Learning management systems, MOOCs, gamification and other online tools provide customizable and interactive online training that makes learning available anytime, anywhere. But e-learning’s growing popularity is not a threat to traditional classroom learning. Classroom training hasn’t just survived — it’s on the rise.
Research and analysis firm Brandon Hall Group confirms this. In its 2013 Relationship-Centered Learning study, the firm reported a 5 percent increase in classroom-based learning in the past year. While not large, that growth is fueled by the successful, face-to-face interactions that classroom learning provides.
Classroom learning maintains its relevance largely because it’s the most effective medium to teach soft skills. These skills are crucial across multiple development areas. Research conducted in 2013 by consulting firm Millennial Branding and American Express Co. found more than 60 percent of managers agree that soft skills are the most important when evaluating an employee’s performance, followed by 32 percent who cite hard skills as the most important.
Further, many companies struggle to educate employees on complex soft skills such as adaptability, critical thinking, organization and collaboration — traits closely tied to common pain points related to leadership development and succession planning. This is why classroom training still has a place. It provides students with the opportunity to practice and receive feedback from an instructor who can observe and evaluate their performance in real time.
However, when students leave the classroom, if what they’ve learned is not put into practice quickly, knowledge retention becomes an issue. According to the University of Waterloo’s Curve of Forgetting study, students lose 50 to 80 percent of what they’ve learned after one day. This figure jumps to 97 percent after a month. But there’s a solution — integrate face-to-face and virtual learning.
Classrooms are optimal for soft skills training, and online learning and social collaboration tools extend students’ learning, make it accessible anytime, anywhere, and allow employees to share and learn from each other’s experiences in real time. This collaboration promotes knowledge retention because it facilitates on-the-job skill application, counteracting the 50 to 97 percent knowledge loss from classroom training without social reinforcement.
The most effective learning programs combine e-learning, social collaboration tools and the classroom. Doing so broadens students’ learning opportunities and engagement, and ensures that there will always be a place for classroom learning — especially if learning leaders continually find ways to improve it.
Chris Lennon is the director of product management for learning at SilkRoad Technology Inc., a talent management software company. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.