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Online or In Person: How Does Virtual Learning Compare?

Published Wed Mar 03 2021


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When you think about learning, chances are that your mind goes to a traditional classroom setting. That setup offers in-person lessons from an instructor, but most importantly, it gives participants a chance to learn from each other as well as from the content. Working with peers lets us practice, provides deeper insights and support, and can help form bonds that surpass the classroom.

But the pandemic has created more remote workplaces, and in turn, virtual classrooms. This creates a lot of questions about virtual versus in-person leadership development, including:

• What’s the difference between virtual and in-person leadership development?

• Does a virtual classroom work as well?

• What’s the learner experience like during virtual learning?

• How do you optimize the virtual leadership development experience?

When the pandemic began, it seemed like the safer option was to simply postpone training for some. But even as vaccines are rolling out, we’re seeing the reality that remote work and virtual learning are here to stay. Now is a good time to answer those questions about virtual versus in-person leadership development.

The Difference Between Virtual and In-Person Leadership Development

When it comes to virtual and in-person leadership development, the big mistake is thinking that a virtual setup means being on your own while an in-person setup means being with others.

Some forms of learning, such as self-paced e-learning, on-demand lectures, or webinars can be done on your own. These formats can be great for learning concepts and information. But they don’t give people the opportunity to practice or connect with each other.

But you can create virtual leadership development experiences that bring people together. And compared to in-person leadership development, virtual experiences should remain relatively consistent. People should break out into teams to explore concepts. They should share stories. They can go through exercises together and practice one-on-one or in small groups. The goal is to forge those connections.

Afterward, people also network with each other. They’ve met. They feel comfortable reaching out to one another about topics even unrelated to their training. The only real difference? It’s whether you’re doing the leadership training in person or virtually.

And while Global Leadership Forecast data shows that in-person classroom learning is still highly desirable, the number of leaders that prefer online learning is increasing. For more about the benefits of virtual learning and virtual classroom, including the answers to the rest of the questions above, visit DDI’s blog.

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