Pros and Cons of Online Learning
Pros and Cons of Online Learning
As a training and workforce development company, we often get asked why organizations should train their employees with us online instead of using the traditional method, in person, in a classroom. I am the head of professional training programs and a self-proclaimed learning guy. I enjoy the opportunity to debate the efficacy of online learning. It has long been decided that students learn as much or more from online learning as face-to-face learning. So, assuming it’s true that the learning can be the same or better when delivered online, what features of online learning drive preference?
First, let’s define online learning. For many, online learning means a link to a recorded lecture, for others, it’s a live webcast of an instructor in a classroom. For us, it’s a comprehensive learning system including interactive live and recorded lessons, assessments, study tools, and more. Now a look at the pros and perceived cons of online learning.
Online courses are largely accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and a computer or mobile device. This allows individuals, teams, or friends to participate across the country or across the globe. This also allows for organizations like ours to quickly scale to support organizations and individuals who transition to or train for new roles. U.S. cybersecurity open jobs are estimated to be more than 300,000, making training accessible online can change the paradigm.
The flip side is also true for hiring the best teachers for learning. Online instructors can teach from anywhere without having to travel, allowing an online class to have the best teachers available.
Flexibility might be the greatest benefit to online learning. In most cases, students can take advantage of self-paced options and move faster or slower depending on their learning needs. Given the schedule flexibility of live online or on-demand courses, students can choose nights or weekends for classes. Plus, access to corresponding resources allow them to replay tricky lessons to review or enhance learning — on any timeline. This can be very helpful with achieving mastery of topics, knowledge, and skills.
Plus, online learning gives you the flexibility not to leave the comfort of your couch or kitchen table. Not going to be home? You can participate from the sideline of your kid’s soccer game or on the train home. Further, you have your favorite snacks available as you are in your home. You can even eat while you learn which can’t always be said for face-to-face learning.
Another perk to online courses is the ability to quickly update or revise content to account for updates. In-person classes are often based on pre-set content and are slower to catch up. With the rapid changes coming to the information security and technology fields you want the latest information to properly prepare for exams.
One of the most important features of an online course is its ability to give feedback. A good online course keeps track of a student’s performance by subject and also keeps track of assets that are used. These data points are invaluable as a certification date approaches. Students can use this feedback to focus more on weaker areas and less on the areas that they have already mastered.
Live online learning can suffer from the lack of human interaction if instructors can’t easily view facial expressions or read body language. When instructors can’t gaze upon stifled, or full fledged yawns, or see that the classroom is entirely lost on a key concept — which is easy in a live classroom — it’s easy for students to disengage and tune out. Teaching online often requires a special talent as not only does that person need to be engaging, but the instructor must incorporate additional strategies and technology tools to stay connected to students.
During lecture periods in a classroom students can physically request recognition and ask questions on the spot in real time. In a virtual classroom, the students and instructors depend upon best-in-class online tools such as live chat and other technology in order to break through and ask clarifying questions. This can take some time to get used to initially. Conversely, some individuals feel more comfortable asking questions in online environments due to the anonymity of an online presence which helps them avoid feelings of embarrassment or incompetence.
Face-to-face learning makes peer interaction and peer learning easier. The exchange of ideas between students during breaks or during class is much simpler with someone who is sitting to your right or left. Simply, a sense of camaraderie is a lot easier to achieve in person classes. One counter, however, is that vocal participants can dominate the classroom experience and disrupt the learning. Great online instructors can drive peer interaction through interactive exercises and conversations. Plus, in many training programs, study groups and office hours are encouraged to help build community and drive communication.
Bootcamp – Information Overload
For infosec and IT professionals alike, the standard, and used to be only, training option is a bootcamp. Here, professionals tend to gather in a bland classroom with an instructor at the front droning on for 8 hours per day for 5 days. There is little time for personalization or instant feedback, but only time to sit and listen — even for the areas that the students have mastery in. Bootcamps work well for practitioners who have experience in the field and are simply looking for a refresher. But if you are only comfortable with a portion of the material, or somewhat new to the field, then this is simply information overload and you will be re-learning on your own time with a book or with another program.
Online or In-Person?
So, online vs. in-person? If you’re looking for yourself or your team to learn for the long term, achieve mastery, glean information security knowledge and achieve skills goals, then an online program is likely your better choice (especially if the in-person option is a five-day boot-camp). Look for a program with lots of tools such as assessments, personalized feedback, talented instructors, and best-in-class technology. CyberVista is here to support your online learning journey and we hope to see you and your team in class!