Is ‘The Trouble with Online College’ Relevant to Professional Online Learning?

Monday’s lead editorial in the New York Times, The Trouble with Online College, noted that one of the main challenges to online college learning is that “courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed.”

It made me wonder if that same barrier might be apply to online learning in the work context as well.

Without a doubt, online learning has become increasingly adopted as a support part of traditional classroom training in business, for both new and veteran employees.  Whether through online formal courses, collaborative learning, utilizing mobile devices, videos and more, there is no question that CLOs are more willing to adopt training techniques that are distant from the classroom and office.  Employees are encouraged or required to do research out of the office, either alone or working together or with others.

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There are of course other challenges to this strategy – obviously, employees would need sufficient access to computer technology and mobile devices outside of the office.

Yet beyond that, does the challenge mentioned in the New York Times editorial apply to employees in online training as well?  In any environment, whether in school or professionally, there are a diversity of talents, personalities, and performance levels.  Included in that, there are some workers – both new and veteran – who are self-disciplined and independent, while there are many people, some who are simply unmotivated, but also including highly-motivated, top-level productive workers, who need simply require close management and a traditional “work atmosphere” that the office provides in order to fully focus and grow.

In our workplace, there is no denying that there are those more ‘fit’ than others in being able to teach themselves without close and constant monitoring.  So with that said, does adopting, at least in part, at online learning strategy in training programs have to be done carefully?  Can we interview new trainees (or if they are veteran employees, to simply know their level of independent productivity) prior to the training method being determined in order to determine if they will succeed in ‘out-of-the-office’ training?  Or should managers simply have to accept that in an age of mobile technology, and limited budgets for classroom training, that the ability to work independently or not should be a key determining factor in the employees that they can work to begin with?

I would love to get your thoughts on this topic.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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