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Justifying the Need for Classroom Training

We’ve all seen it happen. 

A company-wide email goes out announcing a mandatory, instructor-led training and a familiar chorus of groans silently makes its way through the cubicles.  “Why can’t they just email the information?  What a waste of time!”  As a training and development professional, I could easily take offense to this response (I’m crying on the inside), but I know that too often the sentiment is justified.  While e-learning might seem like a more effective, efficient solution to many employees, I’d like to offer the following defense of classroom based learning.

1.)  Classroom based training gives the learner more control-  Yes, you can sit at your desk and listen to a presentation on sales figures and forecasts, but the e-learning environment is limited to what the instructor has decided is important.  If you have questions that are specific to your position or department, the classroom setting provides room for open dialogue and collaborative solutions.

2.)  Classroom based training eliminates many distractions- Ever tried to sit through an online course while your Twitter feed stares at you from your second monitor?  I have, and Twitter wins every time.  Sure, you can be distracted in the classroom, but by eliminating the constant interruptions of e-mail, annoying office mates, and Instagram, you are more inclined to focus on the material being discussed.

3.)  Soft-skills are more effectively taught in the classroom- If the goal of a training session is simply to convey a knowledge based message (i.e. manuals, policies, procedures), then classroom based training might not be the way to go.  If, however, the goal is to facilitate soft-skill learning (i.e. customer interaction, team dynamics, personal growth), then learning alongside your peers is much more effective.  Soft-skills are often subjective in nature and e-learning is simply unable to capture the full scope of interpretation around these concepts.  Instructor-led training allows for a healthy exchange of ideas and push back when inevitable disagreements arise.

4.)  Classroom based training provides opportunity for message ownership- One of the reasons classroom based learning gets a bad reputation is stylistic preference.  If you work for a company that sends the obligatory HR guy to lead every training, it’s no surprise that people despise the sessions.  Instead, try tasking an entire department or another individual to create and deliver the training.  Not only does this meet the demand for diverse teaching styles, it also gives a feeling of ownership to the person or department in charge of delivering the message.  E-learning is owned solely by the individual’s trained in Captivate or Articulate.  If those two programs mean nothing to you, then you have no ownership of the e-learning message.

5.) Contrary to popular belief, instructor-led training can be enjoyable- Listen, I have sat through my fair share of training classes that have been mind-numbingly boring.  I’ve seen presenters who should have never been given a platform.  But I’ve also been motivated to action by eloquent, well prepared, and passionate instructors.  I’ve walked away from a classroom experience with new ideas, invigorated passion, and high hopes for the future of my company.  If the right people are leading the session, it can change everything.

At the end of the day, training and development is dictated by the business need, but sadly, this all too often takes on the form of efficiency over effectiveness.  There is room and necessity for both e-learning and instructor-led training in the professional world and we would do our employees a disservice if we always choose one over the other.