• Aug 13 2023

In-Person vs Online Leadership Training: How to Choose

For HR and L&D professionals, investing in leadership development is crucial. But the decision between in-person vs online can be hard to navigate. Should you gather your team in a shared space for the immersive experience of in-person training, or leverage the flexibility and accessibility of online learning? Both options offer distinct advantages, but navigating their nuances can be tricky.

In this blog, we unpack the pros and cons of each approach (and even suggest a third compromise). We’ll delve into the implications for social interaction, engagement, cost, accessibility, and program variety. We’ll also explore the game-changing transparency offered by online solutions, equipping you with dashboards that track attendance, progress, and more.

By the end, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and insights to confidently choose the leadership training format that suits your organizational goals, empowers your leaders, and delivers impactful results. 

In-person leadership development: pros & cons

In-person leadership training brings people together for hands-on learning. Through workshops, role-plays, and teamwork, leaders hone their skills at the office, dedicated retreats, or even prestigious universities.


Strong social interaction & networking: Participants can build relationships, share experiences, and learn from each other in real-time.

Enhanced focus & engagement: Fewer distractions compared to online learning, promoting deeper understanding and skill development.

Immediate feedback & training: Trainers can provide personalized feedback and answer questions directly, leading to faster learning.

Immersive & interactive: Role-playing, group activities, and simulations can be more effective in person, fostering teamwork and communication skills.

Team building & company culture: Shared experience can strengthen team bonds and promote a stronger company culture.


Substantially higher cost: Venue rental, travel, accommodations, and catering can be expensive plus the opportunity cost of having employees away from their jobs.

Less flexibility: Fixed schedule and location may be inconvenient for participants, especially geographically dispersed teams, making access available only to a few.

Limited accessibility: People with disabilities or travel restrictions may be excluded.

Logistical challenges: Scheduling conflicts, coordinating travel, and managing logistics can be time-consuming.

Limited program variety: Fewer options compared to online platforms, which constantly offer new content/languages, and can offer curated leadership development programs that meet your organizational goals.

Online leadership development: pros & cons

Online leadership development offers flexible, self-paced or live, faculty-led learning anywhere. Leaders dive into interactive modules, simulations, and discussions through user-friendly platforms, mastering skills at their own convenience. This can range from individual courses on company learning platforms to virtual workshops with live faculty to even collaborative programs with external institutions.


Flexibility & accessibility: Participants can learn on their own schedule and pace, from anywhere with an internet connection allowing them to pursue learning while also maintaining professional and personal obligations.

Lower cost: No venue rental, travel, dining, or accommodation expenses. Additionally, online courses are often less expensive than their in-person counterparts.

Wider program variety: Vast selection of courses and programs offered from a wider array of educational institutions, available on diverse topics suitable for any industry, function, and seniority.

Scalability: Easy to train large groups simultaneously, even across different locations and languages.

Convenience and ease of use: Participants can easily access materials and complete activities online.

Continuous learning: Updated content and additional resources may be readily available for “just-in-time” development of critical capabilities. 

Transparent tracking:

  • Individual learners: Track participants’ progress, completion rates, and growth along their personalized learning journey to identify ways to improve engagement. 
  • Teams and cohorts: Monitor team progress, identify groups or individuals in those cohorts that need additional support, and tailor coaching interventions accordingly.
  • Organizational insights: Track overall program completion rates, engagement levels, and knowledge gained, which can help you optimize future training programs.
  • Accountability and motivation: Clearly defined learning journeys and triggered communications to incentivize participants to stay engaged and complete learning programs.
  • Data-driven decision making: Data from dashboards can inform future development choices, resource allocation, and program effectiveness evaluation. 


Less social interaction and networking: Building relationships and learning from peers can be more challenging in a virtual environment.

Potential distractions and less focus: Participants may multitask or get distracted at home or work, impacting learning outcomes.

Requires self-discipline and motivation: Participants who struggle with self-motivation may struggle to manage their time and complete programs..

Blended learning: the best of both worlds?

Torn between the immersive experience of in-person training and the flexibility of online learning? Blended leadership development strategically combines the strengths of each format, offering a hybrid solution that might be your perfect fit.

Imagine this: your team kicks things off with in-person workshops, building rapport and laying the groundwork through face-to-face interaction. Then, they delve deeper into specific skills through engaging online modules, accessible anytime, anywhere. The journey continues with virtual 1-on-1 coaching sessions providing each learner with personalized action plans, feedback, and guidance. Finally, they reunite for a collaborative retreat, putting their newfound knowledge into practice.

Why might a blended approach be right for you?

Flexibility: Cater to diverse learning styles and schedules. Some prefer hands-on interaction, while others thrive on self-paced learning.

Cost-effectiveness: Balance travel and venue expenses with the affordability of online resources.

Engagement: Keep things exciting with a dynamic mix of learning environments.

Accessibility: Reach geographically dispersed teams or those with accessibility limitations.

Retention: Reinforce learning through multiple modalities, leading to better knowledge retention.

Remember, the “blend” is customizable. Tailor the program to your specific needs and objectives. Consider incorporating elements like:

Microlearning modules: Bite-sized chunks of online content for easy absorption.

Live webinars: Interactive sessions with industry experts or internal mentors.

Virtual team simulations: Practice leadership skills in a safe, online environment.

Social learning platforms: Share experiences and support each other beyond formal sessions.

Ultimately, the “best” training format depends on your unique requirements and goals. But if flexibility, engagement, and customization are priorities, blended learning might be the potent cocktail you’ve been searching for. So, consider mixing things up and watch your leadership team flourish!

Learn more

ExecOnline offers flexible online learning and coaching solutions that accelerate the impact of traditional, in-person leadership development programs. Choose from our curated development solutions or tap into our library of programs from top business schools and a roster of experienced leadership coaches to tailor a program that suits the unique needs of your leaders.

Talk to us

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