Hands-on versus Online Training Options

Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPLOnline Training and Education

I had the opportunity to perform training recently in Trinidad and Tobago. It was an interesting assignment, capped off by a night time visit to one of the few beaches where you can see giant, endangered leatherback turtles lay their eggs.
The training focused on prepress issues such as PDF workflows software, as well as how to preflight, edit, and repair PDF files. It was not a hands-on training, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage– we did not have to talk about where each tool was in different versions of programs such as Acrobat and Pitstop. The disadvantage– the retention of training is significantly less when not hands-on.
The same can be said of online training. While it is convenient, it does not result in the same level of retention as hands-on training. But the advantage of online training is that it is fast, easy, convenient, relatively inexpensive, and you don’t have to get into a car or plane to experience it.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am a big fan of online training sites like Lynda.com. If your company has several people trying to keep up with software versions such as Acrobat, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and others then Lynda.com is a good solution. You could pay $25 a month or $250 a year to gain access to a wide variety of different software packages.
But it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different training options. If you have a number of people in your prepress department and they need to be up-to-date on a variety of different software packages, an online solution is a good, inexpensive option.
In my opinion, hands-on training done by professionals within the industry who understand the issues and workaround solutions is much more effective than any other kind of training. But sending an entire team of people for hands-on training is very expensive, especially when you may have several software products upgraded every year and an entire team that needs to be kept up-to-date.
What’s your philosophy on training? Do you prefer online or hands-on? Do you find one more effective or one more expensive?  What about generational differences? Do you find certain training better for different groups of people based on their age?
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Howie Fenton is a consultant and business advisor at NAPL as well as a paid contributor to this blog. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.

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  1. Melissa Sienicki July 31, 2013 -

    I’ve seen great success in trying to make online training a bit more hands-on. For instance, using online training that involves interactive content/training exams, as well as online sessions to discuss what’s been learned and how to implement it. Thanks, Howie!

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