Remote learning versus e-learning versus webinars

Woman sitting on the floor with her laptop has an ideaIf your learning options are limited to the digital, you actually still have a range of possibilities to choose from. But what are they, how does each work best, and which might be most appropriate for you? This article – in which we compare remote learning, webinars and e-learning – should answer those questions for you.

A brief note on terminology: in the world of digital learning, you can find some terms used interchangeably – or else different people using the same term to mean either broader or more specific things. (Helpful, right? Yeah.) So this is our take – and what these mean here at Emphasis.

Remote learning

What is remote learning?

As the name suggests, this is where learning happens remotely – in other words, the learners and instructor are not together in the same physical location. Instruction is given and assessments issued over the internet. So far, so broad (and some people do use the term to be that all-encompassing).

But in remote learning, an instructor is usually available to learners. And it generally includes synchronous sessions – in other words, some or all of the training happens live. This means learners have direct access to a trainer’s expertise and they can also collaborate online with colleagues.

Another term that’s growing in popularity for this format – because why have one term when you can have 12? – is virtual instructor-led training, or VILT (sometimes vILT).


How we do it

Here at Emphasis, remote learning means our live, instructor-led online sessions. Essentially, our remote learning takes the goals and effects of our in-person courses and translates them to the virtual classroom.

As in our face-to-face training, the group is kept small (ideally eight, and no more than ten). This ensures everyone will have a chance to contribute and the trainer will be able to give each person individual attention, answering their questions and giving them feedback. There is a mixture of discussion, collaboration and practice of the techniques – all with the trainer on hand. As with all our courses, each participant will also have a one-to-one with the trainer, where they’ll be guided through the results of their individual writing analysis.

Inevitably, a remote session won’t look exactly like an in-person one. But by making use of the tools in the learning platform, individuals or teams joining the courses get the same benefits, in a way that works online. (You can find out more about how our remote courses run here.)

With any live learning, there is also the extra benefit of social interaction and networking with fellow delegates. We’ve noticed over the years that this is a bonus that participants truly appreciate on course days – with some getting to meet long-standing colleagues for the first time. And while remote learning doesn’t put them in the same physical space, it naturally has greater scope for introducing colleagues from different branches – or continents!

Similarly, learners also benefit from discovering that they’re not alone in the challenges they can have with written communications. It can be particularly frustrating to struggle while also feeling you’re the only one. The facilitated conversations they have during the training help reduce that stress and have even led to changes in the guidance that organisations provide to staff.

We run both our courses for individuals and in-house training remotely. The in-house course content (as always) can be tailored to the group’s specific business goals and challenges, with materials created using the organisation’s real-life documents.


When is remote learning a good option?

Remote learning may be a good choice if you want to:

  • tackle your team’s specific issues directly
  • incorporate your organisation’s style and real-life documents in the learning materials to guarantee relevance
  • give participants direct access to an expert trainer
  • provide each attendee with personalised feedback and guidance
  • give employees the social experience of a longer, collaborative training session together.



What is e-learning?

E-learning (or electronic learning, if you must) means using digital tools to learn. Again, that may sound broad. But here, users access self-contained, interactive modules through their computer, tablet or smartphone.

There isn’t usually a live component, and learners can take lessons at their own pace. And while the content will – you would hope – be created by experts on the subject, generally there is no instructor available to learners.

E-learning’s chief benefits are that it can be (or should be) accessible anytime, anywhere. In an organisation, it can easily be made available to every employee by hosting it online or through an LMS (learning management system), which can be a cost-effective way to train many people.

With the content in an LMS, users’ activity can be trackable. This may be appealing to team leaders who want oversight of their people’s engagement or results – especially if the e-learning is used for compliance training.

One potential challenge of e-learning is the risk of employees not accessing or completing it – with no time limits on it, a user needs some self-motivation. There can also be an issue with employees not being made aware of its existence, encouraged to use it or given direction to the parts that will be most helpful for them. As with any training, it’s vital to make clear to users how the e-learning is directly relevant to their work and how it will help them do their jobs better.

In fact, one way that e-learning can work most effectively is when users can access it at the point of need. In other words, an employee turns to it in the flow of work, when a question arises or they have to tackle a particular task. Not only is the relevance clear, but the training is immediately put to practical use – which tends to be how we learn best.

How we do it

We have our own e-learning programme: the comprehensive, 52-lesson business-writing package The complete business writer. All the lessons take 15 minutes or less, and each focuses on a specific question or particular technique of effective writing at work. They feature video, animation and interactive exercises to reinforce and check knowledge.

Some clients choose to simply share the programme with their team or organisation, to complete as a course or to access as a reference resource when they need it.

More usually, clients who are running a course or other live option choose to follow up with e-learning. This means that everyone can revisit the techniques introduced in the live training at key moments on the job and as often as they need to to fully absorb them. Trainers can also direct delegates to the lessons that will help them the most, based on their individual writing analysis.

Similarly, the e-learning works well incorporated into our executive coaching, where the consultant can provide a personal prescription of modules to the coachee as an additional resource.


When is e-learning a good option?

E-learning is a good choice if you want something:

  • quick to implement
  • easy to share with a whole team or entire company
  • cost-effective
  • to reinforce live learning

And you don’t necessarily need:

  • something bespoke or tailored to your team or organisation (bespoke e-learning is possible, but will cost more to develop)
  • direct access to a trainer.



What is a webinar?

The webinar is technically a member of the remote learning family, as it is another kind of live online event that people can join from anywhere. An expert will again be at the helm to run a presentation or workshop with many of the same engaging and interactive elements as a remote course, such as video, slides, screen-sharing, chat and polls.

But a webinar will generally be presented to a much bigger group than a remote course would be. Indeed, the scope for presenting to a large number is often part of the appeal of the webinar, though it naturally means little to no individual attention for each person. A webinar is also typically shorter than a course.

Webinars are useful in education as well as both internally and externally in the business world. They’re very versatile and are used for a range of purposes, including teaching, providing product demonstrations or company updates, building personal or brand authority, or as part of a marketing campaign.

How we do it

We run bespoke webinars for clients who want to open a level of training up to a wider group in their organisation, a group who may be based all over the country (or world).

We can cover any of our specialist areas during a session, with one of our expert trainers presenting and answering attendees’ questions (plus a producer on hand to field them). There is also the option of tailoring the content to the organisation, so that it targets the client’s particular concerns, challenges and goals and reflects any internal style guidance and their real-life documents.

And rather than lull the audience to sleep with a passive presentation, we keep the sessions interactive through polls, chat and Q&As. We can use whichever platform or software the client prefers (though this can affect what features are available).

A webinar can be a standalone event, one of a series covering different topics, or part of a made-to-measure blended programme that also includes full courses, e-learning, writing analysis or coaching.

When are webinars a good option?

A webinar could be a good choice if you want:

  • to open up training to a bigger group in your organisation, wherever they’re based
  • shorter sessions
  • a live training option with an expert on hand to answer questions
  • some degree of tailoring the materials

But you don’t necessarily need:

  • writing analysis to tackle each individual’s specific challenges
  • a trainer to give one-to-one feedback to attendees
  • bespoke course materials and targeted practical exercises
  • the social aspect of a longer training session with fewer delegates.


When face-to-face training isn’t possible, you’re still far from limited – the digital realm provides a whole range of options for effective learning. This guide can help you decide which one could work well for you or your team. If you have any questions left over, you can send us a message or call us on +44 (0)1273 732 888.


Image credit: PeopleImages / iStock

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