Features and Opinion

Is it time to get back to the classroom?

Why face-to-face can be more effective than online for learning

Lockdowns thrust us all rapidly into a world of Zoom and Teams, a normal that has remained. We operate in a working world of online meetings, webinars and video training. However, with the rise in mandatory CPD and the demand to prove competence, questions are starting to be asked around the value of online learning compared to classroom settings. With online learning are people merely going through a tick-box approach? Are they really engaged? Are they getting value for money? Are they missing out on the benefits of immersion into a learning environment?

Andy Mackie, managing director at construction software provider, Causeway Enhance, said they have seen an increase in the number of specifiers accepting face-to-face CPD presentations. “The majority of the 120 CPDs we scheduled in July were held at the offices of architects, consultants, design & build contractors, NHS Trusts, and Councils. Our CPD clients expressed that being in a room with people has a significant impact on networking and building stronger relationships with others in the industry. It allows for a more fluid CPD too; face-to-face meetings and presentations allow the presenter to judge the energy in the room, creating an interactive atmosphere that improves a dynamic exchange of ideas and collaboration.”

Multiple benefits

The value of classroom learning is not just about improved engagement. The benefits are many:

  • Immediate feedback and interaction. In a classroom setting, immediate feedback and interaction are more readily available. Trainers can address questions and concerns on the spot, facilitating a deeper understanding of the material. Moreover, the physical proximity of an in-person learning environment also enables more effective non-verbal communication. A trainer is able to read a trainee’s body language to determine whether they are struggling to understand the course material and can adapt their approach to produce better learning results for the class. Plus, discussions and peer interactions can lead to a richer learning experience.
  • Hands-on activities and demonstrations. Certain CPDs benefit greatly from hands-on experiences or physical demonstrations. .
  • Building a learning community. Classroom settings provide a sense of community and collaboration among students. This atmosphere fosters teamwork, discussion, and social skills development. In a recent study by Oxford Learning College, 45.6% of students cited ‘missing out on social interactions’ as their reason for not liking online learning.
  • Reduced distraction. For some learners, being in a physical classroom environment helps eliminate distractions that might be present at home or in other online learning environments. It creates a dedicated space for learning.
  • Accountability and discipline. Being physically present in a classroom setting often instills a sense of responsibility and discipline. Students are more likely to
    stay engaged and focused on the material being taught.

Proof of the pudding

Rachel Tipton, the GAI training and development manager, has the figures to back up these findings. Speaking of the GAI Diploma students she says: “This year the three top medal winners all attended a classroom training course, and we had the same strike rate last year. Year on year it is around 85% pass rate for those attending the classroom training.”

This year the three top medal winners all attended a classroom training course, and we had the same strike rate last year. Year on year it is around 85% pass rate for those attending the classroom training

Rachel tipton

She adds: “It is also a great opportunity to work with industry experts and members of the Education Committee whose knowledge is shared throughout this three-day classroom training course.  What is extremely valuable is the mock examination and experience of what a four hour examination really does feel like.”

Elena Dominguez Perez, winner of  the silver GAI education award for the Diploma in 2022, said the classroom experience was invaluable. Asked what advice she’d give to other Diploma students she said: “Take the classroom course, especially if you are not from the UK. It was the most important step for me: I had lots of ‘aha!’ moments with topics I did not understand learning at home and got to know a great group of people from all over the world. We learned from each other during and after the classroom training.”

Jessica Calpin won the Pinnacle award in 2021. Talking about her experience of studying for the Diploma she said: “Specifying hardware for doors was utterly new to me. I knew nothing. I wasn’t from one of the large companies surrounded by people with experience and knowledge. But the turning point was when I attended the three-day classroom course. After that I felt much more confident and determined.” 

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