Online or Onsite: Which Option is Right (Write)?

Corporate Writing Pro is committed to providing clients with online resources so people do not have to travel to attend training. That’s one of the reasons I hosted the Telesummit Unlocking the Secrets to Clear Writing– and many thanks to the 100+ participants who made that such a success!

But the decision to offer online training was not made naïvely.

I recognize the value in face-to-face communication, especially when we talk about writing. As I have said before (Be Kind to Your Inner Writer), writing is the product of the ego. And when we give feedback to writers, it helps to have that intimate, personal connection that only facial expressions and body language can give.

Sometimes.

Sometimes we as writers crave the cold, dispassionate advice of a computer software like Grammarly.com, longing for something that can teach us right from wrong without the stern-faced rebuke of our 8th grade English teacher. Sometimes distance can be a good thing.

And there are other valid reasons why online training in general is preferable to onsite. Personally, I spent 12 years of my life on the road, commuting 5 hours a day. Yes, you read that right. 5 hours, a DAY. I missed out on my entire stepdaughters’ childhoods. And I can’t get that back.

Of course there’s the cost to the planet. We’re driving and flying and staying in hotels and burning up electricity at massive convention centers. (I’m not sure the internet and its infrastructure is any healthier for Mother Earth, but that’s a debate for another time.)

And there’s such a range of tools that are available online today. Between Skype and WebEx and the improved audio quality we almost all have access to, virtual meetings are logistically much smoother than they were even 2 years ago. And we should not forget the potential for people in remote corners of the world to connect with ease: Malaysia, Dubai, the Philippines, (West Virginia).

But most importantly, there’s the nature of the training itself. I teach writing. And writing is a long-term investment. A weeklong training class will not make you a better writer.  Writing is a skill that you have to invest in for the rest of your life.  It’s an edge that must be honed daily. 

So what makes more sense? An intensive weeklong, in-person training session that leaves the writer refreshed but also drained? Or an online well from which writers can draw anytime they need nourishment?

Comments

  1. Anna Biunno says:

    After pondering your questions, here is my take on this matter: When you have a remote audience, the manner in which you communicate and the delivery methods/strategies that you use must be more clear and concise than if you were speaking to someone face to face. More care is taken in the hand-holding only because you know that it’s absolutely essential to maintaining the growing rapport between instructor and student.

    As an employee who works with colleagues across the globe, I have found that my writing has become clearer; it has to, I cannot risk misunderstandings.

    I agree that learning how to write requires practice, timely feedback, one-on-one instruction, personalized corrections, and positive reinforcement. When this is done online, you remove all the physical and time restrictions that are part of the onsite realm. I can do this any time that I want, without waiting my turn to speak to the instructor. And, for one fleeting moment, I can pretend that I’m the only student the instructor is grooming. You definitely cannot get that feeling in a classroom full of strangers, all vying for some attention.

    Another benefit to learning online is that you will be exposed to opinions that are generated beyond your “back yard”. Communication and writing is quite different in Japan than it is in the U.S. or the U.K. As the world becomes more flat, being able to communicate to a global audience is key. We don’t write in a silo.

    ‘Nuff said.

    • How thoughtful Anna- I completely agree that the instructor has to be especially careful in online training, particularly because without the benefit of body language, simple messages can often be misunderstood. I love your vision of the intimacy. That’s a point I had not considered, and one I find appealing. Best–Michelle

  2. I really like the line of thinking that birthed this article. I know I’m always looking for an excuse to hide my “less than perfect” communication skills.

    Yet, I agree with Anna, engaging people from different backgrounds and in different cultures requires a clearer message. In hopes of being “the best me I can be” I’m working to improve myself all around. This includes both via face-to-face and online.

    Thanks for this article!

    • Thanks Jermaine – I’m really getting the message that this blended model is the preference. So I guess I’ll have to modify my company mission. I’ll offer online training, and bring people TO ME! West Virginia has lots of beautiful locations to hold writers’ retreats. So let me tinker. Best wishes, and thanks for all the great feedback–Michelle

  3. Both types of training have their place. The kind of writing training is as important as the people getting that training. For example, an online poetry workshop doesn’t seem like it would be quite as effective as those I attended in college. Yet, an online setting would be ideal in many ways for a class in business writing because so much business writing will appear online.

    Besides the type of writing, the person learning probably has deeply ingrained preferences. If one is uncomfortable with technology, then simply “attending” an online class will be as much of a challenge as the actual writing.

    Interesting post. I hadn’t thought about the setting of training in these terms. Really, I’ve always sort of assumed that any additional writing training I undertake will be online.

    • Dava – you make several good points. And I agree with you that creative writing seems better suited to an in-person experience. I also agree that many of us have hurdles to overcome with online technology, but as someone who has struggled economically for many years, I would argue that the cost of travel (and the loss of family time) are challenging as well. Thanks for sharing, and welcome to the site – Michelle

  4. James Washington says:

    Hi, I found your url on one of the Linked-In posts on this topic. I’m somewhat of a writer myself and wanted to checkout your blog. I too was one of those serial commuters, and it cost me my marriage, so I’m constantly pushing the barriers for more remote working standards and training.

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