The Benefits of Distance Learning for Employers
Investing in staff training encourages employee engagement and motivation, yet costs time and money - luxuries many businesses simply cannot afford. With increased budget cuts and time constraints, how can organisations deliver training effectively? Dave Snow explores the Benefits of distance learning and how this can offer a valuable solution to both employers and employees.
Traditional training - drain on time & resources
In research conducted by Home Learning College, 50% of senior decision makers indicated that cost is the primary barrier to delivering staff training. A further 18% cited the inability to offer training leave and the administrative burden of such activities.
Distance learning - a solution to the problem?
Any ambitious staff member worth their salt will be aware that they need to invest in their own development, which may mean assigning personal time for study. However, as of April 2010, workers in organisations with more than 250 employees have the right to request time off work to undertake training. This legislation falls under Section 40 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 and will be extended to all employees irrespective of company size from April 2011.
What are the Benefits of distance learning?
Without doubt, one of the main advantages of distance learning is the significantly enhanced level of flexibility.
Choosing a training provider for employees
If there are specific qualifications that you would like your employees to gain, then it makes sense to select a preferred supplier who can offer discounts on bulk purchases. This will also allow you to benchmark performance, as all trainees will be exposed to the same quality of teaching. If the training is more ad-hoc, then you could invite employees to choose their own courses with the proviso that you will evaluate the provider beforehand.
Research success ratesMany distance learning providers offer access to a range of online resources, such as forums, instant messaging and virtual classes. These tools mean that students can experience as much a sense of community and dedicated tutorial support as those who attend traditional face-to-face classes. The value of such developments is clear: a third of adults advise that it is very or quite important for them to be able to interact with a community of likeminded students studying the same course over the internet.
You should also benchmark the pass rates of your chosen provider against the national or international standard for that qualification, which are usually available from the awarding body. Research has shown that distance learning performs well when compared with the grades and pass rates achieved through classroom-based education. A recent US-based study showed that 62% of chief academic officers rated learning outcomes for this type of instruction as the same or superior to those for face-to-face instruction.
Not all distance learning courses are the sameIf you're considering distance learning for your employees, then you may be interested to hear that this broad phrase encompasses a range of teaching methodologies. For example, it's useful to be familiar with the terms ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’ learning. The former requires the teacher and student to interact simultaneously and may involve web seminars, phone calls and video conferencing. In contrast, asynchronous learning allows students to complete work at a time of their choosing.
Distance learning can be facilitated by a tutor or un-facilitated, where the student is entirely independent. It can also take place online or offline, with the latter including mobile technologies. Some courses even combine these techniques with varying levels of face-to-face teaching to offer a blended or mixed approach.
Different types & methods of learning
Bearing these variations in mind, it becomes clear that distance learning can vary from just a printed course book to a fully interactive experience, with knowledge transfer becoming more effective as the learning model increases in sophistication:
What method you choose will depend on the complexity of the information you wish employees to absorb. The more involved or technical the course, the more support staff will require to complete their studies.
Distance learning - the modern way
Having considered all these factors, it becomes obvious that distance learning has much to offer as a training method when compared with the rigid structure of classroom-based teaching. This truly is learning for the modern age and is only predicted to grow in popularity as the mainstay of workplace training.