As a copywriter who provides face-to-face training courses in the UK, I’m often asked how they compare with online courses, or ‘distance learning’ as it is sometimes called.
It’s a difficult question to answer – especially when I’m likely to be heavily biased in favour of the face-to-face variety! However, donning my impartial cap – and taking into account the opinions of others which have come my way over the years – I can offer a few informed conclusions.
The over-riding criticism of online courses seems to be that ‘students’ drop out very quickly, usually after a short, hyper-enthusiastic phase! I can only assume this is because there’s no ongoing support mechanism available to sustain their commitment.
Crucially, I also tend to feel they miss the essential human contact that will encourage and cajole. There’s no social reference point; no-one to feed your ego, to feed the dream that maybe this will all lead somewhere.
For those who may be looking to create a new career, there is no professional context in which to develop and discuss progress, hopes, frustrations and ambitions. Compare this with university tutorials which force a student to commit to taking a stance – on pain of personal embarrassment and humiliation.
With online training, peer group pressure is also absent. If you don’t succeed, so what! There’s no-one around to care or witness your abject failure.
On the other hand, online courses are a great introduction to a subject for those who are determined to make a fist of it. Only the truly determined will succeed. Without motivation, even the best course will fail to ignite the passion that is essential to overcoming the inevitable ‘grunt’ work that’s involved.
Read My Lips…
Face-to-face courses, on the other hand, obviate all the drawbacks of online courses, as discussed. One-day courses provide a good introduction to a topic – but they only scratch the surface, especially with a far-reaching vocational subject like copywriting.
They do, of course, have the benefit of offering practical ‘workshop-type’ opportunities, with personal feedback from whoever is running the course. (It’s also worth pointing out at this juncture that there are definite benefits to be had from attending several concurrent one-day courses.)
Whilst it’s often the case that feedback is provided with distance learning courses, it’s not so personal (almost by definition) and also not so immediate. It could be argued that online courses are spread over a longer duration and therefore provide the student with greater exposure to the details of the subject.
Coaching, Horses For Courses…
Face-to-face training can only achieve this when conducted on something akin to a ‘coaching’ arrangement. This is where training sessions are conducted regularly and over a longer time-period, in person and perhaps supported by telephone, e-mail, Skype or similar.
Personal coaching can be very effective, although the cost of one-to-one tuition – in terms of both money and time spent – can be prohibitive for many. It does of course have the major benefit of being spontaneous, personal and ongoing.
A relationship can develop where the student’s strengths and weaknesses become apparent to the tutor who can then set about addressing any problems over the time-span allotted for the coaching.
Coaching can also have the benefit of operating in tandem with an individual’s day-to-day career path. The emotional encouragement and support is invaluable in keeping a delegate on-track and focused on the ultimate, long-term aim of the coaching.
None of this personal dimension is possible with ‘online’ training. Only the most emotionally stable and focused individuals can hope to succeed with what is, nevertheless, a useful introduction to a subject.
For some highly motivated people – and herein lies the ultimate reward – an online course may provide the catalyst to take things further in the shape of personalised training in either a private capacity or at a college or university.
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