Face to Face Vs Online: What's the Best Option?

As we all know, the world changed in 2020 and for GCI, what had been an inclination towards providing courses in an online format, became something we had to do… and fast!

For a few of us, however, online learning was a format that we felt was not entirely suited to the provision of highly interactive, skills-based learning experiences that are at the heart of GCI’s coach training courses. Twelve months after we redesigned several of our coaching courses and made them available online, our view has changed. We believe that 100% online courses and blended courses with a face-to-face plus an online component offer a rich and deep learning experience. In some ways, it can be better than traditional live workshops.

Now, this might be difficult to accept if you have been battling away to provide remote learning for your students. We acknowledge that it has been a great challenge over the last 12 months or so. From an adult learner’s perspective, the experience, however, can be quite different.

We always knew that online courses offered certain logistical advantages:

  • They can be flexibly scheduled to suit the busy timetables of educators
  • They can eliminate the need for casual support to cover teachers off class, saving considerable expense
  • They remove the need for travel

These are significant advantages.

What surprised us, though, as we set about designing and hosting online courses were the learning benefits that emerged:

  • We could offer courses over an extended time, enabling more profound engagement with support readings plus time for real-world skills practice
  • Viewing coaching demonstrations online allowed for realtime debriefing through the Zoom Chat Box feature—a powerful learning process that surprised us
  • Demonstration videos and other video content can be available for viewing multiple times during the extended time of the course
  • Participants can be drawn from different countries and different educational systems, helping to provide a richer learning environment. On one recent course, we welcomed participants from Australia, Vietnam, Turkey, South Africa, Poland, the UK, and the US
  • Discussion Board posts made it impossible for participants to not contribute to the discussion
  • Writing brief Discussion Board responses to prompt questions led to deeper thinking and more thoughtful virtual discussion
  • We recorded Q&A panel sessions and discovered how the online format offered several advantages:
    • More than one GCI facilitator was able to contribute
    • Everyone’s question received a response
    • We tagged the recording so participants could quickly locate particular responses to particular questions

We are now convinced that the online learning experience need not be viewed as a second-rate alternative to live workshops. While some will always prefer live, face-to-face workshops, and we agree that well-designed, well-facilitated in-person workshops can provide a robust and energising learning experience. We now know that online courses can do this too.