ELearning or Classroom Training: Which is Best?

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2019

By Jennefer Griffith

The traditional classroom isn’t the only place to get a food safety education or up-skill your knowledge. The elearning model has been picking up steam and has started to become a more viable option for many students and food safety professionals, as well as employers looking to train their current and future workforce.

In the debate between elearning and the traditional classroom, both have their own strengths, weaknesses, and misconceptions.

The traditional model is time-consuming and time-sensitive. You must build and follow a schedule to ensure that you can attend all required classes and meet all your deadlines. But the in-person instruction and hands-on learning are beneficial for those who thrive in such environments. Elearning, by contrast, allows people who are dealing with issues surrounding childcare, transportation, or other employment demands to take courses and skills training from the comfort of their own homes, at times of their choosing, whilst creating minimal disruptions to other aspects of their lives.

The elearning model has started to become a more viable option

Some people have an unfortunate misconception that online learning lacks the quality of impact or gravitas offered by a physical classroom, but there is no data to support that idea. In fact, such notable people as Nelson Mandela, Steven Spielberg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all graduated from respected distance learning programs, which were the forerunners of online options.

Employers looking to train their current employees in areas of food safety, best practices, machine operation, etc. need to make a choice about how they’re going to go about doing so effectively and efficiently without disrupting daily business operations. Let’s be real for a moment, there are some things that you can’t learn to do online, like driving and operating a forklift, or operating a food processing machine with its various tactile applications. But that doesn’t mean that a combined approach of online and in-person learning can’t take place. A 2015 InterCall study surveyed 200 employees about employer training practices and the results showed that 50 percent of respondents say they retain information better from in-person training, but 48 percent also said they would like the option to review the covered materials online, after-the-fact.

Traditional vs Elearning

As technology (like virtual/augmented reality) continues to evolve the way we train and engage with learning, so too will the tactics employers embrace to get the most out of their employees. Imagine being able to study food safety procedures in a classroom and then step out to use a VR or augmented reality simulation to apply what you learned to real-world situations—with zero risk to employee, employer, or consumer?

It shouldn’t come down to one or the other. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but neither should be dismissed outright. If we have learned anything since the industrial revolution, it is that innovation is the precursor to success, and this stands true for food safety training. We must find a balance between traditional learning and online applications.

As an employer, use critical thinking and common sense to dictate your actions. Think about the learner, about how they engage with and retain information crucial to the jobs they do and the jobs they can do in the future.


About the Author

Jennefer Griffith is Executive Director for Food Processing Skills Canada (FPSC). The organization is a non-profit skills council, providing training courses, programs, and educational tools for the Canadian and international food and beverage workforce.

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