When Are Different Corporate Learning Methods Most Appropriate?

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An exciting feature of supporting corporate learning in our time is the variety of methods and techniques we have at our disposal. From traditional training to online courses to learning in the flow of work, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Determining the right solution for a particular project often involves weighing multiple variables. This short list highlights some of each method’s signature advantages and use cases, along with other considerations.

Classroom-based training

Why use: Allows for collaboration and immediate feedback; builds cross-organizational relationships; effective for teaching complex skills where demonstration and Q&A are needed.

Typical uses: Interpersonal skills training; management skills training; medical training.

eLearning

Why use: Reaches many people quickly; accessible as needed or on learners’ timetables; ensures that all learners get the same message; used to level-set people on core content before a live training session. Provides easy reporting and learner tracking.

Typical uses: Compliance training; procedure training; orientation; core content; hard and soft skill training.

Microlearning

Why use: Keeps learning topics at top of mind; offers opportunity to expand knowledge or to practice in digestible sessions over longer time periods; often matches learners’ preferred approach.

Typical uses: Training follow-up and refresher; awareness training; ongoing initiatives; time-sensitive updates; complex concepts best done in stages.

On-the-job training

Why use: Trains on real-life equipment and in actual context of work; allows for structured training of new employees when creating a course isn’t feasible.

Typical uses: Training on machinery; development of complex skills; essential for hands-on demonstration of mastery.

Simulation

Why use: Enables repeated practice to build mastery.

Typical uses: Skills where risk is high and skills that shouldn’t be practiced in real life.

Online course

Why use: Combines teaching content with individualized reflection and on-the-job application assignments; offers a group learning experience when learners are geographically far apart.

Typical uses: Complex knowledge and skill best developed over time and where peer interaction is beneficial.

Curated content

Why use: Allows learners with widely varying needs in the same topic area to self-select those components that seem useful to them; provides effective follow-up material to solidify and extend learning from other methods.

Typical uses: Supporting self-directed learning on broad topics with a wide range of competence; adding depth and variety to learning paths.

Learning in the flow of work

Why use: Supports performance with short-duration learning resources accessible at the time of need.

Typical uses: Performance support for infrequently used processes; follow-up reinforcement and application aids; gating of work requiring mandatory training.

Other variables

Additional variables that come into play in determining the best formats include:

  • The nature of the content
  • Audience size
  • Design, development and delivery costs
  • The L&D team’s capacity and skill sets

The bottom line is that there is no one best way to support learning for any particular topic or skill—each use case needs to be evaluated alongside many different considerations. Of course, modern corporate learning strategy designs often use more than one method in combination. Learning consultants and instructional designers should assess the need and the options and offer recommendations that fit each situation. With so many approaches in your toolkit, there are bound to be several exciting possibilities.