White Paper

Classroom vs. online learning

What's the best way for your teams to keep up?

In a rapidly changing technology world, training employees is a no-brainer. But the route you take to keep your staff sharp can be less obvious. While classroom training, seminars and conferences have dominated in years past, online learning solutions are growing in popularity and presenting unique advantages that companies should consider.

So what’s the best way to keep your business ahead of the competition? Let’s dive in. 


Classroom vs. online learning: a head-to-head comparison

Pros of the classroom environment

When choosing a training program for your organization, remember that everyone learns differently. For some, the distraction-free classroom environment takes them away from the tasks on their to-do lists and meetings on their calendar, letting them focus on the objective at hand: learning that new skill.

In-person learning allows students to ask questions in real-time and learn from questions their peers are asking. This lively discussion environment can make learning interactive, keep students engaged and encourage new ways of thinking.

Classroom cons

The same lively discussion that may be ideal for some learners, may be an anxiety-inducing nightmare for others. Introverted students may avoid getting their questions answered altogether in this environment, leaving them at a disadvantage. But even extroverts may have a hard time excelling when classroom curriculum updates come slower than trends evolve. With new software, vendor announcements and exam requirements changing so often, classroom instructors must make sure they're proficient, and the materials and resources used to teach are up-to-date as well. Once a syllabus is put to paper, a mid-semester software update may be harder to fit into the lesson plan, leaving students missing out on vital skills.

A 3-day seminar can cost as much as $3,500 per employee when you add up travel, accommodations, tuition fees and associated costs.

And your employees aren’t the only ones missing out. While you send your team to that seminar, your organization experiences lowered productivity and a hefty bill. For example, a 3-day seminar can cost as much as $3,500 per employee when you add up travel, accommodations, tuition fees and associated costs. Can you afford those losses every time an update rolls out that your employees need to be trained on?

Cons of online learning

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: everyone learns differently. The majority of online learning solutions work predominately on a screen share model, with interactive elements to complement the presentation. While extra features can help learners stay engaged, some learners may struggle to focus or stay motivated when their learning is self-paced. 

The online learning advantage

For those who can overcome the minor drawbacks of online learning, the benefits are great. In contrast to classroom programs, it's significantly more affordable, with lower tuition and no travel expenses. 

Another benefit to employers is that online learning keeps your employees in the office and productive. Rather than taking time off for a seminar, your team can devote time during the workday (or after work as 88% of Pluralsight subscribers do) to learning, while keeping up with daily responsibilities. In fact, instead of killing time, companies that use online learning tools report a 50% increase in productivity.

Individual employees prefer online learning as well. 88% say online learning helps them more than classroom-based learning in their day-to-day work. Not only do team members use online learning to gain new skills, they also reference course modules, discussion boards and other digital resources to troubleshoot and solve problems fast—something that can't be done with classroom learning.

Lets stack them up

comparison of classroom vs online learning

The on-demand difference

Learning isn’t a one-and-done experience. In today’s fast-changing tech environment, going to a week-long seminar once a year will be insufficient. Think back to what was trending in your field last year. Is it the same thing your teams need to succeed right now?

Ready to go when your teams need it most

To surpass your competitors, your employees need unlimited, instant access to relevant training and information whenever they run into roadblocks. With on-demand learning, your teams can access the same quality training anywhere and anytime. 

“Basically there’s just no good way to send one employee off to a conference and have them come back and educate 20 others on what they just learned,” says Spenser Aden, Director of Product Architecture at Healthstream.

Furthermore, when professionals attend out-of-office training, they learn set topics. If those new skills aren’t needed immediately when they get back to work, it’s likely they’ll get forgotten to make room for whatever your employees’ current responsibilities are.

81% of subscribers attribute Pluralsight to improved job performance.

An answer to every problem, at your fingertips

In contrast, online learners can reference educational materials whenever they hit a barrier, and they also experience better overall retention than classroom learners. Both retention of course material and speed of learning can increase up to 60% with the use of on-demand learning tools. It's widely believed that technical skills have a two-year half-life. Having a learning solution that serves up relevant training daily will help you stay innovative and keep up with this rapid pace of change.

