There is an assumption that a face-to-face interaction delivers a better result than a 'cold' online interaction. But that is not always the case.
Last month, I needed to change a number of flights at very short notice. A relation had died and I needed to get home. I was in the top tier of my loyalty program for Aer Lingus, the airline I had booked the flights with. I rang the special number I had been given.
The person who took the call was very polite and, yes, there were seats available but I would have to pay an awful lot more than the original fare for them. I had no choice but to accept. That's the way it is with airlines. When an emergency occurs they sympathize with you by absolutely ripping you off.
Anyway, I arrived at Athens airport to find out that none of us were actually booked on the flight. Panic. I went to the support desk where I was told that there were some seats left but that they couldn't access them. They gave me a number to call. I called and waited for at least 15 minutes. Then I had a crazy idea. I whipped out my laptop, went online, and was able to book some seats online at aerlingus.com. The people behind the desk were not able to do this, strangely enough.
But I needed one more seat, and I noticed that Easy Jet was flying to London. That might work. So, I went to the Easy Jet support desk, and they couldn't help. So I went online to easyjet.com and they had no seats. Then I went to kayak.com and was able to book a seat on the Easy Jet flight through a third party vendor based in America.
It cost me a lot of money but we all got home in time because of the Web. The people behind the desk were polite but they were useless. They couldn't help. Obviously, whatever systems they have must not be connected to the Internet. Isn't that extraordinary?
For an increasing number of tasks, a well-managed website is much better than a human being at helping you get the job done. Sometimes it's a mix. You go online and do a bunch of stuff on your own and then you get some online help to do some more.
"On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction," according to a report by SRI International. "The report examined the comparative research on online versus traditional classroom teaching from 1996 to 2008," Steve Lohr wrote in a New York Times article. "Some of it was in K-12 settings, but most of the comparative studies were done in colleges and adult continuing-education programs of various kinds, from medical training to the military."
The study found that, on average, students studying online ranked in the 59th percentile in tested performance, in comparison to classroom students who ranked in the 50th percentile.
We are only scratching the surface of the potential that the Web can deliver. It's a very exciting time and if you're involved in the Web you are standing in the middle of the beginning of one very big revolution in how we live, learn, work and play.