Education has been moving online since online became an option. The move took a leap in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced education online in a much bigger way. Perhaps not as publically, professional learning for educators and also in the corporate world has been following the same timeline. It had been moving online for more than 20 years, but it also took a leap due to the pandemic.
Forbes magazine has said that online learning is the future of professional development. Degree-based programs and learning and development initiatives are expensive. Some employers were surprised at how well employees worked virtually after some ramping up of equipment and skills. Professional learning took a short break at the start of working from home but then moved online along with almost everything else.
The Forbes article points to a number of online learning advantages that make it something that will remain in place when things get "normal" again - which after 18 months hasn't arrived yet. These advantages for professional learning are not unlike the advantages of traditional classroom learning.
Learners/employees discovered that web-based solutions offered flexibility and that they could learn at their own pace (though deadlines and scheduling may still exist). The article states that online requires 40% to 60% less time to complete the same material.
But self-paced learning also requires a lot of reading and time management and not all learners can adapt.
Overall, online learning is more cost-effective for learners, trainers, and employers. You can save on facilities, transportation, printed materials, travel and lodging in some cases, and even catering costs.
However, some of that saving needs to be invested in web-based platforms for learning to reside and that is a sustained investment. Instructional designers and support personnel remain in place but shift their duties to online.
One advantage that departs from traditional online courses is that corporate training often offers more options. Since some of the learner goals are career advancement and some are required skills training, offerings might include "courses" offered outside the employer (such as MOOCs). Employees may want to improve their coding skills. Their employer may want them to do HR training. Topics that are beyond the capabilities of a training department can be outsourced. Accreditations can be tracked across programs.
For a global company, online allows employees from different locations across the globe to access the same training. Asynchronous learning eliminates issues with different time zones.
Flexibility was a quality that companies and learners discovered was more critical than ever during the pandemic. That has always been a key quality for online learning. Many lessons have been learned. More will be learned in the years to come.