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Remote Learning vs Online Learning: Differences & Similarities

Remote Learning vs Online Learning

So you’re interested in employee training, and you’ve stumbled across the question of remote learning vs online learning, huh? 

What are the differences? How are they used? Which one should I focus on?

You’re right to wonder. In a world where 33% of employees claim their organization’s training is out of date, companies need to find answers. 

Employee training is an essential part of every company’s continued growth and as technology progresses, remote distance learning will become an integral part of it. 

Failing to take them seriously means failing to adapt to changing circumstances, and every company knows that never ends well. 

So if you’re looking to discover how best to stay afloat in the world of virtual remote learning, you’ve begun the right way. 

In this article, we will compare remote learning vs online learning. In particular, we’ll examine

  1. What is Online Learning?
  2. What is Remote Learning?
  3. 3 Differences Between Remote Learning vs Virtual Learning
  4. Why Online Learning is Essential for Remote Learning
  5. 4 Remote Distance Learning Tips for Employees
  6. The Future of Virtual Remote Learning

What is Online Learning?

First up, in the match of remote learning vs online learning, let’s examine the latter. 

Online learning, as the name suggests, takes place entirely online. 

Programs may use video lectures and self-paced courses to take employees through the material. Think of PowerPoint presentations and PDFs. But you can also think about a gamified learning environment, where the employees gain situational experience. 

There are plenty of options to choose from. Employees can follow an engaging storyline, tackling the challenges of each section to allow the story to progress. They can go through various simulations in order to get a taste of what they might experience in real life. Or they can take quizzes and compete against their fellow employees. 

The winners can even be featured on company-wide leaderboards, just to spice up their competitive spirit. 

All these options are designed to take employees down the path to learning a new skill. And these courses achieve these feats all the while being fun and engaging. 

That’s why:

  • 42% of companies say eLearning has led to an increase in revenue. 
  • 75%-80% of managers say skill training is crucial for project success

Beyond the tools online learning offers, one of the main benefits is that it is very flexible. 

Let’s not kid ourselves. Employees are working full-time jobs on top of having families and chores. And it’s quite likely that they’d still like to have, you know, a life

A very tight learning schedule sometimes feels like a bridge too far which is why 85% of employees want to choose training times that fit their schedules. 

But with online learning, employees have due dates by which they have to complete their assignments and nothing more. The how and when of it is left entirely up to them and their preferences. 

It is important, however, to point out that the flexibility of online learning can also be a weakness. 

Online learning doesn’t offer as much structure as some alternatives. Employees have to be self-motivated to complete the course, or they might fall behind and then attempt to complete their assignments at the last second. 

What is Remote Learning?

What is Remote Learning

On to the next round of the remote learning vs online learning bout…

Remote learning is, in many ways, similar to online learning. The main difference is that remote learning is far more structured and guided. 

Remote learning strives to recreate the in-person lecture hall experience through technology. 

That means that employees have to log into the virtual classroom at specified times, week after week, to participate in the lectures or group-learning activities. 

Video lectures become virtual lectures that allow employees to interact with their lecturers. PowerPoint presentations become guided with ongoing commentary from the lecturers, and course material is examined during the lectures before employees start studying it by themselves. 

Remote learning offers

  1. More structure and accountability 
  2. More opportunities for employees to avoid falling behind

But it is also important to consider that while remote learning goes a long way to imitate lecture-hall conditions, it cannot go all the way. Employees lack interaction with their peers, which can sometimes hamper the effectiveness of learning. 

And while too much flexibility can be an issue with online learning, the lack of it can be an issue with remote learning. The structured nature of remote learning means it’s more likely that employees will keep up with the course material, but with all their other obligations, the burden might become too much for them. 

In a situation like this, it’s important to remember that in life, there are no solutions, only trade-offs.

When comparing remote learning vs online learning, companies must decide which option suits their employees better or, preferably, give employees the chance to choose for themselves. 

That is when learning management systems can come in handy because by allowing employees to work on their courses at any given moment, through any device, be it a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, employees gain the ability to adjust the learning to their needs.

3 Differences Between Remote Learning vs Virtual Learning

Let us take this remote learning vs online learning battle further and examine the key differences. 


Online Learning

Remote Learning


Employees gain access to presentations, recorded lectures, and other coursework, but they do not have to attend any scheduled classes. 

Online learning, in this regard, works well for those who are self-motivated. 

Remote learning has more structure. It is an attempt to make the learning experience as close as possible to the lecture-hall experience. 

That means employees attend lectures and seminars, there can be guest lecturers and workshops. 


With online learning, employees don’t get to interact with other employees or lecturers while they are studying. There are fewer opportunities to ‘compare notes’, solve assignments together, or hold discussions about various topics.

