ISHN Guest BlogOnline training is ineffective by definition. 


Because only education can occur online. 

I have told my audiences for years there are critical differences between training and education. It’s disappointing to see how organizations and leaders misuse the term training versus education. I’m sure you all understand the difference. 

Question: Do you want your kids to have sex education or sex training? 

See, you know the difference. 

And when it comes to driving, do you think driver education is enough? Of course not. 

So the issue is this, online is for educating. Training requires behavior and feedback. 

Language is important, and different words imply different processes. In elementary school we call it education, in college we call it higher education. Then we move to industry, and we call it training. It is only training if people practice the behavior and receive supportive or corrective behavior-based feedback. 

I must add I felt insulted by those who refer to the human interactive form of education as “old school”. I have been a university professor for 44 years, and I have offered workshops at numerous conferences for over 35 years. It is clear to me that interactive discussions in a classroom setting is the best way to educate because in this venue it’s possible to inspire critical thinking. 

Fortunately, we have data that shows the best way to learn is through cooperative learning. In other words, learning is optimized when professors plant the seeds and enable students to think critically about those seeds and discuss concepts and applications among themselves with commentary from the wise professor.  The computer will never replace the classroom. 

Furthermore, true online training with immediate feed back is impossible, unless you have a way to view the behavior of a learner (perhaps via Skype), and then offer behavioral feedback. I think you will agree this will not be as effective as person-to-person feedback. 

Online teaching is maximized when starting with small steps to allow the student to feel competent, allowing the student to move forward at his or her own pace, providing special programmed instruction for students who need extra help, and having a proctor who walks around the classroom and coaches individual students with regard to their progress. This last component is critical, and now we are back to needing a real person in this setting. The key is to enable students to be success seekers rather than failure avoiders. 

There will likely be disagreements and misunderstandings with regard to my verbal behavior. That’s the problem with emails, and the same can happen with online teaching. You cannot beat one-on-one personal communication between a competent teacher and a willing student. In other words, the “old school” approach to teaching is still the best. Somethings never change, friends.

E. Scott Geller, Alumni Distinguished Professor, Center for Applied Behavior Systems, 213 Williams Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0436

“My students rarely meet each other in person”

I teach OH&S Management at Tulane via live broadcasts and have been doing so for 13 years. Obviously, enrolling in our program is considerably more than a 30-minute online course, but the principles of delivery and retention are the same.  

My students rarely meet each other in person, so some complain about the difficulty of the course, but they have full access to online interaction with each other and myself throughout the semester.

Since I do not believe a test truly provides an indication that a student has mastered the material, I require a group project that deals with a group-chosen OH or S problem that must use systems thinking to dissolve the problem, or as I call it, the "Mess" or system of problems.  

For their final exam they have a choice of playing and winning one of two online OH & S management video games.

Recently, I have partnered with a group to develop online safety training using realistic avatars. The technology for developing this type of training is rapidly evolving resulting in a significant reduction in the overall cost to develop. The U.S. Military has been using this type of training for a number of years now.

The days of talking head type training with god awful PPT slide decks is finally coming to an end, hopefully.  It is amazing how many billions of dollars have been spent creating and delivering (i.e., reading) PPT presentations.  For some employees, this has become the only means of communicating.

Frankly, I think some of those in management want to retain the "old school" means of training so that they continue to be the smartest person in the room, at least so they think.

Online training, like any training, requires the same development discipline as talking-head training.  The big difference is the ability to present realistic simulations, decision-making challenges, demonstrate mastery of the subject(s), and greater retention, to include, returning to the subject anytime, anywhere.

The games I use for my final exam do not allow you to jump to the end to take a test, the test is the game and the decisions you make in playing the game.

James E. Leemann, Ph.D.

“Classroom training is so old school”

Classroom training is so old school. It is also time consuming and expensive because of the mandatory nature of time away from the job to get it done.

With online, an employee can take it on his own at anytime throughout the required timeframe. 

If classroom training is quick, dirty, to the point, holds interest, it can be very valuable. More valuable than online or routine boring classroom.

To me the answer is to have a vivacious instructor who grabs attention, gets to the point, has humor, and gets feedback there and then.

That is what I did for over 30 years. I was 'free' to my employer. I had a vested interest because I was the occupational health nurse or later the safety manager who wanted fewer injuries, fewer lost time cases.

The safety manager knows what the causes of injuries are and has an obligation to educate staff, line, and management on the causes and prevention. 

Making safety part of the job, part of expected job performance at every level, and getting top management buy in along with a vivacious and positive sensibility will get everyone, yes everyone on board.

Mix classroom with online. Rote can be online, like responding to a fire alarm, but safe lifting, electrical safety, etc. are best done in person, quick, dirty, applicable, with excitement. It can be done by walking around the factory, no classroom needed quite often, if done right.



Training may not produce an actual ROI

Here are a couple of quick thoughts that I have used when addressing the face-to-face vs. online issue:

Let's talk training versus education. Your teenage daughter comes to you with the announcement that she will be attending a MANDATORY sex training class being put on at school. In your mind is there now a difference between sex education and sex training. If not let's talk about teaching your teenager to drive. Is there a diifference here between driver education versus driver training. There should be - one is knowledge based, the other action-based.

Knowledge based educational opportunities can very well lend themselves to online, computer-based or other e-learning platforms. However, no matter how good the simulator, it is still critically important to give the young person time behind the wheel. Certain training aspects must contain the touch and feel that cannot be replicated via computer or internet.

All good execs, managers, etc. will always be concerned about ROI as they should be. However, in the classical sense, all training may not produce an actual ROI.

This is especially true in many instances where regulatory training/education is concerned. Money may be saved utilizing one tool versus the other, yet no true ROI may be realized. When looking at these types of educational opportunities, one executive I have worked with had these profound words, "It (training/education) may not provide a ROI in the classic sense, but whenever it comes to compliance within our organization we will consider it a good ROI (the Right Organizational Investment)."

James “Skipper” Kendrick, CSP, Hurst, TX 76054, (817) 428-3270 – Office; (817) 300-SAFE (7233)  -  Cell;