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In-Person Training vs Online Learning: 10 Key Differences


Are you caught in an in-person training vs online learning dilemma? Not sure which one to adopt?

Don’t worry, this post will help you make up your mind quicker and more confidently than you expected.

For decades, in-person training has been the chief medium of instruction in educational and corporate settings. It facilitates hands-on training and lends a human touch to the interactions between participants.

On the flip side, in-person training is not available on demand. It also expects learners to acquire knowledge at the same pace regardless of whether they are slow or fast learners.

Similarly, online learning is highly accessible and it promotes self-paced learning. The flexibility of time and place, easy course creation, and compatibility with all popular devices make online learning a widely adopted method.

Additionally, with the costs related to transportation, training centers, and printed materials out of the equation, online learning is cost-saving.

But lack of face time, technical challenges with some learners, and a feeling of isolation are a few drawbacks of online learning.

There are several other differences and pros and cons that accompany these two training methods.

Continue reading to understand in-person vs online learning better and find out which approach is best suited for your teaching and learning needs.

Watch: What is eLearning and How Can It Help You?

Before we get to the stark differences between traditional classroom learning and web-based learning, let’s understand the following.

What Is In-Person Training?

“The classroom should be an entrance into the world, not an escape from it.”. – John Ciardi

In-person training, also known as face-to-face training or traditional classroom learning, is a method of training that embraces the age-old system of delivering education by bringing individuals together in a physical environment.

Participants interact directly with trainers in person, fostering a human connection, deeper understanding, and engagement.

In this environment, learners benefit from real-time feedback, personalized attention, and the opportunity for collaborative activities.

This learning method promotes an active learning community, encouraging networking, knowledge sharing, and the development of interpersonal skills.

By facilitating hands-on experiences and creating an environment for immediate interaction, in-person training remains a valuable and impactful avenue for learning and growth in today’s technology-driven world.

What Is Online Learning?

Online learning refers to the process of acquiring knowledge and skills through a virtual platform. It is also known as eLearning, web-based learning, or computer-based learning.

In this learning system, individuals access courses and educational resources remotely, without the need for physical presence in a traditional classroom setting. For this, they generally rely on a learning management system (LMS).


Watch: What is a Cloud-Based Learning Management System?

Online learning typically utilizes interactive multimedia content, video lectures, webinars, online assessments like quizzes, discussion forums, and other digital tools to facilitate learning and collaboration.

It provides flexibility in terms of time and location, allowing learners to study at their own pace and from anywhere with an internet connection.

10 Key Differences Between In-Person Training and Online Learning

As we’ve already seen, in-person training and online learning are two distinct approaches to education or skill development. While both methods have their share of advantages and disadvantages, here are some key differences between them:

