The Pros and Cons of eLearning vs. Traditional Approaches to Health and Safety Training
There is some debate over whether eLearning or a more traditional instructional approach is best for health and safety training. As with most things, they work best when used together to achieve the same training objective.
Today's employees prefer eLearning's fast-paced environment and easy online access. Some of the additional benefits include faster delivery of materials, lower costs, and lower environmental impact.
To make a case for whether eLearning is really more effective, however, we have to consider another important factor: how people learn.
How We Learn
One of the conclusions of research into how we learn is that assessment and feedback are crucial for helping people learn. Classroom environments, then, and the experience of students in them can be positively influenced by opportunities to interact with others.
Blending traditional and online instruction gives the best of both worlds: face-to-face learning with an instructor and peers along with the online tools that supply the ingredients required to verify competence with the material and measure the understanding of that material.
Conveying the Significance of Safety Training
eLearning not only provides the content with quick delivery, but also allows the users to interact with the material in a way that takes advantage of the three ways we learn. By the use of text, audio narration, and animation and illustration, online modules cater to our cognitive, auditory, and visual modes of learning. But it's the human element that conveys the importance of the material, that makes it more than just a few facts to memorise and forget, more than a box to tick. The eLearning courses provided by Health and Safety Advisory Service for example, combine all of these stimuli with a tutor so it feels as though there is human interaction. Be wary of eLearning courses that are simply PowerPoint presentations and are not tutor led.
Another critical element of the traditional training environment is that it provides a hands-on approach to instructions that may be brand new to the employee and difficult to implement in eLearning module. Learning how to operate machinery safely; put on safety equipment such as a safety harness or hard hat; or having the experience, with a teacher observing, of properly putting on and removing a respirator gives a tactile dynamic to the training that could save life and limb.
"The more parts of your brain you use, the more likely you are to retain information," says Judy Dodge, author of 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom. "If you're only listening, you're only activating one part of the brain," she adds, "but if you're drawing and explaining to a peer, then you're making connections in the brain."
It is this tactile, hands-on multitasking in the live instructional setting—especially when it comes to machinery that will need to be used safely or personal protective equipment that needs to be properly fitted to the body—that increases understand and retention of material through the "busy hands, busy brain" phenomenon.
But what about the cost savings that eLearning programs deliver?
It's not uncommon for a company to save as much as 80 percent in direct costs by supplanting their conventional training approaches with online safety training. Certainly the delivery of the training programs online speeds up the process for those who can study and be tested at a pace that matches their personal learning speed and style. Others needing more time to consider their answers can go slower without holding up the entire class. Drive time, bathroom breaks, and other elements of the traditional classroom and on-site are also minimized with eLearning,
Businesses benefit from eLearning courses as they can be delivered any time, anywhere which is a major cost saving with not having to recall their workforce to attend a classroom training session. Instead, eLearning courses can be delivered on site, in the hotel room, canteen or vehicle (obviously not when driving) and can be stopped and restarted at any time.
To put it simply, there is no clean and easy answer when it comes to the debate between traditional instruction and eLearning. The best and most effective safety training happens when companies bring both approaches into one environment.
The blended approach provides increased efficiency and convenience that will keep the company from wasting resources while also improving retention and conveying the seriousness of the training material to ensure that the training "sticks" and leads to reduced workplace safety incidents.
While it's tempting to either stick with the old way of doing things or throw it out of the window completely to move everything online and save on costs, combining both is the best way to get the most out of your safety training program.