Is Classroom Training More Credible than Online Training?

Recently at a round-table discussion about eLearning in the Commercial Lending industry an interesting point surfaced periodically: “Why is classroom training perceived as being more credible than online training?”

I think that this varies a bit by industry (and commercial banking is not known to be pioneers in the latest technology) but many people believe that classroom training is the “best way”. E-Learning is acceptable as a “second-best” option but will not work as well as a classroom session. In fact the only reason why they may “settle” for an online solution is to save time and money.

Why does this perception exist?

Here are a few perceptions of Classroom training that might lead someone to think that it’s more credible (allow they might not be correct):

  • Paying for Flights and Meals: It can get expensive to bring participants into a classroom. Maybe this is seen as a vote of confidence in the classroom because a company is willing to spend money and time to bring employees in. Showing that they are willing to put out $$ may portray to employees that it’s important.
  • That’s how I Learned: Classroom sessions are how most people learned when they got their university degree. Online schools and degrees have not typically the same weight/prestige as traditional universities.
  • I’m Present in a Room: Participants are sitting in a room and I can see them. It must be better than them staring at a computer somewhere.
  • Yes…They Were There: A trainer can certify that a person actually arrived. Yes they had buns in a seat.
  • The Message Was Delivered: Management can ensure that a person stood up and told everyone what needed to be said.
  • Comments and Discussions: Participants have the opportunity to personally see and discuss topics with others. They can network and connect faces and names.
  • Online Training is Just Reading: Unfortunately some online courses are bad…they just put pages in an interface and let participants read. This was especially true in 5-8 years ago. Some people have never had a good learning experience with a true online course and don’t know the potential.

In the early days of eLearning it seemed that the goal was just to recreate the classroom in an electronic format. That is no longer the case. I think that the attempt now is to use the strengths of both.

Overall, my round-table discussion ended with a consensus that blended learning could really be the best of both worlds. Both online and classroom have inherent strengths and can complement each other in many ways.

What do you think? Is classroom training perceived as more credible and superior in your organization? Why or why not?


Discussion points from Training and Development LinkedIn Group:

“There could be a couple of reasons -

  1. More engagement and feedback mechanismThere is more experiential learning atmosphere
  2. The question asked and the answers discussed could open up a lot of perspectives
  3. There is more of the human connect, considering the fact that we are after all,flesh and blood of emotions
  4. Online learning is too straight jacketed”Dewalker Basnet

Point from Learning, Eduction, and Training Professionals LinkedIn Group:

“Bad training will always lack credibility while good training will always add value.

Whether it is delivered face to face or online is irrelevant……that is only the medium. I am assuming that professional trainers will choose the appropriate method.

Too many people are getting hooked up with the approach and they lose focus on the objectives, how to measure effectiveness, keeping learning pragmatic amongst other things.”Tony Park

Point from eLearn LinkedIn Group:

“Some of the arguments that classroom experience is far better is the ability to cross communicate in the classroom. I have found that if you present a problem or issue and engage the classroom in a groupthink experiment, you engage the students to come up with innovative and creative ideas. This in turn engages the attention span of a student in the classroom.” – Jason Miller

“Classroom learning is given more credibility than on-line/distance learning. I believe that the reason includes the greater impact information makes on the learner when more senses are involved in the learning process. In a classroom, learners have the opportunity to use tactile as well as clear visual and auditory stimulation. Discussions are more easily and naturally facilitated. Visuals and audio on line are fed through a medium which tends to “dull” them, somewhat like watching a play through a window. Tactile stimulation is not readily available.”Caroline Silver

Quickly build eLearning games and eLearning interactions. Works with your eLearning authoring tool. No programming needed.


  1. Well said.

    The last point, “online training is just reading”, may be the key factor. If and when this is true, it is not necessarily the online learning alumni that are to blame, but the course designers and tutors.

    Online learning is still new to most, and is often misunderstood. While online learning offers many new possibilities, sound principles of learning cannot be abandoned. Designing and administering a quality online course is a special skill, and one for which the guidelines are still being discovered. Pioneers are at risk of making mistakes, and one of these is simply forgetting that learner rapport and participation are as vital as ever.

    The bottom line is that online training cannot be guaranteed to be effective. But hey, neither can any other delivery method. In the end, it depends on the course itself, the way it is executed, and ultimately, how learners/participants exploit it for their own learning.

  2. I feel the classroom is definitely more credible and forceful than inline training. The personal presence of the teacher has great impact. Body language , voice modulation and facial expressions are vital.The trainer can help students with their individual problems . Online teaching is just a substitute.

  3. Nice piece.But I will take issue with Marie.

    I agree that online training can be perceived as “just reading” – we have had people say to us “Is it just click slides?”

    No training can be guaranteed to be effective – maybe the classroom trainers leave everyone with such a nice “warm” luvvy feeling that it MUST have done us some good.

  4. My former organization did both on-line and live training. I can easily say both were effective due to the ‘skills demonstrated’ element which occurred AFTER on-line training. Mentorship with discussions and demonstration of skills is a key element of effective training of any kind whether it’s on-line or live.

    With companies finding more effective ways to spend resources on-line training can be a very positive and less expensive tool.
    Yes, this requires attentiveness from direct supervisors to monitor the success of training, but shouldn’t that element be present any way?

  5. As a trainer, for years I have avoided offering on-line training because in any group of adult students (the only kind I teach) there will be some who try to monopolize the class and some who try to fade into the background. When I am physically present, I can help the former to be more of a constructive aspect of the group and draw the latter into discussions. I fear that with web courses, the more enthusiastic participants will feel less involved and the more reserved people won’t engage at all.
    This will make my training less effective no matter how much effort I put in and no matter how good the material.
    Having said this, I am about to do a webinar for the Ontario General Contractors Association (in a few weeks) and the interactive nature of this medium has me re-thinking the possibilities for participant engagement over the web.

  6. Wrong question! A better, but more difficult to answer question, would involve the variables of the content being taught and the learning style of the learners. The flaw in the logic of the question is viewing education and training as a product rather than a process. An asocial, linear, concrete learner who is being taught a linear subject (algebra, for example) might do well (even best) learning on line. As David Kolb points out, there are different learning styles, however.

    Then there is the concept of parallel process between the content and the method of teaching (or practicing what you preach). Teaching aspects of emotional intelligence, relationship development, communication or leadership online, for example, would not only contradict the content emphasizing rapport-building and the value of the relationship, it would significantly reduce the opportunity for experiential or action learning. Even in the Commercial Lending Industry, there is value in these subject areas. Limiting their training to e-learning would be comparable to teaching an adolescent how to drive from a book only.

  7. Thanks for the comment Rich. I’d agree that the question should go deeper however we often don’t have this luxury from our companies and/or clients. They are making snap judgements and have opinions one way or the other. I guess it’s up to us to help them understand the different pros/cons and variables. Thanks for the comment!


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