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Blog Article

Online Training and Learning – the Pros and Cons

Friday 7 November 2014

Author: Marc Gardiner, CEO of IASeminars

Within a few years, the way we learn will not be the same as today. The following factors are causing the education world to change:

  • Pervasive use of the internet in all aspects of our lives
  • A blurring of the distinction between our home, work and study environments
  • An increasingly positive attitude to lifelong learning
  • Increased costs and risks associated with travel, and a reluctance to spend that time

As a result of these factors and others, schools, universities, government and private enterprise are increasingly recognising the potentially significant benefits of online training and e-learning. Education via a computer saves time and money all around, but also has some drawbacks.

Online learning is cost-effective. It eliminates the requirement for a physical space in which to meet for learning purposes, it also eliminates the need for travel in order to study, and its flexibility optimises the use of both personal and business time. There are also other advantages arising from the global nature of the internet, which means that online learning can draw from a much larger pool of instructors and participants. These factors generally mean that online learning is cheaper than its face-to-face equivalent, and that larger numbers of people can be trained at a lower cost.

Online learning is convenient. The internet provides participants with cheap and easy access to knowledge at a time of their choosing, and is not affected by differences in time zones, issues with the weather, public holidays, industrial disputes, the flu and school holidays. Online classes can be offered in real-time, or else recorded in advance which gives participants the opportunity to study at their own pace, stopping and starting when they wish. Participants can learn whenever they take the time & in their lunch break, in the evenings or over the weekend & without the need to leave work or home. They can even use their mobile devices to learn whilst on the subway or at the airport. In a virtual class, some might be studying on the other side of the world whilst others are asleep in their beds.

Online learning can be fun. It is probably more comfortable than sitting in a classroom for hours and days, and you can wear what you like! E-learning can incorporate innovative and entertaining techniques using the rich variety of audio-visual tools available for delivery via the internet & it can even be made to look like an online game.

The major drawback to all this is that the human-to-human element may be vastly reduced. Centuries of classroom learning seem to have worked well enough, and there is much to be said for sitting with a peer group and learning from an expert who is instantly available to answer questions and engage in face-to-face discussions. Carving out the time to attend a seminar or conference, and devoting one's attention to that matter and nothing else, has significant merit. Business is after all a human activity, and we have probably all made interesting new contacts over coffee and lunch at an event. Online learning can try to reproduce this wherever possible & by having forums for discussion, or a support desk with email response etc. & but cannot entirely replace that valuable human element. In fact, it can be a little lonely to study online by yourself, and perhaps (like me) you are easily distracted!

Another significant concern is the variable quality of virtual presentations, ranging from simple online posting of PowerPoint slides and Word documents to a sophisticated and entertaining audio-visual experience that would put Hollywood to shame. The quality of the online learning provider is therefore as critical in the virtual seminar as it is in the live equivalent& if not more so.

A further concern is the limitations of technology. All participants in a virtual class or seminar need to have a minimum level of internet-connectivity and hardware, which may be a challenge in some environments. Something as simple as a power cut or a pc failure can halt the online learning process.

IASeminars has been in business for over 12 years. Since we started,more than 15,000 participants from some 2600 different organisations have come from 140 different countries to attend over 1300 live events designed, organised and delivered by IASeminars.

However, we are not a 20th century dinosaur! From some years already, we have been working on our e-learning offering, which already comprises 6 different online courses led by our specialist instructors and covering topics in IFRS, US GAAP and IPSAS (in English and in Spanish). These e-learning courses are designed to replicate the IASeminars classroom experience as closely as possible, with participants working through the same materials and communicating through a virtual chat room. We also have ambitious plans to build many more online courses in the future (including self-study, webinars and other e-learning options), and also to offer online testing and certification as part of that process.

If we can help as you consider the relative costs and benefits of online financial training, please contact us. We would like to hear your thoughts and questions!

About the Author

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