For most of human history, training has occurred in-person. Pre-digital age, remote training was awkward and difficult to accomplish. It was restricted to correspondence courses, audio-visual material supplied by mail, and/or training over the phone. Now, with the rise of the internet and new technologies., this has changed. The availability of text chat, VoIP calls, video calls and other quick and easy forms of communication all facilitate remote learning. As the pace at which new skills are required increases, online training has become a much more attractive option. In-person training is still firmly established, however, with some trainers and managers strongly preferring to train onsite.
Comparing and Contrasting the Two Styles
Both in-person and remote training have their pros and cons. The advantages of in-person training are fairly obvious: it’s often easier for trainees to ask questions and get feedback, trainers get a clearer picture of each learner’s progress, and managers can more easily see who is participating, engaging and benefiting from the training. On the downside, on-site training tends to be more expensive. It requires the use of facilities such as offices or meeting rooms. Trainees who don’t normally work at or attend the venue where the training takes place have to make a special effort to attend, potentially incurring travel costs and interrupting their usual schedule. If trainees need to learn to use specific equipment or processes, a hands-on approach may be much better.
By contrast, remote training tends to be the more inexpensive option. Participants do not need to be in the same location as the trainer and no special teaching space is required. Trainees who live or work a long way from the tutor don’t have to struggle to reach the teaching venue. With remote learning, it’s often easier for trainees to fit studying in around their normal activities. While the lack of hands-on experience can be a problem in some contexts, it’s often possible to work around this. For example, if the training is in the use of a software system, remote access software allows students and teachers to interact and demonstrate the correct methods just as if they were in the same room. When attendance and participation is a concern, trainees are asked to attend live sessions, or demonstrate their engagement in other ways.
The question of which style of training is most appropriate will depend to a great extent on the topic being covered. In many cases, face-to-face training might be preferable but isn’t necessary; one example would be training in a foreign language, which is facilitated by in-person contact but can also be conducted very successfully via distance learning methods. The same goes for many kinds of software and office procedures. These can often be taught remotely, sometimes without the need for more than the most minimal interaction. If the task isn’t too complex and the trainee is already familiar with the tools or systems they’ll be using, simply providing basic instructions and the opportunity to ask questions may be enough. In this sort of situation, in-person training might be a waste of resources. Someone with long experience of using office software, for instance, probably doesn’t need to attend a lecture on using a new database.
Of course, if the topic is something requiring the use of physical equipment, such as specialist tools or machinery, it can be very difficult to replace on-site training. In some instances the trainee might be able to acquire their own personal equipment or materials. However, for expensive, large or complex items this is not always possible. Audiovisual material can be a great help when learning how to accomplish a task but it’s not always sufficient. Simply watching a video or viewing a slideshow on using equipment isn’t the same as actually performing the physical task. This is potentially placing the students at a disadvantage when they’re asked to use the same equipment in the real world. This can cause serious problems if there are safety concerns or if the equipment is prone to failure if used incorrectly.
Even so, it’s still possible to replace the theoretical component of some courses with remote training. This kind of hybrid approach works well with topics such as engineering and many sciences. In these cases, the topic has a large theoretical component as well as the obvious physical elements. In the case of development, it would be completely possible to teach the necessary coding as an online class. In-person training can then focus on the hardware or networking side.
It’s also possible to combine in-person and remote learning. This kind of hybrid approach has become more common in recent years. Remote training allows an expert trainer to address a class of learners without needing to be present. The class is supervised by an assistant or peer mentor on site. This is an excellent option when the facility is located in a remote area or when the budget is limited.
Another consideration in choosing between in-person and remote learning is the personal preference of the trainee. Some people prefer to learn in groups, where they can interact with fellow learners to exchange ideas and ask questions. Others find group learning environments distracting or hard to navigate, preferring to learn alone or with one or two other trainees so they can focus completely on the material.
The personal situation of the trainee is also a factor. A single individual with few commitments outside the workplace might be happy to stay late for a training session. On the other hand, a harried parent who needs to collect their children from school would prefer a remote session. Able-bodied trainees or trainees with their own transport might be comfortable traveling to take a class, while a carless individual who struggles with public transport would be better served by remote learning.
In the final analysis, the choice will depend on your specific circumstance. Budget, topic, learning style, personal situation and individual preference are all factors you’ll need to consider when choosing between in-person or remote training.
If you need more reasoning check out these to pages: Advantages of Face-to-Face and Benefits of Remote Training.
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