Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Live Classroom or Online - Which do you choose?

Online classes can save you some money – always nice.  There are courses out there for as little at $350 that you can take online, on-demand, and earn the 35 contact hour requirement for the PMP® application.  

The question you have to ask yourself is – how do I learn?  How well do I know myself?  When you opt for online learning, there is no instructor to ask questions of.  Many providers today do provide at least the option to email a question, though the turnaround is slow.  Live online instruction is a little better, though - do be patient as the instructor needs to identify you, as raising your hand for example, and because you have no visual queues, you need to have the self-confidence and assurance that you will be seen – eventually.  Unfortunately, far too many people don’t know how to use conference bridges and they leave their microphones open, and you hear all the background distractions which prompts the leader to mute all microphones, etc. etc.  Coordinating and teaching an online class is more complex that you might think.

The big piece missing from online or distance training, live or otherwise, is the instructor being able to gaze around the room, notice the glassy look in your eyes, recognize you’re lost (or need a bio break), and then prompt YOU with a question.  Another missing component is Class exercises and queries by other students.  How do you know to ask the question you don't know?  For that reason alone, we do not do any form of online training - yet.  When telepresence has become ubiquitous, we will be right there.  Until then, we want that face-to-face interaction that can fill voids of knowledge.  By the way – it is no accident that the Agile Manifesto lists as a core value face-to-face interaction.  If it is key to the success of a project, how much less can it be a key to success in learning project management?

The decision is of course yours, but do think about it from many avenues before you decide.  It is a bit of an inconvenience to go to a class, but it will typically get you the best bang for the buck.  PLUS, you have the opportunity to make contacts.  SHOP AROUND.  There are online classes that cost more than classroom courses, and the range I’ve seen for classroom PMP exam prep courses is $750-$3,275!  ALL PMP exam prep classes are teaching you the same thing – the PMBOK Guide®.  There is more to the exam than “just” the PMBOK Guide®, but can one course be worth $2,500 more (a healthy down payment on a car BTW) than another?  I guess is possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely.