Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

A New Class of Learning that Does Not Break with Tradition

A New Class of Learning that Does Not Break with Tradition


Online educational platforms are attracting a lot of interest, and there is no doubt that virtual classrooms will have a major impact on professional education.

Will the physical classroom soon become obsolete? Not by a long way. I believe that the more traditional settings continue to offer important advantages for professional learners, some of which are not available in a virtual environment.

TMC provides classroom-style training on a number of levels. A dedicated trainer leads an onboarding class for new recruits, and as their careers progress, there are supplemental learning opportunities for employees taught by leaders and subject matter experts. The educational effort extends to the senior management level in areas, such as leadership and driving performance. Industry certification courses provided by organizations such as APICS are also a part of these programs.

Here are some ways in which the traditional model excels, based on my experience with the classes for people who have just joined the organization.

Networking opportunities. Starting a new job can be intimidating, particularly for entry-level recruits who are new to company life. Being part of a classroom community helps these individuals make the transition. They are familiar with the environment, and they can bond with their peers.

Conducive to learning. Even new employees who have been exposed to the rudiments of supply chain management still have a lot to learn about the company’s business practices and information systems. If one person has a question, then chances are that most of the students have a similar query. When managed properly, a classroom nurtures a sense of community and pride in the group, an atmosphere that gives individuals the confidence to ask questions and learn from classmates.

Hand-on training. During onboarding courses recruits are given the opportunity to actually use software and other tools and visit the workplace to witness firsthand how tasks such as tendering shipments are carried out. This type of real-world experience is impossible to provide when students are sitting in front of computer terminals in widely dispersed locations in an online class.

Face-to-face interaction with teachers. Trainers are able to monitor the pulse of the class and alter the pace of learning and content accordingly. If necessary, they can adapt the instruction to individual learning needs and the work roles that the students will take on. The end result is a customized learning experience that is engaging, enjoyable, and effective.

Valuable feedback. Classroom communication is two way; while the students are learning from the trainer, the trainer is learning about the students. In this sense, the classroom is a valuable resource. For example, the trainer might observe that an individual is better suited to a different customer team than what was assigned when he or she was hired.

Reinforces long-term success. The sense of community that a classroom engenders tends to stay with the students, and provides a foundation for successful careers. Also, individuals appreciate the attention they are afforded, and this helps them to feel valued and recognized as an important member of the organization.

Professional education faces many new challenges. For example, individuals now need to have expert knowledge of the industry verticals in which they operate, as well as a broad supply chain education (see the Connect series of blog posts on industry verticals for more on this).

In response, perhaps new education models will emerge where the physical classroom functions alongside the virtual classroom to give professional students the best of both worlds.