t possible with the formal style of face-to-face training: Employee Generated Learning (EGL). Under EGL, employees are empowered to create learning content themselves and for their peers. This saves the L&D department a significant amount of time, freeing them up to focus on other tasks that can’t be handed off to employees.

  5. It aligns with work-from-home needs

    Finally, the online nature of e-learning better aligns with today’s predominant work-from-home culture. Though the Covid-19 pandemic will eventually come to an end, remote work is here to stay, and it’s important for organizations to be equipped to facilitate high-quality e-learning.

With the right strategy and tools, adjusting to online learning can be a seamless experience. Our authoring solution, Easygenerator, is a user-friendly tool that anyone can use to create engaging learning content – even if they aren’t a trained instructor. When combined with an Employee-Generated Learning approach, an easy-to-use tool like Easygenerator opens the door to creating a scalable digital learning strategy.

Ultimately, it’s important to assess your organization’s unique goals before determining what steps you should take. If you aren’t convinced of the right fit between online versus face-to-face learning, you can also consider a blended learning approach that allows you to combine elements from both.

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About the author

Alexandra Hemmer is a copywriter at Easygenerator. Originally from Singapore, she spent her higher education years in the U.S. where she kickstarted a career in content marketing and journalism. She currently resides in the Netherlands, embracing her Dutch-Indonesian roots.

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