Online learning and training have become significant enablers that continue to grow in value for both businesses and their employees. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to online education was in motion: one study shows that the number of students taking online courses was growing five percent annually.
This expansion will continue to rise in the coming years, especially as businesses continue to see the positive impact and benefits of online training and learning on their workforce and bottom line.
Online learning and employee education
Let’s start by quickly covering some of the basics.
What is online learning?
Often referred to as distance learning, eLearning, or online education, online learning allows students the flexibility to learn at their convenience and allows employers to support employee growth. The term online training also falls under this greater category of learning.
While online learning has fewer in-person interactions, it encompasses many of the same benefits of on-campus options plus more, including high-quality education programs and a focus on student success.
Online learning vs. hybrid learning
Typically, online learning is done asynchronously, giving learners the freedom to access course materials and conduct their learning at their own pace and on a schedule that suits them.
On the other hand, hybrid learning combines both online learning and traditional in-person instruction. In a hybrid learning setting, learners attend some portions of their classes in person while completing other parts online. This approach provides opportunities for face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers.
Online learning vs. virtual training for employees
While often used interchangeably, online learning is slightly different from online (or virtual) training. Online training, also referred to as eTraining or virtual training, is learning that happens for a specific job. For example, if you recently hired a customer support representative, they may receive online training for the responsibilities of that specific job, such as how to use help desk software.
Online learning refers to any educational activity for the workforce. This includes continuous learning programs, cross-functional learning, professional development and more. An example would be a salesperson wanting to expand their knowledge of marketing programs and taking an online marketing course for personal learning.
Online learning is advantageous for employers who are looking to engage their employees, build a resilient workforce, promote diversity and inclusion and grow their businesses.
Benefits of online learning in the workplace
Below are highlights of how online education can deliver these four advantages and benefits.
Benefit of online learning and training #1: It helps employees stay relevant in a fast-paced world
With online learning and training, companies enable employees to pursue education from the comfort of their home, during their lunch breaks and on their own schedule. Online learning gives employees the opportunity to learn new skills that are imperative and relevant for the workplace.
Benefit of online learning and training #2: Provides accessibility
Online learning’s flexibility also gives employees the opportunity to learn and grow, no matter their education level. From pursuing a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree to learning a new skill set, there are online programs for every employee and their unique career aspirations. Also, online learning allows employees to engage in courses globally, without physical barriers.
Benefit of online learning and training #3: Helps employees develop soft skills
Online classes utilize active learning practices, including video conferencing, instructional videos and interactive webinars. Students are able to engage with professors and other students, as well as collaborate on group projects virtually.
Through active learning and virtual collaboration, employees can develop soft skills for the professional world. As employers increasingly embrace remote working, it’s important for employees to have the communication skills and tech-savviness to navigate a virtual working world.
Benefit of online learning and training #4: Leads to employee success
In a recent study, 47 percent of employees stated that their extra training and education helped them advance within their current company. Furthermore, lifelong learning helps employees feel more capable and well-rounded, increasing their overall confidence in the workplace.
Online learning for employees is the way forward
Online learning and training is being adopted at a rapid rate for these reasons and more. This trend is expected to grow amid a worldwide virtual learning movement as businesses continue to see the positive impact and benefits of online education on their workforce. Online learning gives employers the opportunity to upskill and reskill, as well as engage their workforce, leading to sustainable business growth.
A good first step is to choose a trusted, top-tier academic network with a demonstrated history of online learning success for working adults helps ensure strong outcomes for employees and impactful results for your business.