One-To-One Versus One-To-Many: Do We Really Need A Crowd To Learn?
Posted on May 7th, 2013

By Randy Sabourin

Traditional learning wisdom tells us that if we need to educateworkshop-old or train a large amount of individuals, we gather them in a classroom or workshop with a teacher teaching and students learning. This process has not served us as well as it did Socrates, who had Aristotle and his peers search for the answers through group discussion and debate. The model of a single teacher educating a group of those eager to learn remains as the foundation for our educational system. This approach works well because students are truly learning new content and the teachers are more knowledgeable. When we graduate to a corporate learning environment we encounter a very similar delivery process. Participants experience a combination of ‘one to many’ workshops and webinars. This ‘one to many’ approach still rings true in a corporate setting economically until costs associated with travel and lost opportunities mount. Research reveals further challenges with the model:   learners only retain 15% to 20% of the knowledge provided during these group setting learning assemblies.

The solution to higher education is recognized throughout almost every profession as ‘one to one’ coaching, which helps transform knowledge into skills through individual attention and adaptation. A coach directs practice to specific areas and motivates the learner to achieve new heights. In the sporting or corporate learning world, the costs associated with this ‘one to one’ approach restrict its application to a select few.

We recently conducted work for a client that challenged the economic model that prevents ‘one to one’ coaching and new learning from working side by side.

Our challenge was to train 25 senior salespeople on a new sales process. The new process was similar to their existing process; it added an objection handling and questioning model. Our task was to ensure that each salesperson understood the new process, as well as its value, and then had an opportunity to practice it. 21 of these individuals were spread across North America, while the remaining 4 were in the UK.

The solution was a one-to-one coaching conversation over the phone that included walking through the new models and practicing them in realistic scenarios. The Return On Investment (ROI) calculations compared cost for 25 participants:

Traditional Workshop Training

  • 2-day Workshop
  • Travel and Accommodations
  • Facility
  • Facilitator
  • Design and Content
  • Lost Opportunities (4 days away)
One-To-One Learning (e-roleplay)

  • 2 X 90 minutes Practice Conversations
  • Design and Development
  • No Travel
  • No Lost Opportunities


Without including lost opportunities, the traditional workshop cost was approximately double the cost of the one-to-one model. Knowledge retention for the one-to-one sessions measured consistently at 80% and the feedback (level 1) was extremely positive. Participants were able to focus on the learning components they were challenged by or did not understand. They had the ability to practice the new process in realistic situations that increased in difficulty and emotional intensity as they progressed.

There are two key factors that made this transition from conventional ‘one to many’ learning to less conventional one-to-one learning possible. First, the learners were refining and adding to an existing skill set. They all knew how to sell and understood the sales process. Second, the e-roleplayers are certified coach/facilitators who are very experienced at roleplaying sales scenarios and who are also professional actors. The ability to create realistic roleplays elevates the credibility of the experience, enabling the participants to take the learning process seriously.

Traditionally, e-roleplay is a sustainment solution that takes existing learning (sales, coaching, product) content and converts knowledge into skills via remote ‘one to one’ practice conversations. This opportunity helped us push ‘one to one’ coaching into the classic workshop domain with very positive results.

We continue to expand bringing our philosophy of practice to business in many different ways.

2 responses to “One-To-One Versus One-To-Many: Do We Really Need A Crowd To Learn?”

  1. Sherry Winne says:

    Nice post! I sit through so many boring workshops, I’d much prefer to work on what I need help with. I’ve sent this slink to our training team. Thank you.

  2. Jacques says:

    It is truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this with us. Please keep us informed about things like this. Thank you for sharing.

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