So you have decided to learn something new. Great! That is half the battle won.
But there’s still the nagging doubt of how to go about learning. Do you sign up for a MOOC and carve your own learning path? But then you discovered that online learning has less than a 10% completion rate. So, should you sign up for some conferences and events on the subject? Would that be enough? Or should you enrol yourself in a membership at a local learning community?
What is the right path for you? What will help you understand the subject? Questions pile up faster than you can answer them.
We dissected online learning Vs. in-person learning for you a while back. And today we’ll be comparing one-time classes and learning memberships.
Let’s say you want to learn a new subject, say, blockchain. It is tough to sift through tons of online resources to understand blockchain. You might still not be able to differentiate a bitcoin from an ether. Or get confused by how data protection works in a wide expanding network.
A little bit of help would be great at this point and this is where in-person learning comes into the picture.
In-person learning can be of two kinds. The first is a single engagement like workshops, classes, events, etc., which you can attend for free or for a fee. And the second kind is a sustained engagement in the form of a learning membership.
Let’s look at how these two vary and what could be the best solution for you.
When it comes to one-time classes/events, learning distils into the number of hours that the event stretches to. If you snooze, you lose. So, it is of utmost importance that you are present, participating in discussions and taking notes (if needed). Depending on the scale and type of event, it may or may not allow you to interact one-on-one with the instructor. You may or may not get study materials, further reading lists and information about related events. You will be connected with others attending the event, but your success depends on your networking skills.
If you enrol in a learning membership, the course splits into modules. Each module, hosted by the instructor(s), covers a specific sub-topic/aspect of the subject. Membership-based centres usually have limited members to increase engagement and value. So, more often than not, you will be able to interact with the instructor(s). Since you will attend classes with the same people, you have many opportunities to connect with them. Most membership-based classes offer extra reading material or offer guidance on what to read next. You become a part of a learning community that continues to build their expertise together.
One-time events can cost anywhere between none to several thousands of dollars. Conferences, where the biggies of the industry speak, are definitely on the expensive side.
Memberships are usually monthly, course-wise or yearly. And the cost-per-class turns out to be cheaper than the cost of a single event (unless free of charge, of course).
Accountability and support
Single-events and classes do not factor in accountability. These events aim to give you exposure and brief contact with experts. But, their idea is not to make you an expert. You don’t get an opportunity to continue engaging with the instructor for support in learning. (In fact, doing this may not be a good idea!)
Learning memberships work by the goal of carving a learning path for you and making you an expert. As long as you attend and engage in the classes, you gain more and more understanding of the subject(s). Furthermore, by providing a learning community and repeated instructor interaction, you stay accountable. You have support to clarify doubts or identify tools and reading material to dig deeper into a subject.
Understanding of a subject
One-time classes/workshops/conferences can only give you a whiff of a subject. There is no way that you can understand everything in a single instance (unless you are superhuman!). So, we can be sure that your understanding level on a subject is at best beginner-intermediary.
Sustained learning will help you build your repertoire of skills and understanding on a subject. Since the learning path is in the form of digestible modules, it makes it easier for you to assimilate and apply the knowledge. So, we can be sure that your understanding level on a subject is intermediary-expert, based on your skillset.
While conferences and one-off events boast of “great networking opportunities” and “thousands of footfalls every year,” it is impossible to meet so many people in one day and make a meaningful connection. How often have you become best friends with twenty people at a conference? Never. Of course, there’s no denying that you’d end connecting with 2–5 people who you may continue to be in touch instead of the promised thousand.
Research indicates that the more you spend time with people, the more the possibility of developing a friendship with them. This is why learning memberships advertise their “communities.” You have many opportunities for networking with both your colearners and your instructors. This has a higher possibility of leading to friendships and a support network. You could get introduced to more people through this community and also find newer career paths through these.
Value — The verdict!
Based on all the above factors, the value of a single-class/event feels limited and based on chance, networking and other skills. You get exposed to a subject instead of mastering it.
When it comes to learning memberships, you stand to maximise your opportunities in every way. From being a part of a learning community that keeps you accountable to getting sustained support from the instructor(s), you learn and grow in a better fashion.
Our clear winner — learning memberships!
We may have attended one-off workshops, classes and events hoping its the one-shot that will transform our lives. But these one-time events only proved to be a great introductory platform and a fun evening. Learning memberships offer more in value. You learn new things in a sustained manner, enjoy the power of being a part of a community, and cultivate a learning habit that is useful for life!