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Online training vs. face-to-face training - a qualified résumé

Can you still remember the year 2019? The pre-Covid era... Training took place offline, seminar rooms were chronically overbooked and travel expense reports were long. How all this has changed in just three years... In 2023, the majority of our learning events still takes place online.

However, before we fully come to terms with the new era/the new now/the current status quo, a qualified résumé on the limits and possibilities of online trainings seems to be a good idea. We divided our feedback into positive, neutral and negative aspects. But read for yourself...

This is why we love the new online training world!

  1. Online training is cheaper [#notravelexpenses] and quicker to organize.

  2. The issue of unavailable seminar rooms, which has definitely occupied some of our customers, is no longer worth mentioning in the online world: One click is enough to create one, two, ... ten new [virtual] seminar rooms. Gorgeous!

  3. We were able to organize significantly more joint training sessions - across the globe - due to the new possibilities: Training a team based in Berlin and Shanghai together? Meanwhile everyday business! This enabled us to improve the worldwide communication of our clients significantly more. Because after all, cross-cultural training measures are always most effective when everyone involved sits at the same - virtual - "table", where we can talk about improvements together.

Neutral Conclusions I

Producers are just nice to have.

Especially in the first year of Covid-19, we very often used producers for our online trainings. Their main task? Technical support! We have strayed from this trend for months. Our experts are now so well versed with the individual platforms that additional support is no longer absolutely necessary.

Hybrid training courses are like populists: They sound promising, but don't deliver much. ;-)

In hybrid trainings, the trainer and a part of the group get together in a classic face-to-face training room. This format is called "hybrid" because other participants connect to the same training via an online platform.

Unfortunately, I don't have enough space to really go into detail about this topic here. I just want to say this much: as tempting as a hybrid training may sound, please don't do it! ... Interested readers are very welcome to read about the background of this quite blunt recommendation here.

Twelve participants are at least two too many.

While twelve participants can be trained very well offline, such a large number of people is actually worth considering when it comes to online trainings. The main reason for this is the attentiveness of the group: During an online training, we have to activate the participants much more often so that they feel seen and do not pay attention to other things on the side. Above all, this costs one thing: time.

The more participants we have in an online training, the more time we have to spend on activating them. The resources which we invest in that goal are ultimately lacking for the content of the training. Our recommendation for online trainings is therefore: eight participants is optimal, ten is a good number. If you want to have twelve people, you would have to add extra time or come to terms with less content or less focus on attention control. The choice is yours! ;-)

Neutral Conclusions II

Six hours online is NOT six hours offline.

Speaking of the topic "time"... With online trainings, we do not only have to invest more time in activating the participants. We also lose time due to the technology factor, because - to put it bluntly - something always doesn't work out for someone.

In addition, many online training courses are split; for example 4 x 180 minutes spread over four days. This also causes a loss of net training time, because at the end of a 180 minute module you are inevitably "torn out" of the current topic. AND you'll need to get back into it by the beginning of the next module.

The conclusion? Online, we need more time for the same content as offline. This should definitely be considered in your planning!

If you want to split an online training, do it right!

At the beginning of 2020, we often carried out 4 x 90 minutes of online training spread over four days. We don't do that anymore because settling in at the platform, taming the technical issues, saying goodbye... took too much of the 90 minutes we had per module.

Today, we favor online trainings with a duration of 180 minutes for each module [for example, 3 x 180 minutes]. Here, too, you "lose" net training time because of the split approach, but at least not that often.

And the platforms?

Zoom is our absolute number 1 because the software is extremely easy to use. Microsoft Teams has caught up a lot in terms of functions, we only find it problematic that external persons cannot be given full host rights. For example, external parties [like our trainers] cannot start breakout rooms in MS Teams.

We also have a suitable solution for this: We simply invite your participants to OUR MS Teams environment. In this case, we are the host ourselves, which makes all functionalities available. Nevertheless: The 1st prize in the "Platforms" category clearly goes to Zoom.

Apart from that, many of the perceived 1,000 different online meeting platforms from 2020 have now disappeared into the background, which is not a loss for us.

Interkulturelles USA-Training: Wir bieten Ihnen erfahrene Experten und aktuelles Wissen!

That's why we like on-site trainings a little more; depending on the situation!

More learning effect with face-to-face training

My personal assessment is that the results of online and offline training for INDIVIDUALS are comparable. However, the situation is different with online training courses for SEVERAL PARTICIPANTS: In my experience, the learning effect here can be around 25% lower.

This is due to time constraints [six hours online is NOT six hours offline] and the attentiveness of the participants. In addition, not all groundbreaking exercises, simulations, role-plays, ... can be carried out online.

In face-to-face formats, the participants are more focused.

During the last three years we have often noticed that some participants do not turn on their cameras and that they leave online trainings to come back after minutes or hours. This is MUCH less the case with face-to-face training. Of course, our experts always address this situation to the participants. Nevertheless, as an external service provider, our hands are often tied here. In the end, we can't do more than "ask kindly".

May I share an extreme example with you in this regard? In a memorable online training session, one of our top experts sat across from nine participants for a full day, who neither activated their cameras nor collaborated or responded to questions. THAT was definitely not a pleasant situation, which our trainer still mastered with flying colors [final grade for this training: 1.17].

Employee retention through incentives

Face-to-face events are perceived much more as an incentive than corresponding online trainings.

On-site training formats strengthen informal networks within the company.

Last but not least, it should be mentioned that face-to-face training is much better at helping to build up networks within the company. Where else does the engineer come together with the mechanic, where do accounting and marketing meet if not in a common [on-site] training room and the associated coffee breaks?

Recent studies show that such cross-departmental networks significantly improve the performance of an entire company; even far away from the actual training topic. According to the motto: "I know Dave from seminar XY, I'll give him a quick call and ask for help/feedback/input."

What about a final conclusion?

  1. Online training are definitely an asset.

  2. We should keep an eye on the limits and possibilities of online/offline trainings and choose the right format for the respective learning goals.

  3. When designing online trainings, we should incorporate the aspects mentioned in this article. We should not primarily focus on the costs, but on the quality. Because only well-designed online trainings [with sufficient time, a suitable number of people, ...] have the chance to come close to the learning effect of face-to-face formats.

Which experiences did you make? We would be happy to hear your comments...


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