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Live Versus Online Training

Casey Cunningham
Dec 01, 2015

More often than not, I hear countless people state that live training is better than online training. As a company with extensive experience in both types of training, we are extremely versed on this topic. So what do we think? Well, they both can be equally good and equally bad for different reasons. Truly understanding this difference could mean equipping yourself, your team, and your company to stay ahead of the learning and performance curve, or struggling to catch up to those who always seem to be a step ahead.

Most of us don’t have time and money to waste. When we invest either or both of these critical assets—time and money—we expect a return. Consider with me the true cost of learning, and once you do, I think you’ll agree that the medium alone does not dictate how effective your learning experience is.

So, let me clearly define live training versus online training to keep us on the same page. Live training is an instructor-led, face-to-face event in a classroom of students who have traveled to a location to attend. The online training I will be discussing is the live version (not recorded classes) that is instructor-led, and the trainer and students are in different locations.

Now let’s consider some big differences, beginning with live training. Live training has a distinct advantage as it allows for effective skills practice. Because live training classes are usually longer, the trainer can take time to give participants practice in between segments of content. It is also easier to keep participants engaged. The trainer can create engagement through movement and energy. He can also keep participants on task when they inevitably get distracted. Live training can foster camaraderie. Participants can work together in skills practice just like they would at work. Camaraderie can also keep energy high by having participants feed off each other during the class.

On the other hand, online training also has huge benefits as it allows for one training session across different time zones, to an unlimited number of people, and participants don’t have to leave their offices. And, it is cost-effective because you don’t have to pay for travel and hotel accommodations along with the fee for training. Students can get the same training, at the same time while still having time afterward to get other work done.

So, you might be saying at this point, I understand online training advantages, but online learning just isn’t as good. Unfortunately, that can be true because most online instructors haven’t been trained to effectively teach online. They are so ineffective they have given online training a bad reputation. If I am going to be completely honest though, it does not matter which medium you choose, if you do not have trainers, predetermined measures of success put into place, and reinforcement and accountability, you might as well not have training—live or online—at all. So let’s go through each aspect of good training so you can see why the medium does not matter if these aspects are not incorporated—starting with great trainers.

Great trainers
Having a great trainer is the most important aspect in having a great training session because it facilitates engagement and ultimately, results. A great trainer is someone who has been well-equipped to teach inside a classroom to a group of live students and able to teach from behind a computer screen to students in different locations.

In both settings, trainers must plan for and address the distractions—in online learning, there is a chance a student will minimize the screen, be distracted by e-mail, phones, other people, etc. With live training, there are cellphones, work they bring with them, sidebar conversations, and many times, a hostile attitude to just being there. In both cases, these distractions are addressed by excellent trainers.

Great trainers know how to engage participants in multiple ways by asking questions at the right time, acknowledging students effectively and responding properly to challenges and inquiries. The difference between an engaging trainer and a boring one is the ability to keep the audience’s attention under various and quite often, unplanned circumstances.

To continue to keep participants engaged a well-designed handout is necessary to guide a student along during the class. It also serves as important reference material in reinforcing what has been learned. Without a handout, the student is at risk of not being able to properly execute what has been taught in the class. Ultimately every class, whether online or live should provide key assignments/action items to be completed post class, which brings me to my next point—measures of success.

Measures of success
To ensure effective learning, it is important to be clear with participants what they are going to learn and what they are going to be able to do by the end of the course. A great trainer clearly sets the expectations so when the students have completed the course, they can experience results and their time and money was not wasted.

A measure of success can include a comprehensive test to assess the information retained or an assignment students must complete in order to use the material in a real-life situation. Without any measures of success established before the course begins, the participant is not accountable for his growth outside of the “classroom” and therefore may not utilize what was learned in the training session, whether it is live or online. This is also why reinforcement and accountability are extremely important.

Reinforcement and accountability
While a great trainer is the most important aspect during a valuable training session, reinforcement and accountability are the most important aspects after a training session. What does this mean? It means that after a training session, a lot of trainers feel like they are done. They did their jobs, taught their content and now it is the participants’ job to use what they have learned. Unfortunately, when trainers do this, after only a few days, it is as if they did not teach the class at all.

Constant reinforcement and accountability are extremely important because without it, information learned is quickly lost over time. For example, "A typical graph of the forgetting curve shows that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material (

After a training session, live or online, trainers should assign post-class assignments and institute accountability measures—preferably weekly. In this instance, the saying, “practice makes perfect” truly applies. Participants need reinforcement assignments to continue the energy and excitement felt during the session.

In conclusion, training has gotten a bad reputation in the mortgage industry because it has not been executed correctly. When it comes to choosing which medium is better, I would say there is not a right answer. When you are looking for training that requires more skills practice and you are able to spend more money on travel and other expenses, live training might be for you. If you are looking for training for a large amount of people with geographic limitations, online training could be right for your company. I say all of this with a caveat: neither of these mediums will work without a great trainer leading the class, clear measures of success for students after the class ends, and reinforcement and accountability long after the class has ended.

Casey Cunningham is the chief executive officer and founder of Alpharetta, Ga.-based XINNIX, The Mortgage Academy, a provider of leadership development and mortgage sales training. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.


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