A Balanced Overview of Both Learning Methods
Many students struggle to choose between an eLearning course and a classroom course. With the growth of the internet and the eLearning industry, a debate continues amongst professionals on the pros and cons of each method. Some people are adamantly against eLearning, whilst others acknowledge it has an important place and that classroom learning does not always work for everyone.
As such I thought it would be useful to compare the two so our future students can make an informed decision.
The Costs of Learning
Without a doubt, eLearning is the much cheaper option. Often eLearning training, such as a nebosh course costs three times less than the same course delivered in the classroom, so people and organisations on a budget should certainly consider eLearning. A classroom course is significantly more expensive for a course provider to deliver because of the need to hire a fulltime classroom tutor and a room. Additionally, for students who have to travel, there is the cost of travelling and staying in hotel, along with eating in restaurants. The cost quickly adds up, and a two week stay in a hotel can easily double the overall cost of the course.
A classroom course is a significant time commitment away from work. A NEBOSH General Certificate requires a full two weeks away from work, usually taken in 2 x one week blocks, or a full two-week block. It can be difficult for an organisation to release its employees for this length of time; if the student takes 2 weeks off work, then this means a loss of pay or a loss of 2 weeks of their annual holiday allowance. Often you will return to find two weeks of incomplete work waiting for you to do, resulting in a very stressful time for learners.
In contrast, an eLearning course can fit it around existing work commitments. It can be studied in between meetings, on evenings, weekends etc. You have complete flexibility about when and where you study.
Enforced Learning Discipline VS Self Discipline
One of the major problems with eLearning is that the student needs to have the discipline to log on and do their studying. eLearning is a struggle for students who like to procrastinate and put off work. Those types of students would be better spending the extra money and attending a classroom course, where all they have to do is turn up, sit down, listen, and participate in the discussion. However, for students who are committed and genuinely wish to achieve the qualification eLearning will not be a barrier to success. Let’s face it, if you are passionate about Health & Safety you will be happy to study online and take responsibility for your own studies. You won’t need someone to explain everything to you.
There comes a point during the day when you might want to take a short break away from your studies; a 5-minute coffee break, trip to the toilet or maybe just stretching your legs.
This can be difficult in a classroom course. There’s a timetable, and the tutor has to try to stick to this schedule for everyone’s benefit; everyone has a different rhythm, and it is difficult to please everyone. Breaks are usually every 90 minutes to 2 hours, which means you could be starting to tire and lose concentration, and unable to take the break you need. You are not in control.
On the other hand, with an eLearning course you can take a break whenever you like. You can study for short periods, and take a short 5-minute break, or study for long periods, taking 2 hours for lunch. It is up to you, you’re the boss!
Interactions with Students and the Tutor
A classroom course is full of interaction, you will spend one to two weeks (depending on the course) interacting with your fellow students and the tutor; you will learn a tremendous amount from everyone, and they will learn from you. The interaction and answers to questions are immediate. You ask a question and you get an immediate answer.
However, you can also benefit from this in an eLearning environment. The SHEilds eLearning platform has online discussion forums, where you can post and answer messages, interacting with your tutor and other students, just as we do on social media. It can even be better than a classroom course, since your tutor can provide you with links to external resources like guidance documents for study, or a video to watch. This can’t be done so seamlessly within the classroom.
While it’s true that a classroom tutor will be able to answer queries immediately, here at SHEilds we guarantee to answer emails and messages almost just as quickly. We work Monday to Friday, and we guarantee to answer questions within two working days, but most of the time we can answer the same day, sometimes within minutes. If the question is urgent, we’re available immediately on the telephone.
Speed to Completion
Without doubt it is usually faster to complete the course in the classroom. You can sit the course over 2 weeks, and do the exams on the final day. However, this comes at a cost; the speed and pace of learning can feel very rushed, and some students do struggle to keep up.
It is often better to proceed at a slightly slower pace and in turn have a greater chance at success at the exams. With an eLearning course you can take as much time as you need. If you want to study more slowly and read information several times before moving on, then you can go as slowly as you like. If there is a difficult subject, you can review this as many times as you like, and spend as much time discussing this with your tutor as you need.
On the other hand, some students feel that the classroom courses are too slow. This is sometimes the feedback we get from IOSH Managing Safely classroom students; a 4-day course which students feel could be completed within a day or two. For those students, eLearning would be perfect because you can read through the materials as quickly as you like, without being held back by the rest of the group. Ultimately, what matters is that you pass the exam.
In conclusion, there are pros and cons to both approaches. I think students need to think about what works best for them, and what suits them in their circumstances. eLearning is cheaper, but not necessarily lower quality; it can give you a huge amount of flexibility and control, which you just cannot get on a classroom course. For those who crave the immediate interaction with a classroom tutor, or who recognise they lack the discipline or energy to commit to regular study, then a classroom course is probably the better option.
Here at SHEilds we provide both eLearning and classroom courses to suit your needs, so get in touch and see what we have to offer!
CMIOSH, BSc (Hons), DipNEBOSH, EnvDipNEBOSH