A new white paper from TP3 entitled The Future of Face-to-Face Learning in an Increasingly Online World reviews the role of face-to-face learning in a corporate education profession increasingly impacted by technology.
According to the paper’s co-author, Jacky Morgan, “We’ve had the industrial revolution, the information revolution, the internet revolution and, now, the educational revolution with its many new, alternative channels of training delivery which can be perceived by some as substitutes for traditional classroom-based training."
“To paraphrase Malcolm Shepherd Knowles in his landmark book The Modern Practice of Adult Education, it’s not a case of either/or. Every delivery approach should be judged on its capacity to meet a learning outcome,” she says. “And when you look at it that way, the value of facilitator-led learning remains as profound as ever.”
Humans have an innate desire to share — to connect, collaborate and communicate up close and personal. Indeed, the birth of Western learning was a community of young Athenians who flocked to speak with Socrates, the first great Greek philosopher, at a place he called his Academy.
“Socrates refused to write anything down, and for him talking was far better than writing. Written words, he felt, couldn’t answer back. They couldn’t explain anything to his students if they didn’t understand them,” explains Jacky.
“Face-to-face conversation was much better, where he could experience the kind of person he was talking to and adapt what he had to say and how it was said so that his message was understood.”
Fast forward 2,500 years and how skills are taught, learned, measured, supported and managed have changed beyond recognition, even from only thirty years ago.
“With the rise of e-learning, mobile learning, just-in-time/just-for-me performance support, augmented reality and more, L&D professionals are expected to be not only learning experts but also fluent technology purveyors, charged with selecting the best fit-for-purpose and, as always, cost-effective solution,” Jacky says.
E-learning, for example, has enjoyed phenomenal growth and according to research by Global Industry Analysts its global potential is expected to reach $107 billion within several years.
“And yet that same research also says executive education programs are expected to continue to migrate toward hybrid online and face-to-face, facilitated programs,” Jacky says.
“The reason for this is that while there may be many ways to deliver learning, if the goal is top performance the method of learning that leaders choose to use can be as important as the content.”
The modern challenge
The modern challenge is to understand when and how to best integrate a face-to-face component.
“While there’s no hard-and-fast rule, if the issue is skill-based or attitudinal we find the primary learning approach will generally be instructor-led. If the issue is a lack of knowledge, learning delivery may focus more on online, performance support or distance learning,” says Jacky.
Several questions are posed in TP3’s paper to help readers understand when a facilitator-led, experiential solution should be selected. These include Is the desired outcome an attitudinal or perspective shift?; Are you looking for behavioural change around soft skills, or an improvement to an interpersonal skill such as negotiating?; and Are learners in need of direction, i.e. guidance, support and structure?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, face-to-face is likely to be the most appropriate, and therefore more cost effective, option.
“Online and distance interventions and learning communities in their many permutations are undoubtedly valuable, and will become even more so,” explains Jacky. “We’re all very excited at the prospect that new technologies are showing promise to increase levels of learner engagement — of which Socrates was so fond — in the online learning environment.”
Equally important, advances in the fields of neuroscience, peak performance, motivation, positive psychology, coaching and behavioural change shine a bright new light on the effectiveness of face-to-face learning.
“This is an exciting time,” Jacky adds. “Opportunities abound for L&D professionals to innovate and leverage the best modalities, from virtual classroom right through to augmented reality, in a continuum of approaches we believe can propel learning to the next level of organisational performance.”
To download the white paper, please click here.