Face to face vs virtual?

It has been a delight recently to spend three days teaching face-to-face in Carlisle. It was also really interesting as this is the first opportunity I have  had to deliver face-to-face a course which is exactly the same as the course that has  been delivered virtually on zoom. This has given me a real opportunity to reflect on virtual and face-to-face training and which is best?


There is no doubt nothing beats being in the room with people scanning around to check how people are – especially in a safeguarding training.  It is easier to pick up nuances of body language and expression when you are with people.

I have noticed that face to face it is easier to hold the room in silence for a while – in this training we have a very powerful testimony from a survivor of abuse and the opportunity to listen to that together and spend some time reflecting is very special in the room.

Of course, we don’t have issues with Wi-Fi coming and going but you can’t so you don’t have IT issues – we all know turning up somewhere and finding that your laptop won’t speak to the projector!

So in summary it was great to be face to face and lots of positives!

However, the move to virtual training forced by the pandemic has raised some benefits we probably weren’t aware of.

It is possible to make virtual training extremely accessible – for example somebody with motor neuron disease has chosen to attend this session virtually as it is much easier for them to do at home.

In the same way several learners with hearing difficulties have told me they much prefer at the virtual platforms as you can have a transcript of what is being said.  You can also ask the trainer to pin themselves on speaker view making lip reading easier. 

There is also the practicality – for a shorter session people can sometimes spend as long driving to and from a venue  as they do at the training.  There is also the reduction in cost to attend the training as fuel and parking are not an issues.

On a really practical level – should there have to be a last-minute cancellation of a session due to trainer illness and this is much easier when it’s a virtual platform – thankfully this doesn’t happen often but can be a benefit. 

As I said earlier the training that we have been doing  is Safeguarding – and as always we are very careful to make the environment as safe as we can for those who are survivors of abuse, or who might find this topic difficult for any number of reasons.

Several survivors have fed back to us that they prefer accessing the training virtually – if they feel the need to take a moment it’s much easier to turn off the camera than it is to leave a room. They also feel more relaxed in the comfort of their own home.

So… It would seem that both face-to-face and virtual training have their place… it is important at this point to differentiate between virtual - when you are in a ‘virtual’ room with the trainer and take part in the group exercises and interactions – and ‘on line’ which to me means a pre set course you work through at your own speed at a time of your choosing. 

For some courses, blended learning has worked well – for example I ran a Designated Safeguarding Lead training for a day nursery locally.  We did a short introductory session by zoom, the participants worked through some work at home, then we had a face to face session.  This was a great way to meet different learning styles and preferences. 

So it feels to me as if both face to face and virtual have their strengths and it is a case by case decision as to which is best.

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