Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

The Future of Classroom Learning: Benefits and Challenges

The global pandemic has created a paradigm shift in how we learn, do business, and interact with our peers. While some of these changes will likely be permanent, many business leaders and employees are ready to get back to normal.

Virtual meetings and training have become commonplace in the past year. However, the benefits of in-person learning cannot be understated. Here are a few compelling facts about why classroom learning will make a comeback once the pandemic is behind us. 

The Benefits of Classroom Learning

It goes without saying that shifting to a remote business model was a necessity during the early days of COVID-19. There are many benefits to working online, from cost to safety considerations. However, the advantages of in-person learning are believed to outweigh the disadvantages. In fact, many people hope to return to an in-person dynamic soon. 

"Our training consultants are hearing of 'Zoom fatigue' on a widespread basis, and employees are looking forward to the time post-pandemic when they can attend in-house training sessions again," says Linda Guyette Anderson of The Denver Training Group, a leadership training firm in Denver, Colorado. "Even though there are many who are happy they no longer have to commute to the office and are fine with regularly meeting over a video-conferencing app, we're getting the sense that the majority of employees have learned over the past year they would much rather meet up in person for classroom instruction."

Some of the main benefits of classroom learning include:

Better Engagement

When you're working from home, there's a lack of distinction between your work environment and your home environment. As such, it can feel challenging to truly immerse yourself in your training. In your home, there are endless forms of distraction that could impact your ability to focus.

It can also be difficult to feel connected to the people offering the training. Communication is about so much more than a voice online — body language, rapport, and interaction with one's peers all build engagement during training. 

Ease of Interaction

It's easier for participants to ask questions and explore ideas in more depth during classroom learning. The virtual divide often creates a jilted conversation, especially when one presenter is leading the charge. In-person training allows for an organic conversation that others can participate in, rather than raising a virtual hand and sending a message.

Of course, there are ways to improve communication and the quality of interactions in virtual settings. However, those who prefer to ask a private clarifying question often find themselves limited in the moment.

Less Reliance on Technology

Technology has a place in the classroom. However, in-person training creates a centralized ecosystem for learning with all the necessary materials and connection points. There's no worry of an employee missing out based on a poor home internet connection or glitch with video messaging software. 

While there will always be a reliance on technology during in-person training, there is no risk of a classroom session being brought to a standstill, the way it can be online. 

Challenges With Returning to In-Person Learning

While returning to the classroom for learning and training sessions is the goal for many individuals, it's not always a feasible option. There are two overarching challenges that will have some companies sticking with a virtual training model.

A Shift in Business Models

One of the most significant influences on whether companies return to classroom learning is the sometimes permanent shift in the business model. Many business leaders have decided to shift to a permanently remote model instead of moving employees back into an office setting. This decision stems from uncertainty surrounding the timeline of the global pandemic and the cost implications.

Another consideration is the shift toward more widely spread teams. Employees have come to understand that proximity to an office means nothing, allowing them to move elsewhere while maintaining the same job. Employers have started casting wider nets for hiring, pulling in team members from around the globe. 

Companies that choose to shift to a work-from-home business model should consider facilitating in-person training sessions when the pandemic passes, if it's feasible. However, many businesses and employees will find this approach impossible after the pandemic has passed.

Time Management and Convenience

Another key consideration that will impact whether employees are willing to return to an in-person setting is the protection of their time and convenience. 

There's something to be said for working from home and having a five-second commute each morning. Before the pandemic, the average American commute was 54 minutes each day— an average of nine days per year driving back and forth to work. People have now become more aware of the time-wasting aspects of their lives. 

The ability to work from home also means a dramatic difference in disposable income for many employees, saving hundreds to thousands of dollars monthly on fuel, car maintenance, parking and childcare. 

The Road Ahead

The benefits of in-person classroom learning outweigh the disadvantages in terms of quality education and a hands-on experience. Additionally, there's a deep desire to reconnect and engage with people after months of isolation. 

It's expected that many companies will move back to in-person training while others will embrace a hybrid model with a blend between solo preparation work, virtual calls, and in-person work sessions. 

What works for one business won't necessarily work for another. Only time will tell how teams will adapt once the pandemic is over.