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How do your employees learn – and why should you care?

A student looking at a tablet

Determining the best way to educate your staff may not be a topic of frequent discussion, but few would disagree that having a work force that continues to learn efficiently is essential for all organisations.

A modern workforce needs to constantly engage with new ideas, absorb knowledge and manipulate information for the benefit of the company. This clearly requires a lot of learning, but how best to achieve this is a more nuanced topic.

How can you make sure your staff are learning in a way that is beneficial for both them and your business? The short answer is - it depends.

Is classroom king?

Historically most teaching has been delivered from the classroom in a structured and formal manner. With classroom learning, students know where they need to be and when, and knowledge is delivered from an expert stood at the front of the class. This process is efficient and works extremely well, however it is important to note that classroom learning is not for everyone and is far from perfect.

It is a “one-size-fits-all” method, delivered at one speed and at its most extreme offers little in the way of personalisation. Of course, a good tutor will always try to treat each class member as an individual, but this is not always the case.

Furthermore, classroom learning works within rigid time frames. This can cause issues for businesses when large cohorts of staff are out of the office during business-critical times. In addition, it can result in extra stress for employees who have missed a lesson, perhaps through home or work commitments, and are unable to make the time up.

Technology is everywhere

Today however, classroom learning is not the only option. Technology pervades every aspect of our lives; not only allowing us to communicate and network but also to learn at our own convenience. This offers up both challenges and opportunities for education.

One such opportunity is the ability for staff to learn online, often using mobile devises, thus enabling them to study when and where they want. This increased flexibility of course needs monitoring - having the ability to study when you want may sound attractive, but ‘flexibility is the friend of procrastination’. This is why even though students have the choice when to study, structure, deadlines and motivation are essential.

The rise of online learning

Both business and higher education have emphatically embraced online learning, as it satisfies many of their objectives. For business it provides a means of training and educating its work force, globally, consistently and cost effectively. It is estimated that 50% of UK companies train more than 50% of their staff online1. In financial terms the UK online market is said to be worth over £565 million, making it the largest in Europe.

Higher education has seen online as a way of offering learning across the globe, reaching out to people who would normally not be able to afford nor access education of such a high standard. Massive open online courses (MOOCS) have also begun to mature and in May this year the Open University (OU) and the University of Leeds announced they are to allow students to study for part of their degree or MBA course using a MOOC2.

The wrong question

The wrong question is - does this mean that online learning is better than classroom?

It’s not the medium that matters; it is the effectiveness for the individual student and the inherent benefits that brings to the business. Online offers flexibility and the ability to study at your own convenience, yet this may be the least effective method for someone with little self-discipline, unable to get started due to their lack of motivation. For this individual, the rigour and discipline of having a date in their diary, sat within the four walls of a classroom, in front of an expert, may be preferable.

Equally for the self-motivated learner who finds the pace at which a classroom course is delivered too fast, they may benefit from the online course, which gives them the ability to watch the recordings in the comfort of their own home, slowing it down at key points in order to make sure they have fully understood what is being said.

The benefit of choice

The ideal is therefore to provide choice. No two people learn the same way and no two business situations are the same. It is crucial for a business to understand there is more than one viable way for their employees to learn, which depends on the current needs of the business.

The challenge for educators however is the same. For a course to be effective and produce results, it has to be a high quality, instructionally designed learning experience. In other words, in the classroom you need a great teacher, and online you need a great course.

  1. Learning Light 2014 e-learning report
  2. 'Top universities to offer full degrees online in five years'

About OnDemand

Kaplan now offers a new and exciting way to study for its CIMA examinations - OnDemand for CIMA.

OnDemand is a flexible way of learning that works around your business, combining the benefits of classroom learning with the convenience and flexibility of virtual study.

It can be accessed outside of office hours, or you can set the amount of office time dedicated to study - limiting downtime during business-critical times.

This method of learning is perfect for organisations requiring a consistent and flexible approach across boundaries and time zones, without wishing to risk pass rate success.


Stuart Pedley-Smith, Head of Learning for Kaplan Financial, has been involved with training and educating finance professionals for over 20 years. He is especially interested in the process of learning and the exam skills and techniques that contribute towards success in the classroom and in life. Stuart has written two books – The E word – Kaplan’s Guide to Passing Exams and A student’s guide to writing Business Reports.


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