The interactions employees have with each other and their lecturers are limited to emails, Slack channels, and other messenger apps. 

Remote learning offers a far greater level of interaction. 

Employees have the option of listening to lecturers, guest lecturers, and workshops, all which are executed through an online video chat platform. 


Online learning can take place anywhere. 

Learning management systems support all sorts of mobile learning, meaning employees can sift through the course material on a computer, a table, or a mobile phone. These learning systems are effective on any of those devices. 

Remote learning, on the other hand, is a bit more limited than that. 

For one, employees have to make sure they are in a place with good internet access, unless they want their lecturers to freeze on the screen every fifteen seconds. 

And what’s even more important is that employees are able to interact with their lecturers in peace, meaning they are further constrained in terms of their location. 

Why Online Learning is Essential For Remote Learning

Why Online Learning is Essential For Remote Learning

As we’ve examined, remote learning is essentially online learning with more structure, designed to match the lecture-hall experience. 

But now let’s examine the opportunities online learning brings to remote learning.

Virtual On-The-Job Training

Virtual on-the-job training consists of creating or adopting virtual software to create a virtual environment in which companies can conduct employee training. 

Virtual training tools are becoming increasingly prevalent as technology advances and the implementation and use of these tools becomes easier and easier. Not only are they steadily becoming just as effective as real-world training sessions, but they are also threatening to overtake their traditional counterparts.

Virtual on-the-job training makes sense from a financial point of view. It reduces the number of time employees spend away from work and extinguishes the expenses that are often associated with attending conferences and workshops. 

Another benefit is the more effective use of time as virtual on-the-job training can take far less time and compress two days’ worth of training into modules that don’t eat up so much of the company’s work hours. 

And finally, virtual on-the-job training offers employees the ability to work through real-world scenarios in a way they couldn’t with traditional training. That means employees become prepared for any eventuality they might encounter in the real world, making them that much more adaptable and effective. 


For companies that have to navigate various federal and local regulations, assuring their employees are up-to-date on compliance rules is an absolute necessity. The average annual cost of companies that experience non-compliance problems is $14.82 million.

But this goes beyond the potential financial costs caused by employees who don’t have compliance training. If a company simply wishes to operate smoothly, it needs employees who know how to navigate those waters. 

Online courses can ensure the consistency of the training, and so guarantees that all employees are taught the same thing. 

Online learning also helps companies track employee progress toward various certifications. That means that companies can provide proof to any accrediting body about which employee is certified to perform a specific task. 

Ease of Onboarding

These days, companies can’t afford to waste time and resources trying to familiarize a new hire with their business process. They need to hit the ground running if the company’s investment has any chance of paying off. Moreover, research shows that if employees don’t receive proper training, 40% will leave the company within the first year. 

Online learning is a great asset in that regard because, for one, it can standardize the onboarding process. Employees are provided with all the material they need, a process that is far less expensive and time-consuming than hiring instructors, scheduling classes, and all the other expenses associated with the process. 

Using an LMS, employees can go from an orientation program straight into the onboarding material that helps familiarize them with the specifics of their new job. 

Employee Development and Engagement

Online learning is not only beneficial for companies that wish to promote employee development and engagement, it is quintessential. 

For one, a Dale Carnegie study found that companies that engage employees outperform companies that don’t by 202%. Online learning can be a great asset when it comes to improving engagement as it combines the useful with the interesting. 

And when it comes to employee development, it is not only something that companies have to do after they first make a new hire, it is something they have to do consistently. Technology advances and the half-life of digital skills can be less than two years. 

Online learning offers companies a cost-effective way of constantly developing their employees in a way that does not interfere with the company’s operations.

4 Remote Distance Learning Tips For Employees

Remote Distance Learning Tips For Employees

1. Find the right software

There are a lot of software solutions on the market at the moment. Finding the right one is key to ensuring a successful remote learning process. 

In fact, it can be the difference between a successful training program worth its weight in gold and a training program that goes down like the Hindenburg.

It is important to find software that is easy to set up and easy to manage, preferably from a company that offers help with implementation

First, identify your budget. Keep in mind the potential ROI employee training can offer. A study found that every $1 invested in training results in $30 in productivity

Not to mention that 79% of employees say that employee training is an important factor to them when searching for a new job.

Software that is easy to use will also help you create courses faster, meaning you can put together a course for employees in a matter of days or weeks instead of months. 

2. Provide an opportunity for interaction

Interaction is a must-have aspect of any learning experience. Allowing employees to interact with their lecturers and each other can go a long way toward increasing retention rates and employee engagement. 

A study found that 19% of remote workers found loneliness to be their biggest challenge. Remote learning is no different from remote work in that regard. Offering your employees the chance to interact with each other is critical. 