In-Person Training Online Learning
In-person training requires learners to be physically present in a specific location, such as a classroom or training center, where they can interact directly with instructors and peers. Online learning enables learners to access educational materials and take courses remotely, using digital platforms.
In-person training typically has fixed schedules and requires learners to be present at specific times and locations. Online learning is flexible and convenient since learners can attend educational or training sessions from anywhere and at any time. Individuals can learn at their own pace and schedule.
In-person training often offers a higher level of real human interactions and immediate feedback. Learners can engage in discussions, ask questions, and receive real-time responses from instructors and peers. Online learning platforms strive to provide virtually interactive elements, such as discussion forums, virtual classrooms, video conferences, and instant messaging.
Certain professions, such as engineers, medical lab technicians, and paramedics can benefit from in-person training as it offers the advantage of hands-on experience. They can practice skills using tools, equipment, and physical materials under the guidance and supervision of instructors. Online learning usually incorporates simulations or virtual reality (VR) to replicate some aspects of hands-on training and give a feeling of the tactile experience.
In-person training provides a dedicated learning environment away from the distractions of daily life. Being physically present like this in a classroom helps learners stay focused and engaged. Online learning requires a conducive learning environment at home or in other locations and self-discipline to stick to a regular routine and remove any possible distractions. It also requires great time-management skills.
In-person training lets learners build personal connections with instructors and peers, fostering networking and collaboration opportunities. Such interactions can lead to valuable professional relationships. Online learning platforms leverage advanced communication tools to interact and communicate regularly with remote teams and remove any sense of physical distance separating them.
In-person training often entails additional expenses related to commuting, course materials, and hiring external experts. Online learning can be cost-effective as you can avoid these additional expenses. It also provides accessibility by removing geographical and time constraints.
Since all learners have to sit through the same lectures of the same duration in in-person training, they are expected to learn synchronously at the same pace. Besides limiting the options for learning & development, it doesn’t make a distinction between fast and slow learners. This can lead to information overload for the latter category of learners. Online training generally caters to different learning styles and preferences through the use of multimedia and a variety of programs. So, it serves all learners equally well, whether they are auditory or visual learners. They can pause and resume learning whenever they want and learn asynchronously at a pace that works best for them.
Learning in a physical environment doesn’t require many technical skills. They aren’t a prerequisite as learners have only to listen to lectures, take notes, and watch demos. To make the most of web-based learning, participants must be digitally literate and show good netiquette. They should be familiar with the training and communication tools they use daily as a part of the program.
The number and diversity of participants in face-to-face training may be limited due to physical constraints. In the absence of any man-made limitations, online learning is capable of bringing diverse people from different cultural backgrounds and locations around the world.

The Future of In-Person Learning and Online Learning

While the rapid evolution of online training systems and the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly impacted learning systems worldwide, leading to the adoption of remote and online learning, it is expected that in-person learning will continue to play a vital role.

Here are some potential aspects of the future of in-person learning:

  • Hybrid Learning Models: The future may see a rise in hybrid learning models, combining elements of in-person and online education. This approach offers the flexibility of remote learning while still allowing for valuable in-person interactions. Whether for academic learning or corporate training purposes, this kind of blended learning approach can enhance and reinforce classroom instruction.
  • Personalized and Experiential Learning: In-person learning can provide unique opportunities for personalized and experiential learning. Hands-on activities, collaborative projects, and face-to-face discussions can enhance the learning experience, foster social skills, and promote the practical application of knowledge.
  • Enhanced Classroom Technologies: Traditional classrooms may be equipped with advanced technologies to facilitate engaging and interactive learning experiences. Virtual reality, augmented reality (AR), and other immersive technologies could be integrated into lessons, allowing learners to explore virtual environments and simulations.
  • Focus on Social and Emotional Learning: In-person learning can offer valuable social interactions and emotional support for learners. Organizations may place increased emphasis on social and emotional learning, promoting empathy, communication skills, teamwork, and mental well-being. Face-to-face interactions with peers and instructors can help develop these essential aspects of education.
  • Health and Safety Measures: With the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be a continued focus on health and safety measures in educational institutions and training centers. Enhanced hygiene practices, improved ventilation systems, and more robust emergency preparedness protocols could become standard to ensure a safe learning environment.


  • Lifelong Learning and Skill Development: In-person learning is expected to extend beyond traditional school settings. Lifelong learning programs, workshops, and vocational training can continue to thrive, providing individuals with opportunities to acquire new skills, explore new fields, and adapt to evolving job market demands.

The future of in-person learning will depend on various factors such as technological advancements, the readiness to introduce them in traditional classroom settings, educational policies, and the level of technical skills among participants.

While the recent shift to remote learning during the pandemic highlighted the potential of online education, in-person learning is likely to persist due to its unique benefits and the human need for social interaction and hands-on experiences in the learning process.

Let’s now shift gears and see what the future holds for online learning.

