Peer Learning versus E-Learning

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Peer Learning

Peer learning involves participants meeting either one-on-one or in groups to build interpersonal skills and resolve real workplace problems in a practical fashion. Peer learning groups organized by The Peer Learning Institute also hold participants accountable for learning and practicing new skills and then reporting back to their groups regarding their experience.


E-learning involves participants sitting alone in front of a computer screen typically to gain knowledge and possibly resolve generic workplace problems in a simulated online environment. E-learning does not hold participants accountable for practicing new skills after the course or reporting back to anyone regarding their experience.

Both peer learning groups and asynchronous e-learning courses can be accessed at any time, occur onsite, and require no outside facilitator. They can also be available at a minimal cost, compared to off-site traditional training.

Peer Learning Groups vs. E-Learning Courses

However, peer learning groups and e-learning courses differ in an additional number of significant ways. This is shown in the table below, which compares peer learning groups as established by The Peer Learning Institute and e-learning courses.

Peer Learning Groups

E-Learning Courses

·      Provide a face-to-face learning experience ·      Do not provide face-to-face learning
·      Focus on social interpersonal skills ·      Focus on technical knowledge
·      Focus on practical real-work issues ·      Focus on generic work information
·      Emphasize practical application ·      Emphasize knowledge absorption
·      Have maximum interaction ·      Have minimal interaction
·      Emphasize reflection ·      Have no emphasis on reflection
·      Incorporate post-group application ·      Incorporate no post-course application
·      Require active participation ·      Require passive participation
·      Provide realistic practice ·      Provide theoretical principles
·      Incorporate feedback from peers ·      Incorporate minimal to no feedback
·      Require reporting on application experience ·      Require no application reporting
·      Require full participation until the end ·      Have no guarantee of completion
·      Best used for gaining interpersonal and management skills ·      Best used for gaining technical knowledge
·      Build on what the participants know ·      Do not build on participants’ expertise
·      Require a social setting ·      Require an isolated quiet setting
·      Learning requires collaboration and discussion ·      Learning does not require collaboration
·      Build and reinforce collaborative teamwork ·      Do not build teamwork

The Choice

Both peer learning groups and e-learning courses have value. The choice depends on what the desired learning outcome is. Peer learning groups require, build and sustain collaborative work teams as participants develop and practice new management skills. E-learning courses involve solitary work as participants learn new information.

Deborah Laurel

Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute

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