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When it comes to career advancement, there is no shortage of ways to increase your knowledge and skills. You can earn degrees, certificates or certifications to validate your abilities or you can simply complete relevant courses, workshops or conference sessions to gain the knowledge you seek. Whatever path you choose, you also have a choice on the method you receive that knowledge. Today, professional development can occur through instructor-led training (whether in-person or live online), self-paced eLearning or self-taught learning modules. In this article, we will break down the pros and cons of instructor-led training vs self-paced eLearning to help you choose the right path for you.

What Is Instructor-Led Training?

Instructor-led training (ILT), whether you engage through an in-person class or live online class, consists of an instructor leading a number of students in real-time through a combination of lecture and applied coursework. This is the typical teacher-student environment that you likely experienced growing up through elementary, middle and high school.

Pros Of Instructor-Led Training

When it comes to the question of instructor-led training vs self-paced eLearning, the biggest pro for ILT is that students can ask questions and receive feedback in real-time. There is no delay in receiving knowledge or struggling through lessons during the class times. Instructors can also alter lessons or incorporate additional material as needed based on how students are progressing through the class. In this way, students save time by not having to seek out these additional resources on their own or fumbling through multiple resources trying to find ones that work for them.

“I attempted to learn python on my own and it didn’t work out so good. It says a lot that I’m getting the material and able to actually code.” –

Software Developer Foundations ILT, 2020 Student

Similarly, student counts in ILT courses tend to be small, averaging 25 students per class. This is typically the case because student counts above that prevent instructors from giving students the individualized attention they deserve.

Additionally, instructors are often certified and work in the subject areas they teach so they can provide insight as to how to best prepare for certification exams and how to apply the material to your job role.

Cons Of Instructor-Led Training

By far, the number one objection to ILT is the high price tag. A 5-day, instructor-led, certification prep course averages $2,500. For many students, this can be shocking but it is not unrealistic when you consider that unlike, self-paced eLearning courses where a single instructor can reach thousands of students at a time, in an ILT environment one instructor can only reach an average of 25 students. These courses are also typically authorized by the certification vendor and they come with the majority of the course materials you need such as a course book, lab access, exam vouchers, course retake options and more.

The other con of ILT is the time investment. Since these courses take place at specific times, whether online or in-person, you need to adjust your work and personal schedules around class times in order to attend. This commitment can help you stay accountable to the class but it is not very flexible if life prevents you from attending a class date.

The last major con of ILT is the potential for varying knowledge levels in the class. Unless you are enrolled in a private class of your teammates, you can never be sure what the skill level of the class may be. If you have classmates far more advanced than you, the pace of the class may pick up and leave you frustrated and falling behind. Vice versa, if you have classmates below your skill level, you may get bored with a slower pace to help the others catch up to speed.

What Is Self-Paced eLearning?

Self-paced eLearning is a type of learning where the student can consume educational materials over a time duration that allows them to properly learn the information. Self-paced eLearning courses can be found online and they range in pricing and the resources provided. One of the most popular certification prep eLearning providers is Cybrary.

Pros Of Self-Paced eLearning

The major pros of self-paced eLearning are the lower cost and flexible learning environment. While students have access to similar course materials as they would in an ILT course, the cost of a self-paced course are significantly lower at around $300-$500/annually.

Self-paced courses typically require the same time investment as an ILT course, however, you can schedule learning around your other obligations. So while you may need to take a week off of work to enroll in a 40-hour ILT course, you can choose to spend a Saturday every week for 5 weeks learning through the self-paced course and not make that sacrifice. You can also extend your learning over several months if that works best for your learning style.

Cons Of Self-Paced eLearning

The biggest con of self-paced eLearning courses is the high attrition rates for courses. Since this method relies heavily on the student holding him or herself accountable to completing the course combined with the high time and the low cost investment, it is easy for students to abandon the course and never complete the training.

The other con of self-paced eLearning is the lack of individualized training. If you are struggling with a topic area, there is not much support available to help you outside of the already provided resources. While you may be able to contact a SME or collaborate with other students through your eLearning provider, you will need to wait for responses possibly delaying your training timeline.

Instructor-Led Training vs Self-Paced eLearning: Pros & Cons Summary

The following comparison chart is based on preparation for the Security+ certification exam.

Instructor-Led Training Self-Paced eLearning
Cost $2,295/course$300/annual subscription
Time40 hours45.5 hours
Course BookYes – CompTIA Authorized No
Practice LabsYes – CompTIA Authorized Yes
Recorded Lessons NoYes
Exam Voucher Yes No

Which Should You Choose: Instructor-Led Training or Self-Paced eLearning?

When trying to decide which learning method is best for you, honestly ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need to learn the material or earn the certification quickly?
  • Do you get easily frustrated when you don’t understand a knowledge or skill area?
  • Do you struggle to find answers to your questions online?
  • Do you think you will struggle to find the time for a self-paced class?

If you answered yes to these questions, you will likely benefit from an instructor-led training class. If you answered no, then you may be successful with a self-paced learning option.

Need Help Deciding Between Instructor-Led Training or Self-Paced eLearning?

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