It’s a fair question, but I have to say I was surprised by some of the answers offered. Some of the respondents seem to assume that the sole alternative to the face-to-face classroom is the lonely individual on the laptop, paging through an e-learning module which permits them interaction only with content.
I suppose that view is not all that surprising – as recently as 2011 , 41 percent of learning executives indicated they continue to use classroom training as the primary learning delivery method. Formal on-the-job training tied asynchronous e-learning for the second highest ranked instructional delivery method (18 percent), followed by synchronous e-learning (11 percent), text-based training (4 percent), satellite video (4 percent) and portable technology (1 percent). (See http://clomedia.com/articles/view/4078)
But wow, we’ve had online social learning modalities for a while now! Why are people so convinced that experiences have to be face-to-face to be social?
In an age in which most knowledge workers are required to communicate effectively with colleagues using email, documents posted to reference libraries, instant messaging, and even the occasional tweet or blog post, keeping the learning experience close to the task requirements really does mean having people interact online so that they can practice the skills they need on the job.
I am completely in sympathy with those who point to the myriad benefits of the face-to-face classroom. If only because of the years of training all of us have in how to learn in the classroom environment, ILT is frequently the most comfortable (if also the most expensive) option, and sometimes, it is also the best place to provide people with the opportunity to develop and practice skills around personal interaction. But it’s absolutely NOT the only option which gives learners a chance to learn from one another, nor is it the only one which provides for networking opportunities.
We have more effective ways than ever of blending learning experiences so that we can complement classroom interactions with exercises which encourage reflection and asynchronous discussions which encourage universal participation. Training effectiveness, now, more than ever, can be achieved by blending these experiences optimally–but only if we step away from black-and-white classroom-vs-elearning thinking in our course design.