Why an online course is better than in-person

By Mark Cheng, Founder and Partner at Social Innovation Circle

3mn read

Early in 2020, as the global pandemic began shutting down all in-person meetings, we made the risky decision to move all of our courses fully online.

We weren’t sure how quality would be affected. I was convinced that nothing could beat the buzz of being in a room of other founders. Surely much would be lost by not being together in one room?

What we discovered blew us away.

Students tell us they love the online live course. It provides the best of both worlds – the opportunity to interact with others in a community over a set time period, while saving time, money and hassle by being able to participate from anywhere.

I now believe that not only can online training be as good as in-person, it can actually be even MORE effective.

Here are 4 reasons why a fully online course experience is better than an in-person:

1. It enables larger, more diverse groups

For a live training, you need to have everyone in the same room over the space of 2-3 days. This limits participants to whoever is available in a particular city that week. With online training, people join us from all over the world. Our courses routinely host participants from 10 or more countries, from Brazil to Hong Kong. And this means that we can accommodate much larger groups – we have run courses for up to 60 participants at a time without problem.

A larger group means a more diverse community to draw upon, which makes for incredible networking among the students and more interesting breakout rooms. Our students really do join a a global community of peers, which is really the strength of our offer.

2. It saves time and money

This one is obvious, but once you don’t have to bring everyone together in the same location for a few days, you save everyone a fortune in travel and accommodation costs. We pass these savings directly back to our clients. They also tell us they prefer the saving in time and convenience from not having to travel, or to give up an entire day to training.

3. We can offer a better learning experience

The most important reason for shifting to a 100% online experience is this: the format actually enables a better learning experience for students.

There is a limit to how much information can be absorbed in one session. We have learnt that it’s better to run 3 sessions of 90 minutes each over the course of a week, rather than try to cram everything into a single 1-day workshop, as we would have to do with an in-person training.

We find 90 minutes per session is the ideal length of time to enable people to digest the content. It also respects people’s time, enabling them to fit training into busy work schedules so that they do not need to take time off from work.

Teaching online means that we can alternate easily between short ‘theory’ sections, followed by breakout rooms where students can immediately discuss what they’ve just heard and apply it to their own projects.

Every session is recorded, so students can catch up on any sessions they miss straightaway. They can also go back and review the content again as many times as they like.

We encourage participants to share the recordings with their colleagues, so that the whole team can benefit. Why limit the training just to the founder? This wouldn’t be possible with an in-person experience.

4. We combine coaching and teaching

Finally, the most valuable change that online delivery has made for us, the real secret sauce of our success – our online courses enable us to combine coaching with teaching.

Moving online has enabled us to develop a unique format which is ideally suited for student learning. In our longer courses, everyone joins the webinars but we follow with a private coaching session where our experienced coaches meet teams in smaller groups to go through the material in depth.

This enables us to answer individual questions, work out where people are struggling, and help students consolidate the material with a tight knit group of peers who can cheer each other on. Supplementing webinars with coaching massively improves the learning experience for each student, far beyond just watching lectures. It also restores, and in many ways enhances, the community building and networking benefits of going through a joint learning experience with others.

These 4 reasons – enabling global participation, saving time and money, offering a better learning experience, and combining coaching with teaching, have transformed the way that we train our students.

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