Virtual Training vs In-Person Training – Which is Better?

When “life as we know it” ended last March and the world shut down, so did in-person training…

With offices closed and everyone working from home, the choice was stark; either adapt to the world of virtual – and fast – or give up delivering any training for the foreseeable future (initially weeks, then months, then a year, then longer).

Compared to what was happening in the bigger world, it seemed insignificant. But as Churchill is credited with saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. We adapted our training successfully and learnt a lot along the way.

Now the world is opening up again. We no longer have to go to pubs and restaurants armed with blankets and hot water bottles, and in-person training is becoming a possibility.

As many companies debate the future of their office spaces (or even if they need an office anymore) we’ve asked ourselves the difficult question — which is better — virtual or in-person training?

The Benefits of In-Person Training

We lost a lot when we stopped training in-person. In-person offers the power of community, everyone being together, having conversations, bonding with each other during breaks, staying overnight and having discussions in the bar etc. The value of this is hard to quantify objectively, but it matters to many.

In-person, the trainer can really be with participants throughout, read the room more accurately than a sea of virtual faces and make sure people aren’t multi-tasking as they deliver!

We use tactile objects (like toys) in our in-person training. These particularly help kinaesthetic learners. We also scatter sweets on the table to boost mood and energy levels during the post-lunch digestion dip.

In-person training also offers the opportunity to step away from the day job for two full days and offers valuable reflection time from the outside-in.

And of course, in the training room, participants don’t disappear when the internet cuts out…

The Benefits of Virtual Training

In-person training involves bringing people together for one or two days at a time, with pre-determined content and materials. Costs associated with travel and accommodation costs use up valuable budget and can sometimes result in fewer participants. Virtual training means money is spent on people development rather than flights, hotels etc, and without all of the logistical hassles of getting everyone together.

For instance, Miradorus has been delivering for participants based in South Africa, the US, the Middle East and India, often on the same programme.

With in-person training the whole course is delivered in one go. Virtual training has the flexibility to be delivered in two-three hour modules over days or weeks — whatever period of time works for the client and the participants.

Learning in bite-sized chunks suits many learning styles. The time between each module means participants put what they’ve learned into practice immediately and come to the next module ready to share with colleagues what’s worked, what they’ve found challenging and how applying the skills and concepts have made an impact.

Sustainability of learning – the holy grail of training – is arguably far more attainable through virtual, modular training. The extended timeframe gives more scope to analyse and assess whether pre-agreed metrics are being met. Should it be necessary, the content can be adapted in between modules.

Practical activities in virtual break-out rooms have been easier to manage in many cases than in the classroom where participants can get distracted between sub-group activities and the main room. The facilitator can — literally — bring the group back together with the press of a button.

In conclusion…

It’s been fun; it’s had its moments, but it’s never been boring. In the battle between in-person and virtual training there isn’t a clear winner. They are different, and suit different priorities. For one programme the benefits of having everyone in a room may be primary, so in-person would be perfect. For another, maximising participants over a diverse geography may be key, so virtual would be the right fit.

One of the unexpected benefits of this difficult year is that we now offer and deliver world class virtual training — as recent feedback shows….

“It was an excellent session and one of the best leadership trainings I have ever attended.”

“Brilliantly executed; thanks for all those simple, concise and very informative materials.”

“Greatly appreciate all your efforts in organizing meeting rooms via Zoom, engaging us in activities which were lively and very useful.”

“I would be more than happy and highly recommend our budding ‘Leaders’ within my team to attend this training session without a second thought. Thanks for everything. It was the best!”