Face-to-face or online training: Which works better in your unit?

It’s happened to all of us. You call a customer service hotline, and the computer can’t comprehend your plain-English request.

No matter how many times you say “agent” or press 0 or bang your phone against the kitchen counter, you can’t seem to get a human being on the other end.

Ain’t technology grand?

OK, there are times when it’s made our lives easier. It’s never been simpler to order a pizza, pay your phone bill, or read Scouting magazine’s archives — all from your computer.

But sometimes it’s nice to have that personal interaction, and that’s especially true in the Boy Scouts of America.

Take training as an example. Many of the BSA’s excellent training courses are now available online at MyScouting.org.

Thanks to MyScouting, you can take Youth Protection training on your couch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The good news? More busy Scout leaders get this important information. The bad? It comes at the expense of personal interaction.

There’s more. Even in 2011, not every Scouter is as connected as we might think.

Just check out this post on Scout Wire, which told us that “only 66 percent of urban, and just over half (51 percent) of rural households had broadband access in 2009.”

So how do you strike a balance between the convenience of online training and the “fellowship, mentoring, and personal interaction” of face-to-face training?

I asked the experts, Scouting’s 11,000-plus Facebook friends, to weigh in on the matter. Here were some of my favorite responses:

Best of Both Worlds
“We have borrowed the computer lab at the local elementary school for training. That way, non-computer-literate people have assistance, each person can move at their own speed, but we also have the personal interaction where we can discuss questions, etc., as needed.”
Paula C.

In Defense of Online — To a Point
“As a District Training Chair, I do belive complex concepts require ‘face time,’ but the basics are great delivered via online courses. Let’s face it, the younger parents have been raised in an online world and can cope with online training better. They leverage other online tools to reinforce that training (forums, Scouting magazine online, blogs…) And most importantly they can return to the training at will and as often as they want for a refresher. Granted maybe they are not receiving the best education they absolutely are better off than having nothing at all!”
Adam S.

Fond Memories
“I am old school of 22 years in Scouting and love the way we used to do training. I made so many long-lasting friends at trainings. Introductions online are fine, but I have found the one-on-one builds friendships that can last a lifetime. You get instant feedback from others in the class. I really miss the old training for Cubs where we put on a pack meeting, dressed up, and had fun.”
Dianna F.

Been There, Done That
“I will argue that, after 40-plus years in uniform and personal and family requirements, that there is little new that could not be updated and revised and retrained to someone who already took a course in person with an online experience. I do not need human interaction to prove I can take the old TTT and all the versions in between and not understand EDGE, nor should I need it to update my camp school certifications or other things.”
Tom P.

Trained Is Trained
“We’d rather do it face-to-face, but we’ll take a trained leader anyway we can get ’em! The boys deserve it!”
Steve M.

What are your thoughts? Share them below.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.