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In-Person, Live Online or Recorded?

Sep 25, 2023

At Eigenvector Research we offer many courses in chemometrics and machine learning and several ways to take them. As such, I often get variations on the question “what’s the difference between your in-person classes and your online classes?”

I’ll address this by starting with what stays the same. We use the same notes, and have the same instructors. For the most part we use the same data sets and go over the same examples hands-on with our PLS_Toolbox/Solo software. And we spend approximately the same amount of time on each topic.

So what’s the difference? At the risk of sounding condescending, the main difference is that you attend our in-person classes in person and with the online options you don’t. But the in-person aspect brings many unique possibilities with it. The most important one is the student-teacher interaction. In a live class the instructors can answer questions in real time, and also observe the students and sense if they are “getting it” or not. For the hands-on parts, we also usually have one or more additional instructors walking around behind people to see what’s on their screen to check that they are following and assist if necessary.

With in-person classes you also have the time at breaks and after class to talk face to face, like our Manny Palacios at left below discussing aspects of regression with an EigenU attendee. Plus there are also opportunities to interact, network and socialize with fellow attendees. Beyond this, in-person classes force you to set aside time, focus on learning and take advantage of the immersive environment.

The downside of in-person classes? Time and expense. You have to block the time off for the class plus the travel time. Unless the courses are nearby there are travel and lodging expenses and the courses themselves cost more.

For remote learning, we offer classes both live online and recorded online. The live online classes are at scheduled times, generally early morning in North America and late afternoon in Europe. Students can ask questions that the instructor can answer as part of the lecture or his assistants can answer through online chat. Plus we record these so students can review them later, which is especially helpful with the hands-on exercises. But of course the student-teacher interaction doesn’t match what possible in person, and there is not much interaction between students. And like in-person classes, you might not find the class you want in the time frame you need it. Online classes are, however, much less expensive and can be done from the comfort of your home or office, like the guy on the right above (whose desk hasn’t been this clean since the picture was taken 3 years ago).

Finally, there are recorded online classes. The main advantage of these is that they can be done completely on your own schedule, are available on demand, and like live online classes, are less expensive and don’t require travel. They do, however, put more distance between instructors and students as they become separated in both space and time! Questions are answered via email but not in real time.

In-person vs. Live Online vs. Recorded Online Pros and Cons

In-person ClassesBest student-teacher interactionMost expensive
Real-time answers to questionsAdded travel time
Interactions with fellow studentsTime away from office
Forces focus on learning
After class & social opportunities
Live Online ClassesReal time answers to questionsLess student-teacher interaction
Access to recordings for reviewNo interaction with fellow students
Forces setting time asideNo after class & social
Less expensive
No travel required
Recorded Online ClassesLearn at your own paceLeast amount of student-teacher interaction
Available on demandNo interaction with fellow students
Less expensiveNo after class & social
No travel requiredEasy to put off

So what to choose? I’ve listed the pros and cons as I see them in the table above. Different people learn differently, so what’s a pro to one may be a con to another. For some, like me, attending something live forces me to set aside time then pay attention, e.g. turn off my phone and email, until it’s over. Some people don’t consider this an advantage!

That said, IMHO, if you can afford the time and expense and can work them into your schedule, in-person short courses are the best way to get started with a new subject in the shortest amount of time. They are the Cadillac (or in my case the Lincoln) way to learn. Between live online and recorded online I’d choose live if you can find the right course at the right time. But if you need it and have to have it right now, you can’t beat recorded online for on demand convenience.

Happy learning!


For more thoughts about teaching chemometrics please see: Wise, Barry M., Teaching Chemometrics in Short Course Format, J. Chemometrics, 36(5), April 2022.