Even in an age of advanced technology, tablets, apps and iPhones, a strong case can still be made for 'live' training as the most effective type of learning. Most would argue that nothing can replace the learning experience that a 'real' classroom provides. Whether elementary school arithmetic, MBA studies or advanced financial training for executives, in-person teaching (for most) is still the most effective and efficient way to learn, practice, then master a given subject matter.
Meanwhile, many financial institutions have developed virtual classrooms and/or e-learning platforms to train their employees. The best learning management systems (LMS) strive to be interactive and hands-on. And some of them succeed in ways that would not have been possible five years ago. Video conferencing, live webinars and self-study programs are making a strong play to compete with in-person training, especially to accommodate the Distance Learner. Organizations recognize (and have capitalized on) the convenience and cost effectiveness of e-learning platforms. Getting team members from every corner of the globe to learn the same required skills and best practices of any industry at the same time, provides consistency and standardization in real time for a fraction of the cost of in-person meetings.
Both learning methods are continually compared and contrasted, and both have their fervent-supporter camps. So one has to be better than the other, right?? Not exactly.
Like in-person meetings and conversations online, there is a time, place and budget for both. And yes, both have their advantages.
Most of us would prefer to have a face-to-face conversation with a business partner over a cup of coffee or lunch. If not feasible (see: time, distance, travel expenses), we don't just quit on the idea. Instead, we teleconference. We use GoToMeeting. We Skype. It's the next best thing to a cup of coffee, and sometimes the next best thing isn't so bad. If a conversation is required, most of us would take an electronic chat over no chat at all -- as long as that medium is an effective one -- good connection, good A/V, etc. It might even require a shower and shave if video conferencing... but we do it because it beats no conference at all.
The comparison to live vs. online financial modeling training is the same. Nothing compares to the human connection that is made between an engaging teacher and an ambitious student. Skills are imparted, lessons taught, and mistakes made and corrected. Healthy interaction between the instructor and his/her class is paramount to the quality of the course and overall experience. As the old college saying goes, "don't take the class, take the professor". We all knew who the best professors were in school and we did our damndest to get into their classes. The nuances of a teaching style highlight the instructor's knowledge while some of the most vital lessons learned during a live course may occur over a lunch break; that's the beauty of learning in-person.
For professionals who want to take their financial modeling skills to the next level, live training provides an opportunity to ask questions and challenge an instructor's theories on-the-spot (not to mention fellow attendees'). The networking opportunities are also a bonus -- the chance to interact with industry counterparts, pick their brains, and compare successes and failures, is forever an enlightening activity. This is why we all still attend live conferences instead just logging onto webinars from our desks.
But when training and conferences don't 'come to us', or time and travel constraints get in the way, online alternatives do become the next best thing. If attending a live financial modeling training program in New York or London is not feasible or cost-effective, good e-learning programs provide an excellent alternative. And some learners simply prefer self-study from the comfort of their home or office. Knowledge-building and new skill sets are crucial to career advancement, and an effective financial modeling e-course can impart skills that the self-taught Excel user can't learn on his/her own.
Random Excel tips, tricks and shortcuts alone won't get you there either. A good online financial modeling e-course must be useful, practical and comprehensive. In order for the learner to fully benefit from an online financial modeling course, the program should include the following features:
- Video tutorials by an expert financial modeler who is also an engaging teacher
- Moduler format that builds on lessons previously taught
- 'Hands-on' learning methodology while you study at your own pace
- Real-world scenarios and case studies
- Worksheets and homework to help hone your skills
- In-course and post-course online support
- Unlimited access to online tutorials to review at your convenience
Today, the 13-yr old kid who picks up a guitar for the first time might go directly to YouTube for instructional videos or his parents might hire a local guitar teacher. But most likely, he will do both.