The debate about digital and in-person training has become more complex over recent years with the rising popularity of remote work. Some teams may have never had digital training courses in the past. There are benefits to both in-person and virtual training but choosing the right delivery method depends on your team’s specific needs and goals. Here are a few questions you can ask to help decide which format would work best for your organization.

What is Being Learned?

The most important thing to consider when choosing between digital and in-person training is the subject being taught. There are some topics and skills that simply cannot be adequately learned through a digital course. Examples of these include skills that require working with your hands, tools, machinery and other tangible objects.

Teaching something like carpentry through a virtual course would not be, in most cases, nearly as effective as through an in-person course. On the other hand, some topics naturally lend themselves to online training. Learning a new company software or programming language not only requires a digital medium but benefits from one.

Making this distinction may be a deal-breaker for your team. If the skill or subject you are trying to teach strictly cannot be taught through one format or the other, your choices will be much more limited. Luckily, though, most subjects can potentially be taught and learned through either a digital course or an in-person one.

What Are the Goals?

If you determine that your training topic would be suitable for either digital or in-person instruction, the next thing to consider are the goals for the course. The benefits and drawbacks of both online and in-person learning can make a big difference in terms of what is accomplished in your training program.

Digital Training

For example, your team might want to make sure it is easy for trainees to attend the course. If your topic doesn’t necessitate trainees to be in a specific location, online training may be more accessible. One of the main advantages of online learning is that it isn’t geographically tied to any one place. Depending on whether your course includes live remote training, a digital course could also enable students to learn whenever it works best for them during the day.

Other goals and priorities that benefit from online learning include efficiency, affordability and flexibility. A digital course will allow your trainees to use whatever study methods work best for them. Some people are able to focus better in the privacy of their own space than they might in a classroom setting. Additionally, despite any cost required to create a digital course, online learning is generally much more budget-friendly than in-person training.

Digital training has some bonus advantages, as well. For example, remote work is better for the environment since employees — and in this case trainees — do not need to commute. A digital course will also improve digital fluency and skills in new hires and encourage independent problem-solving.

In-person Training

Nonetheless, in-person training does have its own unique advantages. If you want to use training to build company culture, for example, in-person training is the obvious choice. Even for subjects that can be taught digitally, there are some beneficial teaching methods that can’t be translated to a virtual classroom.

For example, interactivity is generally more limited with digital courses. In-person, students and instructors can interact freely and in sync. Technical difficulties cannot derail the training experience as they would in a digital environment. So, in this sense, one of the advantages of in-person training is better stability.

If your team’s goals include community and hands-on learning, in-person training is the best choice. In-person courses can also offer their own kind of accessibility and flexibility advantages.

While students have less flexibility in-person about when and how they learn, they have more flexibility in terms of what they learn. A certain training group might learn some topics faster than expected or want to spend more time on a few specific topics. With in-person training, this is not only possible but easy. In this way, in-person training is also more accessible than digital training since the instructor can be reached right away.

What Works Best for Your Team?

While researching both in-person and digital training options for your team, remember to check in with team members and trainees. People who have already gone through training at your organization will be able to provide valuable insight about what worked and did not work for them. Each person’s experience will be different, but the variation will help you to consider pros and cons you may not have initially thought of.

Hybrid training may also be an option. This format blends the best of both in-person and digital training and may be a good way to meet the needs of everyone on your team. Hybrid training could have part of your team tuning in digitally while others attend simultaneously in-person. Similarly, some modules of hybrid training could occur entirely online, while others occur entirely in-person depending on the specific activity. Hybrid training can offer the distinct benefit of letting trainees choose what would work best for them, an option that is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace as well as education.

Professor John Drea at Illinois College commented on the situation, “One of the factors that empowers individuals is the ability to exert a degree of control over their environment”. Drea found that his Choice Model for hybrid learning offered highly valuable benefits to students, instructors, and administrators alike. Studies like Drea’s suggest that hybrid learning models may be the future of education as well as training due to their unique ability to fit the needs of all students and instructors.

Balanced Learning

Choosing the right training format for your organization is often a complicated process. It comes down to a simple question, though: What will best meet the needs of the people on your team? The best training occurs when everyone feels empowered to do their best work and engaged in learning about it. The right training format will give everyone the tools and opportunities they need to feel confident in their abilities every day they come into work.

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