Learning Delivery Methods: What’s the difference?

The learning delivery models have expanded along with technological advances, and with those models emerged some terminology. The availability of various learning delivery options accommodates a workforce with all employees working at the business location; employees splitting their time between working on-site and at home; employees working different shifts; employees working in different geographies; and employees working on-site, in the field, and at home.

Due to technology, it’s now easy to reach all employees, wherever they’re working, to deliver staff and leadership training and development programs and courses. The first step is learning the difference between synchronous vs. asynchronous vs. virtual vs. self-paced eLearning to ensure you select one or more options that best meet your workforce and organizational needs.  

Selecting the Best-Fit Learning Delivery Methods  

The different learning delivery systems apply to all employees, from the CEO to the frontline worker. You may choose to use one learning delivery system or a blend of learning delivery options. Some factors influencing your selection of learning methods include: 

  • Purpose of the training, i.e., leadership training on staying union-free, leadership coaching, employee benefits training, employee onboarding, etc. 
  • Needs of the organization as a whole to ensure strategically-aligned programs 
  • Needs of the employees based on organizational needs and employee communicated needs 
  • Workforce structure, i.e., all inhouse vs. in-house and remote employees vs. all remote 
  • Status of the digital communication system 
  • Leadership and employee schedules 
  • Size of the workforce 
  • Training and development budget 

Workforce productivity, organizational culture, and legal compliance are just some of the factors that depend on skilled leadership. All employees can be trained and developed utilizing any of the learning delivery methods. Still, the first focus is on leadership training to close skills gaps and develop managers and supervisors who support a learning organization, engage employees, drive outcomes, and foster trust and transparent communication.  

Training Magazine’s 2020 survey of 750 Learning and Development professionals found that coaching and communication were the current two top priority leadership skills currently needed, but Diversity and Inclusion moved from twelfth to third place. Leadership training is crucial to meet changing workforce needs to support organizational success. 

Workforce #productivity, organizational #culture, and legal compliance are just some of the factors that depend on skilled #leadership. And skilled leaders are developed with the proper leadership #training.

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The pandemic made clear the fact that leadership training needs to be more effective and consistent. Numerous studies demonstrate leadership training programs have a great effect on the organization at all levels. Deloitte tracks Human Capital trends, and in 2021 discussed the importance of organizations becoming “distinctly human at its core” to shift from “survive to thrive.” More business executives than HR executives responded for the first time, emphasizing the importance of human capital issues.  

Leadership Training at the Foundation

Leadership training is the foundation of the recommendations for elevating the workforce. For example, great leaders know how to give workers more autonomy over their work and learning experiences to increase employee engagement, thoughtfully utilize technology to help people make the most of their capabilities, and approach workforce development as a means of unleashing potential. In order to develop a workforce for the future, your leaders need the skills that enable reaching that goal. “Organizational preparedness hinges on the ability to bring human strengths such as decision-making and adaptability to the fore, not just during a crisis, but continually,” the Deloitte report authors write.  

Your leaders must know how to belabor wise, develop a respectful workplace, engage employees, coach and mentor employees, and proactively develop positive employee relations to achieve human capital and organizational goals. They must be ready to meet workplace challenges, like addressing increasing labor union activity, developing shared goals with the workforce, and establishing a communication process that connects management and employees. Your managers and supervisors must also be effective change managers because the business environment will continue the transformation that began before the pandemic and accelerated during it.


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What are the Learning Delivery Methods? 

Today, you can structure leadership training and development to best suit your organization. Following are brief explanations of the learning delivery method terminology.   

Synchronous Learning 

Synchronous learning delivery refers to information shared in real-time as the instructor or facilitator and leader interact simultaneously. It could be in-person training or virtual or online instructor-led training through teleconferencing or webinars. Virtual instruction enables participants to meet at the same time from different locations. The facilitator is able to answer questions and help people learn from the experiences of others. One of the features of instructor-led live training is the ability to deliver real-time training in the form of video, text chats, documents, instant messaging, virtual classroom, and live presentation and discussion.  

This type of learning system is ideal for: 

 Asynchronous Learning 

Asynchronous learning is usually self-paced learning, and the instructor and participants don’t have to interact simultaneously. This type of training allows participants to learn at their own pace and to stop at any point for reflection or further research to enhance the learning experience. Asynchronous can be self-paced but also include the addition of facilitator-led opportunities like discussion forums.  

For example, IRI Consultants delivers live training in half-day and full-day blocks to groups of 16-20 learners, plus access to additional virtual asynchronous learning tools and opportunities. Projections delivers training with a live trainer, breakout rooms, etc., in 2-hour blocks and the utilization of asynchronous learning tools. Asynchronous training can be structured to include a variety of elements, like recorded video, recorded audio, self-paced courses, digital documents, discussion forums, recorded slide shows with narration and podcasts, plus real-time live training.  

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Virtual Learning 

Virtual learning simply refers to courses or instruction delivered through the internet on a computer-based system or mobile technology. Online training includes podcasts, webinars, videos, digital documents, topical and certification courses, discussion forums, texts, emails, distance learning, and any other type of material accessed online. Synchronous and asynchronous learning delivery is either partially or fully virtual today. ProjectHR podcasts are virtual asynchronous learning opportunities because anyone can listen to an online podcast at their convenience and doesn’t have to interact with the person recording the episode. Virtual or eLearning can reach a wide audience and provide consistent training. 

Self-paced eLearning  

Self-paced eLearning refers to an instructional method in which the leader accesses online training on his or her own time and schedule and can move from one topic to another at the desired speed. eLearning is an educational course published online through a learning management system. A Better Leaders offers a library of leadership lessons your leaders can access at any time and can choose topics based on real world needs. The participant has control of the learning process in terms of the time taken to consume the information. One of the major advantages of on-demand eLearning is that people have different learning styles, and self-paced eLearning allows the learner to complete a program that matches their learning style. Projections’ UnionProof team offers self-paced eLearning that is appropriate for geographically diverse or shift-based workforces. Examples include LaborWiseWiseWords, and the Respectful Workplace.   

Blended Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning 

There are two points to keep in mind. First, a learning element can be synchronous and asynchronous as it’s used. For example, an eLearning program may be asynchronous in that people access the program at their convenience and on their own time schedule. If the program includes a tool that allows the learner to post a question answered in real-time, it is also synchronous learning. The LEAD Academy uses blended learning to develop leaders as coaches because it uses in-person or virtual leadership workshops and additional innovative learning tools, like videos and slides.  

The second point is that utilization of technology in most learning delivery systems has enabled blended learning opportunities. Synchronous learning primarily referred to a classroom-type delivery method but now usually includes a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning. For example, a supervisor participates in a self-paced eLearning course but is also expected to attend real-time group live or virtual discussions for coaching, mentoring, or team building. Live interactions are important when socialization improves learning, like discussing the signs of unionization unique to a department or specific employee communication challenges.   

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Learning Delivery Fulfilling Organizational Needs 

In other words, you can establish a learning delivery system that works best for your leaders and your organization – only live, only virtual, or a combination of live and virtual. It can be self-paced or delivered with an expected completion date for each learning module. It can be eLearning courses or one program. The main consideration is not whether the learning tool is asynchronous or synchronous. It’s whether the learning delivery method and learning content fulfill your organization’s needs.

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If you're looking for training that creates new behaviors, custom interactive eLearning is the way to make that change happen. Our team of experts is here to support your organization’s positive employee relations goals.

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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