The right skills at the right time

Another difference comes in the flexibility and individualization available with platform solutions. Since everyone’s base knowledge is different, employees can skip past material they've already mastered and only devote their time to acquiring new skills or becoming more advanced. In contrast, a classroom curriculum has one speed. This lack of customization forces some students to struggle to keep up while others feel bored. 

“For the cost of sending a single staff member to one in-person training class, they can have a year's worth of Pluralsight classes," says Adam Kavan, Associate Director of Networks and Systems at Professional Research Consultants (PRC). "And they get a much bigger choice of materials. They’re not just learning one thing.”

The Pluralsight solution

As your industry and business model evolve, you need a learning solution that helps you deliver innovation on time and on budget. Businesses and individuals worldwide trust Pluralsight's technology learning platform to achieve their business goals. Here’s why. 

Develop well-rounded employees

Pluralsight gives your employees the chance to explore topics and build skills in areas outside their immediate discipline. And when given the opportunity, they’ll take it. 91% of our subscribers expand their skills in more than one area, allowing them to add more value to your business.

Your business benefits from a versatile staff, but your employees will appreciate this too. Retaining your employees becomes much easier when you invest in their professional development. 89% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with their company if their employer invests in their training.

91% of subscribers expand their skills in more than one area, allowing them to add more value to your business.

Fast, efficient and expert-authored

You don’t always have to choose between quality and quantity. Pluralsight’s library contains thousands of courses – with new ones added daily – to give your team the most timely and relevant content. Our courses are authored by industry experts, ensuring your team is learning the most accurate information from the best source. In fact, 81% of subscribers attribute Pluralsight to improved job performance and 55% have used their new skills at work within one week of learning them on Pluralsight. That’s instant results. 

“We are involved with Pluralsight today because of who was generating content and because what they generated was as good online as it was in person, if not better,” says Spenser. “What I’m really looking for is content that’s relevant and content that is good quality. I think from the very beginning when we started working with Pluralsight, that’s what we’ve found.” 

The professionals who author our courses are not only great presenters and educators, but they’re active developers, IT professionals and creative artists who use the skills they teach—and we only hire the best. Our author network includes Microsoft MVPs, VMware vExperts and more.  

Epic savings all around

According to a Bersin report, it costs on average $1,847 per year to train tech employees, but Pluralsight is a fraction of that.

And it’s not just costs you’re cutting. Training with Pluralsight saves you time, increasing your productivity and employee output. On average, each learner saves 83.7 hours per year, which is a 4.13% boost in productivity through time savings. Pluralsight saves your team time because our platform helps them problem solve effectively, deliver projects on time and get back to work. 71% of subscribers and managers rate Pluralsight better than any classroom training they’ve taken in the past.

Tools to make learning easy

Pluralsight is much more than just online courses. Our platform helps you maximize your employees' potential, keep up with the pace of technology and ship better work faster.


Learn anytime, anywhere: Squeezing in a little learning can be tough for a time-crunched professional. Our mobile and offline apps make it easy to catch a clip during lunch or the commute home.

Channels for customized learning: With thousands of courses, it can be hard to know where to start. Your teams can create channels for specific goals like learning a new technology or onboarding new hires. Customizable channels can include courses, specific modules and entire paths, so leaders can align employee skill development to business outcomes.

Benchmark employee skills: With our assessments, you can measure your employees' skill levels quickly and accurately on dozens of technologies. Their assessment score will tell them a starting point within a path, so they can skip over information they already know.

Map the right employees to the right projects: Our reporting and analytics allow you to measure employee skill level to benchmark where they stand, see their improved scores as they grow, and align them to teams and projects where they'll be most successful. You'll also be able to track learning trends to see which technologies your teams are embracing and identify opportunities for innovation.

What's the right choice for you?

95% of managers say ongoing training is critical to their staff’s success. With Pluralsight, you can achieve business goals and keep your team skilled and strong. When knowledge is power, how will you ensure your team is the smartest?




A powerful technology learning platform keeps your organization competitive.