Online And Traditional Learning: Enemies Or Soulmates?

Online And Traditional Learning: Enemies Or Soulmates?
Summary: Online and traditional classroom learning both offer advantages and disadvantages. Read this article to understand how they can work together to provide a comprehensive L&D solution.

Online And Traditional Learning As L&D Solutions

Are online and traditional learning methods enemies or soulmates? Easy…the answer is soulmates. Next question! Only joking; that would be far too easy. Like most things, it’s dependent on industry, organization, and the type of learning. This article will break down the advantages of online learning, especially in our fast-paced digital world, and then discuss the advantages of the tried and tested classroom learning methods. This should help you know when to use which method.

The Benefits Of Online Learning In Corporate L&D

1. Flexibility And Convenience

eLearning grants employees an unparalleled level of flexibility and convenience, both in regard to learning style/pace and location. Firstly, everyone has different learning preferences. Broadly, learning styles can be broken down into eight types:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Reading and writing
  • Kinaesthetic
  • Logical
  • Social learning
  • Solitary learning
  • Naturalistic

eLearning platforms can account for a far wider range of these learning styles as learners have the flexibility to choose how they wish to learn. For example, if they are social learners, these platforms grant access to forums where communities can discuss what they’ve learned with one another, or if they prefer solitary learning, they can opt out of such forums. The only style that eLearning cannot accommodate is naturalistic unless the learning in question relates to technical, and technological skills. It also allows learners to move at their own pace and revisit the material as often as required which, again, accommodates a larger proportion of learners.

Secondly, flexibility is also granted in relation to location. The workforce is more fragmented than ever, with flexible, hybrid, and remote working all more prevalent than ever before. By introducing eLearning, employees can fit learning around their existing schedules. All of this flexibility means that people can learn at their own pace and on their own schedule, which can lead to greater engagement and retention.  A study by the UK Open University found that online learning can be just as effective as traditional classroom learning and can be particularly beneficial for working adults.

2. Cost-Effective

This geographical flexibility also allows organizations to extend their global reach more cost-effectively, supported by the eLearning Guild, which found that 42% of organizations have seen an increase in their global reach as a result of implementing online learning. As online learning can be accessed from anywhere in the world, which means that companies can offer training to employees located in different parts of the world without the need for expensive travel. This can foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture.

Not only is eLearning flexible, but it is also more cost-effective as it eliminates the need for travel, accommodations, and other expenses. Moreover, as materials can be reused and revisited, the long-term costs are also reduced, as supported by Nationwide, which implemented an eLearning program in 2018 and saved £3 million in the first year alone. Additionally, employee satisfaction also increased due to the convenience and flexibility conferred. Many business leaders appreciate this cost-effectiveness. The UK Learning and Performance Institute survey found that 77% of organizations believe that online learning is a cost-effective way to deliver training and development.

3. Personalization

Another core benefit of eLearning is how easy it is to personalize learning. Courses can be tailored to the needs and preferences of individual learners, which can lead to a more personalized and effective learning experience. A study by the UK Association for Learning Technology found that online learning can be used to create customized learning paths and adaptive learning experiences. By customizing the learning experience, employees can focus on the areas they need the most help with, which can lead to more effective learning outcomes. An example of this can be seen in a study conducted by Deloitte which found that personalized eLearning courses can increase retention rates by up to 60%.

4. Data Analytics

Finally, the data gathered, stored, and analyzed by eLearning platforms or LMSs means employers can gain a more comprehensive overview of their organizational learning. Through tracking learner progress and performance, employers gain valuable data that can be used to improve the learning experience and measure ROI. A survey by the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that 64% of organizations use data analytics to measure the impact of online learning on business performance. Moreover, this data can also guide further L&D decisions, strategic objectives, and even recruitment.

The Benefits Of Traditional Classroom Learning In Corporate L&D

1. Interpersonal Skills

Traditional classroom learning provides opportunities for face-to-face interaction and collaboration, which can help to build interpersonal skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. Soft skills are equally important, if not more important, than technical skills in the modern business world, so improving these whilst learning content is a win-win.

Moreover, classroom learning is especially useful for teaching interpersonal skills, which are particularly important assets in sales, management, and customer service. A study by the UK Higher Education Academy supports the finding that classroom-based learning is particularly effective for developing skills related to social interaction and communication. In addition, training these skills can also help boost employee retention. According to a study by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, employees who receive training in interpersonal skills are more likely to stay with their employer for longer periods of time.

2. Networking Opportunities

Traditional classroom learning provides opportunities for learners to network with instructors, peers, and industry professionals, which can lead to valuable connections and career opportunities. This is especially pertinent in our post-pandemic reality, where social connections, networking, and face-to-face conversations still have not returned to normal. A survey by the UK Institute of Directors found that 94% of business leaders believe that networking is an important factor in career success. Moreover, a study of 152 entrepreneurs in the US found those who engaged in networking activities were more likely to experience growth and profitability.

3. Hands-On Learning

Finally, traditional classroom learning gives people the chance to partake more in hands-on, interactive learning that is not possible in an online setting. This can include activities such as role-playing, games, and simulations which can help employees apply their knowledge practically and meaningfully. A great example of this at Masters in Minds is the Lego production line simulation. When teaching Yellow Belt Lean Six Sigma, the lead facilitator uses a fake Lego production line so participants get to experience putting the knowledge they’ve learned about lean processes into practice. This helps connect learners to the reality of these skills, improves social connections, and helps the principles stick in their minds. A survey by the Association for Talent Development found that 74% of employees prefer hands-on learning experiences, which suggests that traditional classroom learning can be a valuable option for L&D programs.

4. Loneliness

Loneliness is an increasing problem in the UK, with Jo Coz Commission stating more than 9 million people in the UK often or always feel lonely, which is roughly a fifth of the population. The impact of loneliness is vast, and BMC Public Health found this increased the risk of premature mortality, among various other physical and mental conditions. The exponential growth of technology has meant our lives are increasingly digital, again reducing human connections. Subsequently, loneliness costs UK employers £2.5 billion annually in sick days, high turnover, and low productivity.

Opting for traditional classroom training or a blended approach can somewhat mitigate this by encouraging members of an organization to interact, collaborate and learn together. Back in 2015, 16-24-year-olds and 65+ were the two demographics who spent the most time on their own daily. Since the pandemic, this has significantly worsened, with Youth Zone predicting that half of all young people in the North West spend their free time alone. Classroom-style learning could be used by organizations as a way to mitigate the loneliness partially caused by hybrid working and help integrate newer, younger members of staff into the team.


At the end of the day, when it comes to learning, we all have different preferences—some of us are visual learners, and others prefer hands-on experience. That's why online learning and traditional learning both have their unique advantages and choosing between them is hard. So why limit yourself when you can have the best of both worlds? Blended learning combines the convenience of online learning with the personal touch of traditional classroom learning. By harnessing the strengths of both methods, businesses can create a customized training program that caters to everyone's needs.

eBook Release: MiM LaaS
MiM LaaS
We help build smarter and more capable organisations with our blended learning solution designed to support an organisation's growth and strategy. We are your people partners!