Knowledge Network

Home / About / Knowledge Network / Executive Education / What's Better for Me? Online or In-Person Executive Development

Global insight in your inbox!

Join our mailing list

What's Better for Me? Online or In-Person Executive Development

September 25, 2017

This article is part of a series of FAQs with Thunderbird Executive Education about the value of continued executive development and lifelong learning.

With everything from knitting to rocket science taught via web-based platforms these days, we should no longer assume the choice between online vs. in-person courses is about quality. Many online courses offer a top-notch, in-depth learning experience. But, still, online courses are more likely to face the question from an individual or company: Does this really provide a return on investment?

At Thunderbird, the answer is an emphatic, “Yes.” Our online and in-person courses deliver very tangible ROI. Not surprising, considering our quality classroom- and online-based executive and professional development programs are developed and taught by the same distinguished faculty.

So what the decision between the two really comes down to is: Which type of course is the right fit for you?

In-person courses have the obvious, built-in value of networking – class time, social events and after-class shop talk. But more and more online courses are also stepping up by creating environments of conversation, such as discussion boards and group tasks, which allow participants to interact with each other from afar.

Each type of course offers its own set of advantages. A company in Florida, for example, might not be willing to pay for a manager to fly to Arizona for a multi-day program. So an online course could be a better option in that case. For other advantages of each approach, read on:

 “What’s an advantage of online courses? You can enroll and participate from almost anywhere in the world.” Click to tweet

The Online Advantage

  • Participants gain the ability to attend a school they otherwise couldn’t. Whether you live in Dubai, New Delhi or Denver, you can take a course from Thunderbird. Online courses provide access to more opportunities. As a global institution, Thunderbird is focused on global education – spanning all borders – and expanding access to practically anyone, anywhere.
  • Distance is no longer an obstacle for interacting with classmates. Online discussion tools are more robust than ever – you can now do much more than just answer questions from the instructor. Participants interact with each other and work in groups to solve problems. For example, Thunderbird has a course where participants practice negotiations with each other and have back-and-forth discussions.
  • Perspectives are shared from all corners of the world, giving participants a breadth of insights and experiences. Thunderbird partnered with Chevron, for example, to create a custom online certificate program for Chevron employees around the world. This allows an employee in Texas the opportunity to discuss best practices with a colleague in Azerbaijan, identify similarities and differences, and share ideas.

“What’s an advantage of in-person courses? Valuable learning and networking come from engaging directly with people.” Click to tweet

The In-person Advantage 

  • Individuals get to engage with other professionals they wouldn’t normally meet in person. Many companies see a real value in bringing people together face to face to build connections.
  • In-person courses provide opportunities to build out a more socialized experience. Thunderbird’s Advanced Management Program (AMP) for Oil and Gas Industry Executives, for example, allows participants to sit in the room with other top executives from around the world, build a personalized network and share ideas with each other. But you also have time to go outside the classroom, meet for dinner and have more in-depth conversations than online. These in-person connections add value.
  • There’s a tactile aspect that can’t always be found online (although that’s certainly changing). Face-to-face learning can add more immersive experiences that take advantage of the environment. Client visit opportunities, for example, allow you to walk the Boeing line, see how the company builds a helicopter and understand the supply chain in motion. Valuable learning comes from the physical aspect of being there and engaging directly with people and processes.

At Thunderbird, we’ve even had participants tackle an extreme adventure course during a program on building trust and collaborative teams. Think of it as an Amazing Race-style experience where you can create, collaborate and solve problems on the fly.

Whether you hope to build business acumen through curricular experiences or gain the cultural and experiential advantages of in-person interactions, Thunderbird can help you find the right fit.