Training F2F vs Online

online training

Recently, we ran a two-week-long survey about training. It asked two questions and here are the results:

For training of your workforce, which do you prefer?

Nearly 3000 viewed the question and 70 answered:

  • Face-to-face classroom 74%
  • Live virtual classroom 10%
  • Self-paced online 16%

Will demand for self-paced online training overtake live training because it is less expensive and more convenient to deliver?

There were over 3,400 views and 82 responses:

  • Yes 62%
  • No 38%

It appears that while most of us prefer the face-to-face experience, the demand for self-paced online training will overtake it, due to lower cost and convenience.

That is much as I expected to see, but there was one surprise. Self-paced online was a more popular choice than live virtual by almost 60%.

Some interesting insights appeared in the comments that were made.

Steve Borris (an author) said that he prefers F2F and reinforces it with practical learning on the factory floor.

  • Indeed for trades and operator training that makes a lot of sense.

Steve also remarked that cost will likely drive companies to use online methods. Online has some hidden costs – particularly the students’ need for laptops. University students found the teaching to be of poor quality online. Interaction opportunities are lessened online.

  • During the Pandemic there was a rush to put everything online and in many cases, the live courses were simply taught online without much thought to how best to use the media. It’s no surprise that universities would have led that conversion and no doubt learned lessons along the way.
  • Our own online training began that same way, just to get it up, but we quickly revised it to take full advantage of what online media offers. Student response to it has been largely very positive. Note: our audience is industrial, not academic.

Mark Kincade (Allied Reliability) remarked: Face to Face. It’s better for interaction. Plus the sidebar conversations and networking opportunities are sometimes worth more than the actual training. This cannot be replicated with online training.

  • I agree with Mark that with face-to-face there is more interaction, but it has to be encouraged. If the instructor isn’t the most engaging, the room can be pretty quiet. Those side-bar and networking conversations are of great value.
  • I disagree that it cannot be replicated with online training. While it is more challenging to encourage, it does happen with the right instructor, an interesting topic, and an engaged audience.

Daryl Mather felt that online has already overtaken face to face, and pointed out that certification was the key. A course with certification can fare very well.

  • Indeed that does mirror our experience with our online training certifications.

Mike Miller (Industrial Training & Consulting) notes that self-paced learning is better for convenience but requires discipline on the part of the student or management to be effective. Some topics require hands-on learning at a minimum after the self-paced training. The combination of videos and animation in the self-paced training will increase understanding and retention.
• Yes, we are noticing that discipline is needed and it isn’t always there with an industrial audience. There are many distractions and some are just not interested. Being told to do it by the boss isn’t much of a motivator.

Christopher Kiely (Training Manager and Developer) remarked that the shift (to online) is already happening, but that there is a need for coaching and facilitators even if virtual.

  • We are seeing the same thing. Where the training involves new skills or knowledge that must be put into use, there is a need for practice. We’ve actually built that into some of our online offerings along with certifications that were not there in older face-to-face offerings.

Ted Lister (Managing Partner, Advando North America Inc.) echoed sentiments about online taking over but prefers the virtual, not self-paced and he agrees that live mentoring should be considered to achieve competency and the ability to add value.

Blair Carmichael (Asset Management Specialist at Ontario Northland) loves being able to follow along at their own pace. But if it was for a large group, live training is likely better because of the group discussion.

  •  We’ve taught small and large groups in online formats – with self-paced, most do well and enjoy it, a few just can’t seem to get into it. With live-virtual classes, although live interaction is possible, it is difficult to encourage and achieve. As an instructor, I’ve found that it is impossible to even know if your students are there – they are typically muted and cams are off. Interactions tend to be between students and instructors. I’ve yet to see a group discussion occur spontaneously in a virtual format, but in a live face-to-face group, it happens often.
  • When there is interaction online, the students often begin to talk while still muted. Time is lost until they realize the error.


  • All training methods have their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Online self-paced is definitely here to stay and in some cases will need augmentation with mentoring.
  • Live classroom interaction is difficult but not impossible to replicate in live virtual and online formats. It is worth the effort though, as everyone seems to agree on the value it can add.
  • Industrial students will need to get used to this “new normal” since the lower costs of online delivery make it a more attractive option for companies.
  • Whether it is online or face-to-face, someone will always sit at the back of the room and read the newspaper!
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