We are nearing the end of 2017, and many managers are making plans for training in the upcoming year. During this time of year especially, managers often ask me: What are my options for training employees, customers, and clients? How do I pick the best one? In this post, I give a summary of the most commonly used training methods and their features.
On-the-job training (OJT) is one method, which dates to early work apprenticeship programs. OJT is typically one-on-one training at the site where work is performed. The trainee watches another skilled person (a “trainer”) who demonstrates and explains. OJT is often inexpensive and realistic because it takes place on the job. However, it takes the trainer (and other resources) out of production while it occurs. When the trainer isn’t skilled at teaching, this approach can be highly ineffective.
A second method is classroom training. Training occurs away from work – in a classroom, conference room, or other location. Classroom training can use lecture, discussion, and audio-visual materials, and participants interact face to face. Web-conferencing technology can support delivery in virtual classrooms. Virtual classroom training uses features such as breakout rooms, hand-raising, and video to simulate face to face interaction. Regardless of whether it is in person or virtual, a trainer leads the delivery experience for the group.
According to the 2017 ATD State of the Industry, 88% of organizations use the third approach – E-learning. Definitions of e-learning abound, but I prefer the definition used in this article:
A good, broad way to think about e-learning is as the use of electronic devices (computers, tablets, or phones) to deliver educational or training content to learners.
Part of e-learning’s popularity is because of the benefits. To name just a few, e-learning:
- is available anytime, anywhere
- can track learner progress
- teaches consistently and at a lower cost
- is easier to maintain and distribute when changes occur
I said earlier that e-learning definitions are numerous, and some people consider virtual classroom training as a form of e-learning because they are both enabled by technology (the “e” in e-learning, if you will). To me, the distinction is that virtual classroom training has a set place and time, and the learner typically has less control over the pace and sequence of the experience. In e-learning as I think of it, learners have more control over when and where learning occurs.
I should also mention that blended learning is also a viable and increasingly popular delivery method. As the name indicates, this approach combines multiple delivery methods to teach a topic. For example, a program might include a few e-learning courses, followed by a classroom training session, followed by on-the-job training.
That’s the landscape of common training delivery methods used in organizations today. Each has a rich history and are proven methods…when designed and implemented well.
But which is the right method to choose? I’ll tackle this question in part 2 of this post.