It's Not Either/Or If the popular press is to be believed, it won't be long before the world of in-person training events will have evaporated, having been completely replaced by online learning. Companies, they suggest, will no longer invest in classroom events. Work groups will "chat" but never meet.
Well, don't bet on it. In-person training will not only continue, it will grow: As technology explodes, skilled resources will be even more critical. As telecommuting and e-business proliferate, connecting on a personal level will be more meaningful, and in-person training will be even more valued. However, the shape and texture of in-person training will change dramatically. The catalyst will be online learning.
Distance learning tools have advantages that, in the right circumstances, can produce far superior results than traditional training. But the real power will be when new and traditional methods are combined. A synergistic, hybrid approach will evolve. Let me give you three examples.
*Leveraged, Not Eliminated. Online training will improve the value of the on-site experience. No longer will trainees arrive at in-person meetings with differing skill levels or lacking a basic understanding of the material. Instead, they will have taken a self-paced, online prep course. New employee orientation will begin at home, weeks before meeting your team. After in-person training, learning will be reinforced through virtual group work and enhancement classes.
*Just-in-Time Training. Days of training will still be required to learn complex skills, but those sessions cannot possibly cover every eventuality. Imagine an engineer faced with a specific server configuration being able to download a detailed, "customized" course showing exactly how to fix the system without making a single phone call.
*Skills 911. Imagine a world in which a skill could be "called up" at will. Suppose you are preparing for an important presentation to top executives and are looking for ways to make the greatest impact. Using your credit card, you access a mini-course, complete with animation and video. Fifteen minutes later, you have learned, from the expert, exactly what you need to know to leverage that big presentation, and your "emergency" training has jogged two additional ideas.
So get ready for a new tradition in training, one in which classic and new methods blend in a more effective hybrid approach. In the future, in-person and distance learning will never be far away.