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Are you wondering what you can expect from making the switch from face to face to online learning courses? All businesses are having to quickly learn how to harness digital power for training and development more broadly than before. 

Can online learning replace face-to-face? What are the pros and cons of deploying an online training strategy? How can you make this transition a sustainable success? Read on to answer these questions and find out the next steps in your own move from face to face to online learning.

What is online learning? 

Online training is the process of imparting knowledge virtually. When it comes to online training vs face to face learning, the main difference is where the training takes place. The term ‘online learning’ encompasses all learning that is conducted virtually, in an online setting. It’s basically any type of training that employees can do via a laptop, tablet or smartphone. 

What is face to face learning? 

Face to face learning is training that is provided in person, whether that’s a one-on-one session or in a group setting. This type of training is generally less flexible than online training, as it’s usually at a set time and place and cannot be accessed on-demand. 


Employees are keen to learn 

Most employees in recent times have been adapting to cope with the fast pace of modern working life. They are often busy and overwhelmed but still keen to learn; they value high quality content that’s personalized and relevant to their needs; and they are getting increasingly impatient and turned off by content and experiences that aren’t high value, relevant, and available when they want it.  

Never has this been more important than now. Modern working life for many has become even more fast-paced and overwhelming. With most of the workforce working from home and companies quickly reskilling and reshuffling roles, it is imperative that your online learning stacks up to expectations and ensures productivity. 


Online learning vs face to face learning in the workplace 

The biggest differences between online and face to face learning have always been in the realm of fostering connection and collaboration between learners. The loss that Learning and Development Professionals experienced with this abrupt stop of face to face learning delivery is this positive social impact. This is a valid concern. The importance of face-to-face interaction in education, for example, is vital. In-person social interaction has a richness that might feel hard to replicate in the digital world – but, when it comes to the corporate world, it’s not impossible.

Author: Dr. Awele Ohaegbu Emerging technology refers to innovative ways of doing things with the potential to be more widely adopted in scope, practice, and solutions. Most often than not, emerging technologies are not novel, yet to be fully adopted or in a state of flux. The aim of these tools is to provide a digitally driven approach through the Internet of Things (IoT), which involves objects that can process, exchange data, enable experiential interfaces and interactions. Some of these technologies include Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mobile Learning (m-learning), Adaptive Learning, Live Streaming, Wearable Technologies, Immersive Classrooms, Games, Simulations, Open Education Resources (OER), and Robotics. These learning methods, though perceived as the same, are actually very different in their learning accessibility, flexibility, engagement, and content delivery. Despite the very broad options in digital learning technology, there are encompassing limitations to these mediums of knowledge transfer, such as connectivity, speed, non-compliance of user interfaces due to rapid technical innovation, poor instructional designs, and switching from traditional teaching practices. A major tenet for the increased acceptance of emergent technology in learning, despite infrastructural, environmental and cost implications, is to achieve Smart Learning. Smart Learning refers to a multi-adaptive set of “possible spaces’ for teaching and learning. Possible spaces include mediums of communication, sensors, data exchange platforms, as well as learning and non-learning variables that can be modified to aid learning. Furthermore, a given set in every possible space will take cognisance of every knowledge activity, enabling precise adaptive actions in response to perceived learning realities. Smart learning converts learners’ capacity through the assessment of their strengths and weaknesses depending on learning objectives. How do you ensure you achieve your learning objectives in this era of rapid technological change? How do you know which learning method is ideal for each objective? Too many options to choose from, right? Well, depending on the type of knowledge being sought, learning objectives and purpose of seeking knowledge, engaging a learning consultant is the best bet for individuals and organisations to fully benefit from digital learning technologies effectively. Here are reasons why you should engage a consultant:
  • It eliminates the waste of time and the cost of trying out digital options. It is noteworthy to state that regardless of how appealing a digital method may appear, it may not effectively serve your learning needs or purpose. Your consultant will help you do a thorough content and context evaluation.
  • Professional consultants deploy their experience from previous clients to your advantage.
  • They pay more attention to adapting details such as instructional designs and experiential interfaces where applicable.
  • They can do learning analytics for you! Consultants can help neutrally track learners’ behavioral data, identify and recommend further interventions to achieve learning objectives.
  • Continuously monitor digital trends and gradually diffuse them into existing learning systems to avoid technological shocks from abrupt switches.

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Author: Dr. Awele Ohaegbu

Digital learning is knowledge that is enabled, facilitated, or mediated through technology for enhanced skills, training, and development (CIPD, 2021). It can be classified into formal, informal, and blended learning. Formal digital learning refers to the delivery of formal courses, usually for a fee. Informal digital learning is linked to knowledge sharing to support informal learning. Blended or supported learning is a combination of both formal and informal methods.

The COVID-19 pandemic spiralled a sharp switch with quicker adaptation to digital learning, as well as new technologies to support digital content such as micro-learning, user-generated content, and curated content. Other driving factors for digital learning growth include technological advances such as virtual reality-based learning, increased learner familiarity, and improved access to high-speed broadband. The disruption and recession caused by the pandemic have led to resourcing considerations of cheaper, faster, and shorter development courses for employees.

Furthermore, a prevalent requirement for employees’ upskilling due to organisational and technological changes has contributed to digital learning growth. Digital learning can also be perceived as an enabler of self-paced study patterns, giving it an edge over traditional classroom methods. According to Malhotra (2021), factors influencing knowledge interactions such as expert-based trust, organisational culture maintenance, employee autonomy management, and adequate feedback must be fully considered in virtual learning settings.

In summary, effective digital learning can be achieved through two key parameters: meaningful learning and mindful learning. Mindful learning entails the balance between interpersonal collaboration and technological mediation, while meaningful learning includes creativity, immersive teaching, and impactful engagement.


CIPD. (2021). Digital learning in a post-Covid-19 economy: A literature review. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Malhotra, A. (2021). The post-pandemic future of work. Journal of Management, 47(5), 1091-1012. DOI: 10.1177/01492063211000435

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