“The future of e-Learning is wide open! Learning doesn’t just happen during business hours in the office or in the classroom. It happens everywhere through a number of different channels.” – Eric Schuermann

  • Increased Access: Online learning will continue to expand and provide increased access to users worldwide. This includes individuals in remote areas, those with physical challenges, unique learning needs, and working professionals who may not have the flexibility to attend traditional in-person training sessions.
  • Personalized Learning: Online learning platforms will become more sophisticated in delivering personalized learning experiences. Adaptive learning, such as formative assessments, learning pathways, and real-time custom feedback, will analyze learners’ data and provide tailored content, assessments, and recommendations to meet each learner’s specific needs, learning style, and pace.
  • Gamification and Interactive Experiences: Online learning will incorporate more gamification elements and interactive experiences to enhance engagement and motivation. Gamified learning environments, VR simulations, and AR applications will create immersive educational experiences.
  • Microlearning: The trend of microlearning, where content is broken down into bite-sized modules, will continue to grow. Short video lessons, interactive quizzes, and mini-courses will cater to learners’ shorter attention spans and enable flexible learning on the go. This is intended to cater to a growing pool of audiences that increasingly relies on portable devices to learn.

Watch: What Is a Mobile LMS & How Can It Help Train Anytime, Anywhere?

  • Collaborative Learning: Online learning platforms will foster collaborative learning experiences by incorporating features such as discussion boards, Q&A communities, chat functions, and group projects. Learners from different parts of the world or departments will be able to interact, share ideas, and work together on assignments, promoting a global perspective and cultural exchange.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI-powered tools, such as chatbots, and data analytics will play a crucial role in online learning. They will reduce the burden on instructors and admins by serving as a reliable assistant. Intelligent systems will provide real-time support and feedback, while data analytics will enable training managers to track learners’ progress, identify learning gaps, and customize instruction accordingly.
  • Continuous Professional Development: Online learning will become an essential component of continuous professional development across various industries. Lifelong learning will be facilitated through online courses, webinars, and virtual conferences, allowing professionals to stay updated with the latest trends and skills in their respective fields.
  • Credentialing and Accreditation: Online learning will continue to gain recognition and acceptance in terms of credentialing and accreditation. More universities and institutions will offer accredited online degree programs, and employers will increasingly value online certifications as evidence of relevant skills and knowledge.

While these points reflect potential positive trends in online learning, the future is dynamic and subject to further advancements and innovations in technology and education.

How to Choose the Best Platform for Online Learning

Watch: How to Choose the Best SaaS LMS Software

Choosing the best platform for online learning can significantly impact your learning experience and outcomes. Some of the key factors to consider when selecting an online learning platform include ease of use, customizability, privacy and security, quizzes & assessments, software integrations, and certification.

Other factors are the availability of quality courses, multimedia support, compatibility with devices, responsive support, and flexible pricing.

Last but not certainly least, third-party reviews and client testimonials and recommendations can aid you in your decision.

To get a detailed overview of the key features, pricing, and pros and cons of the top online learning platforms currently on the market, read this guide.

Is In-Person or Online Training Best For You?

To arrive at a final decision, the question you should be asking yourself is: Is online learning better than in-person learning? Or is the opposite true?

Some learners may thrive in a strictly in-person environment, while others may prefer the flexibility and convenience of online learning. Still, some may want to go for a blended model to benefit from the best of both worlds.

Which one of these two routes you take will entirely depend on your audience type, their learning needs, preferences, the delivery method of choice, technical proficiency, and business goals.

Once you identify them, it will become easier for you to take the plunge.

Consider all the pros and cons of in-person learning as well as online learning and make an informed decision based on what aligns best with your needs.

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About the author

Michael Laithangbam is the senior writer & editor at ProProfs with 12 years of experience in enterprise software and eLearning. Michael's expertise encompasses online training, web-based learning, quizzes & assessments, LMS, and more. Michael’s work has been published in G2, Software Advice, Capterra, and eLearning Industry. You can connect with him via LinkedIn.