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Is it curtains for classroom training?

Remember those heady days of being at school, flicking something hard and squishy at Suzie Smith?! There was a skill to timing it well; know the position of the door and the reflection that Mr. Reece could see from his position at the front of the classroom. Not that that's something I ever did of course!

Putting those adolescent shenanigans to one side for a minute, there was something about a classroom that meant you knew what you were there for and why. There was only so much to distract you; in the end it was inevitable that you'd learn something, despite your best efforts with Suzie over there.

And then when you left school, you may have gone to college. And from there, on to Uni. If you stop to think about it, while your maturity ramped up and your interests changed somewhat (ah Sarah...), the environment in which you learnt didn't really change that much. It was still based on a classroom, only with bigger chairs or an auditorium set-up. Fundamentally though, you found yourself connecting to learning because there's a familiarity to the environment; the rows of chairs, the front-facing position of the students, the tutor at the front, the screen behind.

It obviously works because if it didn't then things would have changed a long time ago. You even see it in adult education and vocational learning today.

The question is, has the classroom had its day?

There's no question that online learning is both valuable and convenient. Instant access to a vast library of training content delivered in different ways, from anywhere in the world at any time and on any connected device. But perhaps we're at risk of missing something...

Time and again, professional drivers say that being able to share a learning experience with their peers is right up there. All in it together, talking about their own experiences and proactively questioning the topics.

So if we move to learning 100% online, where a driver can access content from the comfort of their cab, will we lose anything in terms of knowledge retention and recall? Think about it; there's no tutor watching over you, you're in an environment that's not designed specifically for learning, you're viewing it on a tiny screen, there's no one to ask if you don't understand something.

So, A. is the scenario reasonably accurate and B. if it is, then isn't there a risk to the whole concept of CPD for professional drivers?

The virtual classroom environment will certainly help, but it still won't be quite the same. The driver will never feel as connected and engaged as if it was in a face-to-face situation.

It's why I believe there's still life left in the real world classroom and that a combination of face-to-face and online learning is, for me, the holy grail. Toolbox talks, for example, are only toolbox talks if there's someone talking to the drivers. Otherwise it's just a a box...

So we need to tread carefully when it comes to planning a syllabus and mapping out vocational qualifications, career paths and the training needed along the road. We need to be sure that corners aren't cut to save costs, and that the learning experience can be accurately assessed once a driver's completed a course, whether that's 20 minute micro-learning or a full 7 hour course.


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