Learning is Learning, or is it?

by QuickCert on September 28, 2012


I would like to share with you the different types of learning you will see in the industry or possibly have seen and are not sure which is the one you should be using, or what they all are, or maybe which one you are learning from right now.  After almost 13 years in the industry, below is an overview of how I have seen learning evolve.

The items or types are as follows:

  • Self-Paced/Self-Study learning
  • Instructor-led
  • Classroom
  • Virtual classroom
  • Bootcamp
  • Blended
  • Hybrid
  • Distance
  • eLearning
  • Online

If I have forgotten any types I welcome any comments letting me know. Many of these are identical and the same. For some reason many organizations in this industry think of them as different. I was trying to think of a great analogy to make my point and instead on doing that, I will explain each one. This is not a full definition by any sort, I am trying to simplify things somewhat.

Self-paced/Self-Study Self-paced learning is really anything you can do at your own pace. A participant directs the learning to meet personal objectives. With this type of learning, the participant controls the pace of the learning process. This type of learning has advantages and disadvantages:


  • Learn information, knowledge and skills when needed
  • Not dependent on structure and/or an instructors pace
  • A highly motivating experience having full control over the learning process
  • Equal levels of participation for everyone becoming more active with the greater responsibility for their own learning
  • Efficient use of resources and time of participant. Study the sections, chapters, modules in any order


  • This is a new method for learning. Participants may feel uncomfortable with process
  • Requires motivation and responsibility to work independently
  • Requires time management skills, procrastination could make this process less efficient
  • Requires instructors experienced with this learning model
  • Challenging and time-consuming to develop course materials

Look for Training providers who may have their own studio and instructor environment conducive to this type of learning. They will have more control over their materials. Can make changes and updates and customize learning tools to fit the needs of the participant and client.

Instructor-led Training (ILT) is self explanatory. The training is taught or led by an instructor, teacher, professor, etc. of some sort. This item falls into the self-paced, distance, hybrid, blended, eLearning, Online, bootcamps, virtual classroom, classroom categories. Technically everything listed has someone teaching someone else the knowledge and skills. I am not sure what others refer to instructor-led. I have seen a few weird explanations in the past, but honestly thought they were joking. Now that I am writing this, I am not sure they were. If you have read or seen this type explained differently or used in a different manner please let me know. Instructors deliver training in a classroom format, workshop, demonstration, both face-to-face and virtually (online, self-paced, eLearning, etc.) If an instructor is leading the class in one way or another it is considered Instructor-led.

Classroom learning is exactly what it describes. Learning via a classroom setting. This is something we all grew up with in school. There are also training centers that offer classroom training, generally they also offer bootcamps or their only classroom offering is a bootcamp. Classroom learning has an instructor or teacher, it can be recorded (MS doesn’t permit their Official Curriculum to be recorded), can have virtual access by those unable to be on site for the training. It is often seen as one half of the hybrid learning model, and/or the blended learning model as well. It fits into a few other areas discussed below.

Virtual  classroom – Instructor led face-to-face class and feedback online. Voice interaction, whiteboard, notes to enhance a participant’s overall experience. Providing interaction with the instructor and classmates via headsets, mics or phone in.  These virtual classes use remote meeting software, for example TeamViewer, WebEX or GoToMeeting.  They can be a virtual or distance learning experience for participants not physically located in the class on site or a separate class altogether with the instructor in one location and each participant in another, connected via software and the web.

Bootcamps have changed meaning over the years. Maybe not for everyone in this industry. It has been used a myriad of different ways over the years so I am not sure if it really has morphed or not. Seen usually in 5-10 day increments. It is a cram session really. One of the reasons, why I am not a fan for someone starting out. They are much more expensive as well than several other options like self-paced. Some participants need the structure of a classroom setting to learn or be comfortable. It requires less responsibility as well. Self-Paced is not for everyone. Early on bootcamps were cramming information into some people who were then becoming what is known in the industry as “paper certified”. They passed the exam sure, but they are worthless on the job. I am not saying bootcamps are responsible, I like Bootcamps in certain situations. People are responsible. Bootcamps are effective for someone getting back in the industry after being absent for some time. For someone who has exhausted other study avenues and needs more help, someone given very little time to prepare and needs to pass yesterday. Participants who need the structure of a classroom setting should use a classroom and not a 5 day class. Bootcamps popped up for Microsoft courses. For example, a Microsoft exam generally begins with 70- (there are a few exceptions to this rule). The exam consists of learning modules or courses. These are built for classrooms and are given a number of days to teach. The knowledge and skills for a particular exam are covered in two courses. One is a 3 day and the other is a 5 day for example. In a classroom or bootcamp setting that is exactly how long the classes are. Microsoft posts recommended requirements on their learning page. These are important. For people who either meet or exceed these a bootcamp is perfect. For anyone else, I would focus on a self-paced or a semester classroom setting.

Blended learning is combining two or more different types into one training solution. Blended and Hybrid are the same thing. This is most often seen with a live instructor classroom environment and online learning. An example would be a classroom experience that uses online videos for homework or as a supplement.

There a few different models for Blended Learning I have come across in the industry. This is not an exhaustive list. Here are the types:

  • Self-Blend which is popular in High Schools, allows students to choose which courses to take online to reinforce their school’s traditional course materials (curriculum)
  • Online lab delivers the course but in a classroom location. Taken Online but at the traditional school location during school hours
  • Face-to-Face instructors deliver the course materials to the class. A physical teacher uses online technology in the learning environment or lab or maybe even in extra space in the classroom (back or side)
  • Rotation – participants are on a fixed course schedule cycling between online self-paced learning and classroom learning with a face-to-face instructor
  • Flex – Here an platform (online) delivers most if not all of the course materials to the participant. Instructors are on hand to provide help and support through in-person tutoring and/or group sessions (small)
  • Online Driver – Is a platform (online) and an instructor deliver all the course materials. The participants work remotely, and have face-to-face check-ins are either available or mandatory

Hybrid learning (See Blended Learning above)

Distance learning is the ability to deliver teaching to participants not physically present in a traditional educational setting usually a classroom. A source of learning when the source of the information and the participants are separated by distance, time or both. Distance learning has the ability to meet demand for people needing additional flexibility resulting from time-constraints during their day. It is used to assist with capacity limitations as well. It can be consumed off-site reducing the need for additional classrooms or buildings to house participants. Considering the many students who do not have the ability to attend a regular classroom environment as a result of disabilities, handicaps or sickness. Distance learning gives these students the chance at attending school.

eLearning includes any and all electronic forms of learning and teaching. Computer-Based Training or CBT and Web-Based Training or WBT are synonyms for eLearning. Think of it this way eLearning content is delivered via DVD, tape, audio, satellite TV, CD, etc. It can be Self-Paced or Instructor-Led or a combination of both. It includes everything you consume be it in the form of text, image, audio/video streaming, etc. eLearning describes the industry in my mind. Even in a classroom, where a movie is watched or a lab is taken, that is considered eLearning. K-12 schools all over the country are integrating IPADs, Kuno, Kimeo in their learning environment to help students learn and excel. This is an excellent example of eLearning. This is a broad topic and will include most learning techniques using more than just electronic (e in eLearning stands for electronic. More and more it seems to stand for exciting, energetic, excellent, etc. as well).

Online learning is learning taken online. Usually a learning portal you enter login credentials to enter. Sold by subscription. Generally, the product is no different than a DVD or any other method of delivery. Access to a learning library of some sort.

All these are basically the same thing. Learning is learning. The only difference should be how you consume it. Not where you are located when learning. We are all different in many ways. That goes for what learning techniques are most effective.