Start a Slack channel where employees can connect or host training video chats where they can talk about the training program, share advice and tips, and ask each other questions. 

Another reason behind the need for interaction is feedback. The same study mentioned above found that around half of employees don’t speak their minds at work. Again, the same can be true of remote learning.

If your employees are learning through pre-prepared course material such as recorded lectures and PowerPoint presentations, they will never get the chance to ask questions. You will never know what they think of the course itself. Do they find it helpful? Or is it just another hassle that offers them minimal value? 

Companies need to answer these questions if they mean to create an effective learning program that will help their employees go to the next level.

3. Make training a part of your culture

It’s one thing to create a one-off, casual training program. 

Yes, yes, someone in management had an idea, we have to do it, but don’t worry, it’ll be over soon.

These types of training programs are far less likely to be effective, especially if employees are entrenched in a certain way of doing things and hesitant to change. 

But if a company can make training part of its culture, if it can communicate to its employees that continuous improvement is how the company goes about doing business, it will have a massive impact on the effectiveness of the training courses. 

Instead of resisting the training programs, employees can begin to take pride in it, recognizing it is the key reason for the company’s position in the market and realizing it helps improve their own position both within the organization and on the job market. 

Furthermore, making training a part of your culture makes you an attractive target for new talent.

And when it comes to existing employees: 

  • 94% of employees say they would remain at a company if it offered training.
  • 74% of them are willing to learn new skills or re-train if it means remaining employable. 

Your employees are not willful children refusing to learn, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. 

There is a massive hunger within companies to learn and improve, all companies need to do is unleash the massive potential that is just waiting to be let loose. 

4. Allow employees to learn at their own pace

One of the things people have long hated about the traditional working day is that it is rigid, forcing them to conform in ways that may have a negative impact on their performance.

That is why a study found that 75% of remote workers claim the work-life balance to be the primary benefit of remote work. 

Employees get to adjust their working hours to their schedules and their needs, and many of them find they like the arrangement very much. 

The same should be true of remote learning. 

If the training course creates a rigid schedule, it will box employees into it and frustrate them to no end. 

But if a company uses an LMS, it can create self-paced learning modules that allow its employees some breathing room while, at the same time, providing enough structure to keep them on pace. 

The Future of Virtual Remote Learning

The Future of Virtual Remote Learning

As things progress and technologies continue to develop, remote learning will begin to play a bigger and more important role in employee training. It is no empty promise to suggest that as time goes on, it will come to be considered a basic part of every company’s business processes. 

That will be because of the availability of

  • Personalization
  • Ease of use and implementation, and
  • New learning opportunities

In the future, remote learning will allow the option for personalization, modifying the course material to reflect the skill levels of each individual employee to ensure they learn in optimum circumstances. 

Access to educational material will continue to get easier and easier. Employees will be able to access lessons from anywhere in the world, at any time. That will make employee upskilling and employee retraining not just easier but it will inevitably become a basic element of employment. 

Because of the use of technology, it will mean that employees will become far more tech-savvy as it will be the only way they can participate in the training process, forcing them to familiarize themselves with various business technologies.

With the addition of interactive learning, employees will gain a range of new opportunities to learn that may not have existed before. Playing business games designed to prepare them for various business scenarios, both on their own and as part of a group, will go a long way to help employees prepare for the challenges they will face at work. 

And as companies begin to recognize the availability of remote learning technology and learning management systems, employee training will kick into a higher gear and become an indispensable part of every business process as companies will have to re-train and upskill their employees to remain competitive. 

Don’t Ignore Employee Training Any Longer

Don’t Ignore Employee Training Any Longer

If this article has made anything perfectly clear, it must be that it doesn’t matter which side of the remote learning vs online learning debate you fall on – the only thing that matters is that you recognize the importance of both, and make a decision about which one you prefer. 

By adopting employee training on a broad scale, companies can: 

  1. Improve employee performance
  2. Make themselves more appealing to potential employees
  3. Reduce employee turnover

And by finding the right software, companies can gain access to tools that have the power to make their training courses even more effective and engaging. 

In fact, as learning technology progresses, companies will find that ignoring employee training might come at the expense of their competitiveness. At this moment, employee training might seem like an option, but it will be considered a necessity before long. 

So future-proof your company, ensure your employees are better trained than the Navy SEALs, and watch our demo today to discover how a learning management system can help prepare your company for the future. 

Tyson Chaplin

Tyson Chaplin earned his Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University in 2014. He also earned a graduate certificate in Technology Integration and holds teaching certificates in online teaching, special education, and history.

Tyson is an Idaho native who is passionate about technology and how it can help all people learn and better themselves. He has worked in both public and private sectors. Tyson enjoys cooking and traveling with his wife, Malia, and restores vintage video game systems in his free time.

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