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Online Learning and Face-to-Face Contrast and Comparison

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Online Learning and Face-to-Face Contrast and Comparison

When personal computers were introduced into the workforce, they were used to automate and simplify many of our work routines. With the growth and population of the computer, it was natural for the automation of training to follow. Many trainers began to look for ways to automate training, and ways to move traditional training to the computer. This was the dawn of electronic learning, more commonly referred to as e-learning. With the invention and explosion of the Internet and web browsers, many organizations and trainers have taken and are taking advantage of technology. Accessing training via the Internet is called online learning. Even though there is a difference between e-learning and online learning, most people think of online learning as any learning that involves a computer, whether the Internet is involved or not. For the sake of this paper, online learning refers to all types of interactive training that uses the Internet. As online training has evolved, organizations and trainers have come to learn that there are many similarities and differences when compared to face-to-face or formal training. Organizations and trainers have learned that most, if not all, of the content delivered in a face-to-face training can be delivered in an online training. In order to achieve success with online training, trainers should fully understand what online training and face-to-face trainings are and the differences between the two. Trainers should also know the differences in online training preparation compared to face-to-face training preparation. Lastly, trainers should know the differences in facilitating online training. In quest of becoming a good trainer, one must take the time to understand these similarities and differences. As stated earlier, online training refers to all types of interactive training that uses the Internet. There are two types of online learning: synchronous and asynchronous. They both refer to the meeting time of the training. Synchronous training has a set day and time that the trainer and class participants will meet. With asynchronous training, the trainer and class participants do not meet at a set time. Asynchronous is self-paced learning that occurs over a period of time, as the participant’s schedule allows. Taking online courses at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is considered asynchronous training. Face-to-face training usually has a set day and time that the trainer and class participants meet. The trainer and participants are normally in the same room at the same time (McConnell).
Regardless of whether it is online training or face-to-face training, the success of the training largely depends on how well the trainer has prepared. In preparing for training, some of the preparation tasks are the same for both online training and face-to-face training. Some of those tasks are practicing the delivery, preparing trainer notes, arriving early to arrange the room appropriately, setting up the equipment, greeting the participants as they arrive, and creating a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Even though many of the preparation tasks are the same, there are differences in preparing for online training in comparison to face-to-face training. In online training, the trainer sets up a virtual classroom versus a physical classroom. In setting up the virtual classroom, the trainer must set up and test the communications tools, such as the internet, the telephone, and/or the computer speakers and microphone. The trainer must ensure the training software program is prepared, to include uploading all files and enabling the appropriate features. The trainer must also decide how to greet the participants, for example, say hello at the beginning of training or have the participants use the chat feature to introduce themselves prior to the start of training. When setting up the physical room for face-to-face training, the trainer arranges the table and chairs appropriately, physically confirms all equipment is working, to include backup equipment, and greets the participants with a smiling face as they enter the training environment. Facilitation skills, such as asking questions that spawn discussion, drawing participants into discussion, acknowledging participants for their participation, and overseeing opportunities for the participants to apply what they are learning, are required for both online training and face-to-face training. When it comes to facilitating online training versus face-to-face training, there are two major differences. The first major difference is during online training, the trainer does not see the participants, and in many cases, the participants do not see the trainer. Some trainers find that not seeing the participants and the participants not seeing them is awkward and disturbing. Being able to see the participants allows a trainer to feel as if they are in control of the training environment. To overcome the feeling of lack of control in the online training environment, it is recommended for trainers to familiarize themselves with the technologies that support online training. After doing that, most trainers slowly regain confidence and learn that there are ways to obtain the same results, as if they were seeing and watching the participants. Face-to-face training allows the trainer to see the participants. A trainer can observe the faces of the participants to see if they understand the material. The trainer can monitor the energy in the room and determine if it is time for a break or have the participants perform an activity to help increase the energy. The trainer may notice clues that helps determine if the pace is to fast or slow. The trainer can also tell if the participants are paying attention and if they are interested in the content. The second major difference in facilitating online training in comparison to face-to-face training is the technology used in communicating with and engaging the participants. Online training requires computer software programs that are specifically designed for collaboration between multiple participants. Many of the software programs contain features such as file sharing, break out groups, chatting or instant messaging, questions and answers, polling, and white boards. A trainer should take the time to study and learn the features of the various online training tools (Huggett). Becoming familiar with the features of the online training tools may assist the trainer with course creation, training delivery, and engaging the participants. In the past, technology in face-to-face training was simple. For the most part, you had to be familiar with the types of projectors. There was the overhead projector, used with transparencies, the video projector, and the slide projector. The introduction of the computer required trainers to become familiar with using computer hardware, such as the keyboard, mouse, computer disks, and compact disks (CDs). Many trainers had to learn software applications, such PowerPoint, Word, and Adobe. Today, trainers have to become familiar with smartboards. A smartboard is an interactive whiteboard that uses touch as its input device, in much the same way the computer uses the keyboard and mouse.
The growth in technology, specifically the computer, has allowed organizations and trainers to automate training. As a result, of the automation, trainers have come to realize that there are many similarities and differences in online training versus face-to-face training. Many trainers have come to realize that to become more effective, they must take the time to learn and understand the similarities and differences.

McConnell, D. (2000) Implementing computer supported cooperative learning. London: Kogan Page Limited.
Huggett, C. (2010) Common Features of a Virtual Classroom Software Program.

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