Face-to-face or virtual training: Which is better?

Sorry, this is a trick question to start with. Both have their merits, and both have weaknesses.  It is really a question of which works for both you and the topic at hand most effectively.

Virtual training (provided by ourselves using Zoom) is when participants in different locations can communicate with each other through online video and sound. Video conferences are the virtual equivalent of a group of people sitting around a conference table. This form of training really exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic when we were unable to physically meet up.  Virtual tools, such as Zoom, allowed training to continue in the safety of our own homes.

The strengths of virtual training when compared to traditional face-to-face training:

  • Lower cost – there are no travel costs for delegates or trainers, catering expenses or room rental costs. Given the current inflationary economic environment it is fair to say that everyone is trying to reduce costs where possible, embracing virtual training where possible may be one way to achieve cost reductions.
  • Lower environmental impact – Virtual events eliminate the need for any kind of travel making them more environmentally friendly.
  • Greater attendance – it is possible to draw together people from all over the UK, and even the world, to attend events virtually. Widespread participation in this way improves the cross-pollination of knowledge between Individuals in different offices or disciplines.
  • No close contact with other people – it reduces the transmission of pathogens because people are not physically meeting, hence the 340% growth in this form of meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Highly interactive theoretical teaching platform – with the right material preparation and the right trainer, sessions delivered over virtual training platforms are interactive, inclusive and highly effective. Each platform has its own array of tools including ‘breakout rooms’ allowing delegates to divide into smaller discussion groups; whiteboards where delegates can write on the main screen to share ideas and concepts; annotation tools to highlight and write on the screen; polls to gauge an audience opinion or use as a tool to ensure knowledge and understanding during a training session; chat functionality to answer or ask a questions; and videos where pre-recorded video or live demonstrations can be played to event participants wherever they may be.

The strengths of face-to-face training when compared to virtual training:

  • Technology – Face to face training limits the technological equipment and knowledge required by the participant, the trainer takes on the burden for providing and using the technology required. In a virtual environment, participants need a good computer, mobile phone or tablet with video and audio functionality and a good Wi-Fi signal to be able to attend the session. Some participants may have a fear of technology or lack confidence in its use, which can adversely impact the learning experience.  With face-to-face training this is not a concern.
  • Practical workshops and simulated competencies – during face-to-face training practical demonstrations and the chance for attendees to get ‘hands-on’ can be easily built into the training. Simulated competencies can optionally be added onto most face-to-face training sessions offered (ask when booking if these are of interest to you and your staff).  Despite virtual training being highly interactive and inclusive if delivered correctly as discussed above, there simply isn’t the possibility to deliver practical ‘hands-on’ sessions or conduct simulated competencies.  Therefore, the outcomes desired for the participants needs to be considered before deciding on the type of training to be booked.
  • Focused training environment – face to face training is delivered in a classroom environment where distractions can be managed by the trainer. During virtual training attendees are in their home environment. When working from home in any capacity, there are always more distractions (the washing, kids, pets etc). This too could hamper the learning experience if the delegates aren’t able to focus on the course and the course alone.

Which is better?

The question of which is better between face-to-face and virtual training should really be a question of which is most suitable for the course being delivered and the outcome objectives for the audience.  With traditional face-to-face training practical sessions and simulated competencies can be included in a focused distraction free environment.  Whereas if wide participation for mainly theoretical content is the aim, then virtual training is probably the answer.

In conclusion, there are many factors to consider including the topic to be taught; the travel required; the diversity of delegates; the quality of the trainer and their ability to teach in the 2 very different environments; the availability of the technology and the participants ability to interact using the technology.

Here at Actionable Intelligence, we are comfortable delivering course content through either face-to-face or virtual training environments.  We can offer advice as to whether a particular course is more suited to face-to-face or virtual learning and how best to achieve your desired learning outcomes for the participants, but ultimately your personal preference is important to us…. The choice is yours!

To book a training event with us, simply complete and submit our online contact form today, or give us a call on 0330 133 4195.