The question of whether e-learning is replacing face-to-face training is one of the burning questions of the moment in corporate training departments around the world.

Organisations are looking for ways to maximise the effectiveness of their training while reducing costs.

Samantha Caine, client services director at Business Linked Teams, says e-learning can help firms address the challenge of rolling out desired behaviours and skillsets consistently across global workforces.

“Organisations need an approach that can overcome language barriers and cultural differences and help them deliver their global business objectives,” she told BusinessCloud.

“What they don’t need are unproven approaches that lean too heavily on new ideas, or old approaches that are no longer effective in today’s global marketplace.

“It’s possible to train sales teams and future leaders of global organisations with e-learning and the rationale for pursuing this path is clear.

“Firstly, training departments are increasingly challenged by the business to deliver development programmes that are more efficient in terms of both from cost of the training and the cost of the employee time for each training participant.

“Secondly, there is a strong demand from workforces for training that effectively embraces the technology that they have in their hands. The training must reflect the ways in which workforces have become accustomed to using this technology, taking in short, sharp inputs of information in a ‘just in time’ manner.

“Thirdly, online solutions have plenty of appeal for organisations rolling out technical training. It’s true that some processes can be learnt better online, especially where there are only ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of doing things.”

Studies have found that e-learning typically requires 40 per cent to 60 per cent less employee time and increases retention rates 25 per cent to 60 per cent.

But while e-learning can support organisations in adopting a stronger, more efficient approach to employee development, Caine says that one of the seven principles of human learning is that it is enhanced through socially supported interactions.

It is this type of interaction that is important for the development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self.

“Soft skills such as communication, teamwork, positivity, confidence and behavioural training need the interaction that takes place in more traditional face-to-face training programmes,” she explained.

“When it comes to implementing behavioural change or the development of soft skills, training content needs to more job, business and customer specific, so much so that generic programmes cannot provide the right depth of knowledge or the skills that organisations need to achieve a real competitive advantage.

“Face-to-face workshops provide the ideal environment to allow people to network, fully engage and focus on a particular topic as well as have the opportunity to discuss their own challenges and collectively find solutions together.”