At Legacy Business Cultures, we frequently receive calls inquiring about online learning options we have available for our workshops. While we do deliver elements of our courses online, we believe that there is no substitute for the kind of learning experiences that can only be achieved in the classroom.

The following are reactions from Sindy Warren, principal of Warren & Associates LLC and an Associate Partner of Legacy Business Cultures, and Paul Meshanko, President & CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, when asked about their opinions on the benefits of classroom vs. online learning for the courses they facilitate.

Sindy Warren states the following about why she feels live training is more effective:

The agencies and courts expect employers to have harassment and discrimination prevention plans, and an essential part of such plans is training. There are all kinds of training programs available. Employers can find all kinds of internet-based training sessions online. Video trainings abound as well. But in my opinion, live training is the way to go.

Several states have statutory requirements for harassment training. Those that do (e.g., California, Connecticut) require that training sessions be live. So does the EEOC, which requires live training in many of its settlements (see here for a recent example; a Florida hospital settled a disability discrimination claim and agreed to provide live training to its management personnel).

During live training, participants are also more likely to pay attention. They are far more likely to retain the information received. And a good trainer knows how to make sessions interactive, so the learning experience is more personal for participants.

The best platform for training is where an employer really seeks to inform, educate and empower its workforce, to make its culture as positive and productive as possible. Live training aligns with this goal in a way that watching people on a screen simply cannot do.

Paul Meshanko states the following regarding his opinions about online vs. live classroom teaching for soft-skills development:

Technology is great. In fact, I’m writing this post from a Mr. Tire repair shop (conveniently located next to a Bob Evans restaurant with a strong wi-fi signal). I could just as easily be participating in a webinar on how to do a better job pre-screening new employee candidates or improving the search rankings of our websites. But technology, like other educational “tools”, has its limitations… especially when it comes to learning and development.

The challenge is human neurology. Research supports that knowledge and skills related to tasks that can be executed independently of other people (such as how to interact with a new computer program) can be practiced and learned by our brains without direct interaction with other people. However, when the skills to be learned actually involve our interactions with other people or have a high emotional content (such as communication skills or inclusive behaviors), our brains struggle on their own to learn at the level required to change behaviors. This is because the learning itself is a by-product of participating in and  observing the complex, nuanced and multi-sensory interactions between live humans.

My suggestion, one that has served our company very well over the past 15 years, is simple. Leverage technology to its fullest when it makes sense. Online learning, webinars, etc. are terrific and should be part of every organization’s learning tool kit. But when it comes to enhancing skill sets critical for positively impacting the culture of your business (the “soft” skills), stick with live, face-to-face environments. Not only does this best take advantage of how humans learn, it also builds commitment to use the skills between the people who learn together.

Our approach at Legacy Business Cultures is to offer exceptional classroom training that allow our participants to experience learning in ways that can only be offered through live in-person interactions with our facilitators as well as other participants. However, we also utilize online courses as supplemental resources in order to help reinforce our training outside of the classroom. This blended learning approach has proven to be more effective than limiting our clients to one training method or another. We value highly the experiences and collaboration that can only be achieved in a live classroom and also see the tremendous benefit that online learning serves to help reinforce our training after the classroom experience is over.

Tell us in the comments, what methods of training do you prefer or see as more effective for organizational culture development?