Digital is everywhere:

most of our records are now stored on a cloud; we use electronic personal assistants in our homes; we can buy groceries from our phone; and we can even talk to a doctor online.  It seems inevitable that everything will soon be digital – but the question remains if online is always best.

When it comes to workplace learning, digital may seem the obvious way to go. You can connect your colleagues from different offices directly through the computer, avoiding the costs of transportation and lodging. You can ensure that all your employees, regardless of their time zone or location, get the same material. From both a time and a money perspective, switching to digital learning in your organization seems like a no-brainer. However, if something seems too good to be true, then it usually is.

Engagement is one of the cornerstones of effective learning. Learning doesn’t happen by osmosis, meaning that individuals don’t learn just by hearing or seeing information. In order to learn, people need to be engaged in their material and work actively to understand it. The more complex the material, the more this is true.

Engagement in the online classroom

The issue with online learning is that it is too easy for students to be disengaged. Even in the best of cases, it can be hard to hold student engagement in the classroom high: the instructor needs to be pedagogical and have a high EQ in order to properly gauge what the students know and adjust their lesson accordingly. If students feel that the subject matter is out of their grasp they will likely disengage and spend the rest of their time daydreaming instead of learning.  The role of the instructor is therefore crucial to ensuring that the material matches the students and that engagement is high.

Online, the instructor can’t gauge the mood on the digital classroom – they can only send out information in hopes that the students understand. Even in the best online digital training, where instructors use forums to discuss ideas, or the training is made interactive through quizzes and polls, measuring student learning and engagement and adjusting accordingly is almost impossible.

What do classrooms have that online lacks?

Dialogue is one of the best ways to capture engagement – the instructor and learners should speak with each other and evaluate what they know and understand, where they have informational gaps, and where the class should start the learning process. Learners should be able to speak with each other, learn from one another, and go on a collective journey of discovery.  By being in the same room as the learners, the instructor can facilitate an ongoing discussion and properly evaluate what the learners do and don’t know, thus being able to properly evaluate the level of the teachings.

If the material is too easy, students will find it boring and disengage. If the material is too difficult, learners will consider it to be out of their grasp and also disengage. Creating an engaged learning environment requires that the instructor can properly evaluate the learners’ capabilities, and this is best done in person.

But isn’t digital learning cheaper?

Though digital has many advantages, such as saving time and money for your company, there’s one big catch: your people likely won’t learn as much via online training as they would in person. When it comes to complex concepts like business finance, supply chain management, and managing change, in-person learning is best. It keeps the learners engaged, allowing them to maximize their learning and take their learnings back to the workplace.  So, though digital learning may be a cheaper investment, you will likely also find that in many cases, the results of a purely digital workplace learning session are much lower than of an in-person training.

Celemi’s board-based experiential learning solutions are centered around working in teams, to maximize engagement and learning capacity. By working together with one of our expert facilitators, participants in our simulations make huge gains in their financial acumen and big-picture understanding of their company. By having participants work in teams to compete against each other in one room, we are able to leverage the energy of competition to leverage new understandings and breakthroughs in knowledge. We also offer digital solutions to compliment our classroom simulation experiences and maximize learning.

Contact us if you’d like to hear more about how Celemi’s business simulations can help you.