As a training provider, I might have some extra perspective for this discussion. Of course it is obvious that e-Learning is not as good as and instructor giving hands on training. Close to being as different as reading an outdated book is to hands-on training by a 20 year veteran. But that is just a general statement, which is where the subject mater being taught and technology involved in e-Learning come in to play.
To expand on the above with extreme examples ...
Example 1: For most to learn MS Excel, they could easily read a book and/or use help file. But an e-Learning course by experienced instructor with tips, tricks, best practices on just the most commonly needed information would be much better than a book.
Example 2: For most to learn rebuilding a water pump, one would almost have to have hands-on instructor based training, a book wouldn't cut it. (damage to man or machine likely.:>)
In example 2, I stated almost, because it depends on the level of technology involved in the e-Learning platform. Like Nasa's real-world interactive simulation training software is the next best thing to having an instructor, and better in some respects because there is no risk to damage of man or machine. But using the most common type of e-Learning that is basically a PowerPoint with questions, wouldn't cut it. (there is a welding simulation training software too, in the category of not working as on-line training)
When you evolve to truly interactive training software like we have, a custom LMS has to be developed. SCORM and AIC standards are a training barrier as they can not handle (track) real-world interactions and simulations. Like we offer interactive Electrical Troubleshooting training software. Our custom LMS for that training software has to not only ask question and record answers, it tracks time, attempts, best practices used, safety procedures used or not used and more, to properly test student for proper training. The real-world simulations while giving that hands-on experience that would otherwise take many years for student to accumulate, can't be delivered on-line as typical e-Learning because of band width and storage limitations.
Another good example is our Troubleshooting PLC Circuits training software released today. A PLC controls entire manufacturing plants, city water, power etc., so interaction with actual equipment comes with even greater risk of damage to man or machine. So the real-world interactive training software is the best way to go. Whether student is going it alone or an instructor is using software as tool to teach students.
So in summary, the subject being taught is the first factor in determining if e-Learning - Just as Good or Not the Same. The second main factor is the technology being used in e-Learning. Is it just a PowerPoint with questions or real-world interactive simulation.
Hope this insight helps.