If it sounds like online education is the solution to your every training problem, hold on. There's also a less rosy side to this story. While there's a wide range of topics that pair well with Web-based teaching techniques--such as computer software skills or sales training--not all content lends itself to a Web-based presentation. The consensus among researchers is that some topics are better taught in person by instructors. "Team-building and training designed to strengthen interpersonal skills are probably better presented in person, with students convening in a room," adds Hall.
And it's not just some topics that are better-suited to in-person training: "Not all employees are well-suited to Web-based training," says Brown. Rules can't be hard and fast, but those without confidence, computer skills or content expertise may be less likely to learn.
So who will take to the medium? Anybody who's moderately comfortable with computers and already uses the Web. But even these people may be hard to motivate, says Bill Dyer, an Amarillo, Texas, author of a Web-based training site. Why? Web-based training is a solitary task, and, ultimately, it's up to each student to muster the motivation to plow through another lesson. Keep in mind, some people just aren't self-starters.
Training companies are beginning to address that issue, assures Jen Masino of ZDU, the Web-based teaching arm of tech publishing giant Ziff Davis. Masino explains that many classes feature online communities, where students can post questions to bulletin boards, get feedback and interact with peers. "There's a lot of interactivity possible with Web-based classes," says Masino. Is it enough interactivity to keep participants involved? Early indications are that many people do respond well to these cyber-communications and ultimately benefit from them.