PremierPoint Solutions’ Marketing Director Don Beehler recently interviewed SharePoint trainer Robert Schley about what students should consider when evaluating in-person vs. live online training.
Beehler: What are the main differences between in-person and live online SharePoint training in terms of the experience students have?
Schley: With in-person training, there is student/trainer interaction during lunch and breaks, and during those times topics related to a class often come up and are discussed. Another difference is that with live online students, I can’t see their body language very well, so it’s hard to know students if students are really getting what I’m saying or if I need to elaborate or rephrase certain information. I also can’t tell if they are ignoring me or if they are silent because they understand what I’m telling them. In class we banter more and topics just naturally come up, including things they aren’t quite getting. The online students have a more limited opportunity to interact, so they have to be willing to speak up with their questions. Successful live online students are assertive and take responsibility for their training.
Beehler: Some students may feel that distance learning is not as good as in-person. What do you say to them?
Schley: I used to feel the same way and did not want to go to a class if it was all online. However, I am now doing graduate work for my master’s degree, and I have to take several of the classes in my program online due to my work schedule. The material is the same whether you take a class live or in-person, so the education itself is equivalent. But I’ve learned that I can’t assume the teacher is going to do all the work for me; I have to take responsibility for my education and make sure I really understand what’s being taught. And really, that’s true regardless of which method students choose for a class.
In some cases, taking a class online has been a better scenario for me because while I’m at the office I can get on work laptop, in my actual work environment, and implement what I just learned. Another interesting thing I’ve found is that being online makes some people more comfortable about talking during a class discussion. When there’s a large in-person class, some students are more hesitant to speak in a public place. I would say that in most cases, online students actually speak more than people who attend a class in person.
Beehler: What should students consider when making a choice?
Schley: The primary consideration is how well you can focus on the class. If you attend in person, you are getting away from office distractions and are in a class environment where you are expected to pay attention and learn. I have seen some online students who took a class in their office environment get pulled away for work issues. If a student mutes himself or herself, I don’t’ know it. I’ve had online students tell me they have been gone to a meeting for the last hour and then ask if they missed anything. In-person students don’t have to be concerned about that happening, which can be a real advantage.
Beehler: Do online students really feel a part of the class?
Schley: Eighty percent of our students are online, so the trend is for online to be the class and in-person is piggy backing. In general, I believe online students definitely feel engaged – except, of course, those who mute their microphones and don’t interact.
Beehler: What comments have you gotten from live online students about the training experience?
Schley: I’ve had many online students who were impressed and said they weren’t expecting the experience they got: being able to interact with the instructor, make comments and interact with other students. Plus, learning online saves everyone money.