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E-Learning vs Traditional Training: Which is better for your business?

6 min reading time

If you’re considering adopting a powerful e-learning platform to elevate your L&D programmes, part of the process will be assessing whether e-learning is better suited to your organisation in comparison to traditional training methods. For some businesses, e-learning supersedes traditional training, whereas for others merging the two through a blended learning strategy will best serve their L&D needs. If you’re unsure which L&D option is best suited to your business, keep reading as we run through some use cases and weigh up whether e-learning or traditional training is most effective.


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What is e-learning?

E-learning simply refers to the process of delivering training and educational materials via digital or electronic technology and resources. E-learning is often referred to as online learning as it is typically delivered via the internet and online platforms.

Examples of e-learning can be found in online courses, virtual classrooms or educational quizzes. Although some e-learning lessons can be delivered as one-off online documents, long term e-learning programmes require a piece of software or platform to support this. Many organisations look at platforms such as learning management systems (LMSs) or learning experience platforms (LXPs) to deliver e-learning courses and create an effective L&D strategy.

Read our full breakdown on some of the key L&D platform types here.


Examples of traditional learning

Most people have gained aspects of their education or workplace training through traditional training methods. Traditional training is typically based around face-to-face teaching in a physical setting - mostly instructor led and in a classroom environment.

Traditional training will typically take place at a scheduled time and specified place, with one or two trainers leading the training process through verbal communication with visual aids. While traditional training can be effective, it can be a mistake to rely solely on this method as it is not suited to all situations, and it isn’t always as effective as e-learning. In fact, 85% of learners say that their online learning experience was better, or at least equally satisfactory as their traditional face-to-face classes. With this in mind, let’s explore some L&D use cases and how traditional training or e-learning may be applied.


Practical learning

Some sectors and businesses may find certain job roles and training situations are best suited to a practical learning process, such as retail workers receiving on the job training. Practical training allows employees to experience what will be expected of them in their role first hand whilst utilising their critical thinking skills. Although hands on learning may be the most effective approach in certain situations, it isn’t always feasible. It can be impractical to ask team members to mentor employees and teach them by ‘doing’, taking time away from performing their own tasks. Additionally, if employees are learning from their mistakes on the job, this can result in costly errors – creating problems for other team members.

For businesses who see the benefits of a practical learning method, e-learning provides a more convenient solution than traditional training. With an e-learning platform such as an LMS, practical training can be implemented through scenario-based training. This type of training takes real-life situations that learners are expected to encounter and places them in a virtual training environment in which learners work their way through the problem by making decisions or answering questions.

Scenario-based learning or situation training via an e-learning platform allows learners to learn ‘practically’ and understand the consequence of their errors in a risk-free environment. What’s more, this type of training can be accessed autonomously, without the need for a mentor or trainer to be present.


Self-paced learning

For a large roll out of mandatory training, such as compliance training, a business may opt for traditional training methods such as a lecture style training session to ensure it is completed by the entire cohort in one go. However, employees will have vastly different skill sets, learning preferences, interests and schedules and, as a result, training en masse doesn’t yield the best L&D outcomes.

Not only is it logistically challenging to organise a time and place where employees can gather at the same time, but this type of training is also more impersonal and is less likely to feature proper differentiation which often results in low engagement rates.

When training is delivered via e-learning software, content can be better differentiated to match learners’ levels of understanding, and learners can complete courses in their own time, fitting it into their schedule when it best suits them and re-visiting content when needed. In fact, the biggest motivators for employees to choose online learning over traditional classroom based learning, are individual learning pace (95%) and minimised travelling (84%).

With an LMS such as Totara Learn, e-learning courses can be distributed to the relevant employees with a set deadline for completion. Automated notifications can be sent to those employees reminding them that training needs to be completed – achieving full training completion across the board without the need for face-to-face training sessions.


Training a remote workforce

With 1 in 5 Brits wanting to work remotely full-time, and more and more businesses opting for a remote or hybrid workforce, creating suitable training opportunities for remote workers has become a top priority for many organisations.

For businesses with remote workers, traditional learning methods are simply too impractical. Relying on traditional training in the form of a face-to-face staff training day would mean finding a location and time/place that suits staff along with hiring out a venue, paying for travel and organising a trainer.

remote e-learning vs traditional training

With an e-learning platform such as an LMS or LXP, employees can access the platform via their own personal user profile and complete training from anywhere and anytime – making it the superior choice for remote teams. Despite training being carried out remotely, an e-learning platform with robust reporting tools will provide L&D managers with insights into training completion rates, along with learner progress, results from assessments, and engagement rates.


Employee onboarding

It has been proven that 69% of employees who experienced great onboarding are more likely to stay with an organisation longer, so finding the most effective format to deliver induction training is essential. Larger businesses may see several new starters per month, each with their own unique skill requirements and job roles in various departments. This means that HR managers or L&D leaders will need to create an onboarding programme that is relevant and specifically tailored to each new starter. When delivered via traditional training methods, the onboarding process may require significant input from direct line managers or fellow employees within the same department but asking employees to take time out of their day to train new starters can lower productivity levels.

With an LMS such as Totara Learn, the intuitive hierarchies function allows a business to tailor induction programmes to each individual new starter using a predefined set of criteria such as job role or skill level. Training can be automatically assigned and completed without input from other employees and with the help of the hierarchies function training is relevant and personal to each new starter.

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Peer-to-peer learning

Many organisations see peer to peer or social learning as an essential part of employee training and team building. Social learning naturally occurs when groups gather in traditional face-to-face learning environments, for example when employees attend a training seminar. Although it may seem like the obvious choice for facilitating peer to peer learning, traditional face-to-face training environments aren’t always the best solution.

Face-to-face training sessions aren’t automatically the ideal environments for participants to flourish and develop as not everyone will have the opportunity to voice their ideas or share their knowledge. Additionally, when group discussions occur, it can be hard to keep a record of the knowledge that has been shared.

With an LXP such as Totara Engage, employees can engage in peer-to-peer learning by sharing content and ideas with fellow users via the platform, participating in group discussions via forums or discussion boards, and completing surveys and interacting with shared content through commenting or rating tools. For more information on why Totara Engage is the best option for facilitating social and collaborative learning, read our article here.


Creating fun, varied and engaging training

Although some businesses will argue that having a trainer or teacher present is more engaging for employees, traditional lecture style training can result in learner fatigue – particularly if training sessions last for several hours. Many businesses choose to deliver training via e-learning platforms because it allows them to offer more variety along with creating better opportunities to inject fun. When learning is more engaging, knowledge retention rates are higher, in fact, online learning may increase retention rates by as much as 60% compared to the 8-10% retention rate of traditional classroom training.

gamified e-learning vs traditional training

Using an e-learning platform such as an LMS means lessons can be delivered in a number of formats such as video, blogs, audio clips and gamified lessons. A study found that 67% of students found gamified learning more motivating and engaging than traditional courses, making it the perfect choice for businesses hoping to get more out of their learners. Using an LMS allows L&D leaders to create gamified training such as matching the word to the definition. Once completed, answers are automatically marked, scores tallied, and results shared with the learner and managers – with no manual admin needed.


Have businesses like yours chosen e-learning over traditional training?

After reading through this article, you should by now have a good understanding of whether your business’ L&D requirements will be best served by e-learning or traditional training methods. If you’re still unsure and would benefit from further guidance by exploring some of the ways other businesses and organisations have transformed their L&D with e-learning, read through our case studies here. Alternatively, if you’re ready to take the leap and see what e-learning can do for your business, contact one of our e-learning experts here.

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