Coach training programs – Virtual, In-person or Hybrid?

Written by Mike Hutchins, co-founder of ACT 


A question that we get asked by most of our prospective students is “should I do virtual or in-person?” What are the pros and cons of each? This question is highly relevant right now, as training providers reopen their classroom doors and offer their programs virtually. 

The purpose of this blog is to help you to make an informed choice that maximizes your learning experience and achieves your goals of becoming the best leadership coach you can be. 

Maybe you are a busy working professional with young children? Would it be a logistical and financial challenge to travel to the training?  Are you more extroverted and keen to socialize and network? Are you a more tactile learner, working best in groups, face to face and getting energy from being in-person? Maybe you have a learning disability, making it difficult to sit still or to move around.  We have had students with all of these challenges and our goal is to design and schedule our programs to meet all these needs. 

Tracking Student Performance

We offer coach training programs both in-person, virtually and as a hybrid. Our programs are offered during the week and also at weekends. We have lots of data on training effectiveness and feedback on student experience. Our hybrid programs allow us to ask students which they prefer and why and we are able to do comparisons of both. 

We track the quality of the coaching throughout the program with robust metrics aligned to the ICF Core Competencies. Our goal is to exceed ACC competency upon completion of our program. Our Mentor Coaches are well trained at assessing and defining competence levels, allowing us to draw upon objective data to compare these two options. 

Preparing you for the real world 

In North America, 90% of coaching is done virtually  – either on the phone or video. Students attending in-person programs are always curious how coaching can be done over the phone or video.  

8 Criteria to help you choose

We have grouped the criteria for making a virtual vs. in-person decision into 8 categories. This is based on conversations with students before, during and after the program. 

Criteria Criteria Description 
1Quality of coaching We assess student performance as they go through the program with some robust metrics. Every student has 3 supervision sessions, where they receive feedback on their coaching. ACT has performance metrics to measure the quality of the student’s coaching. 
2Program price The price of an in-person program is likely to be higher, given the facility. 
3(In)convenience and cost Travel can be a huge factor. Typically you will need to arrive the night before the training. Flight delays and cancellations, booking travel, submitting receipts, approvals. 
4Experience / PresenceExperience: Ability to network with cohort colleagues, build lasting relationships. Developing connections outside of the formal training, e.g. coffee breaks, dinner. Presence: Eliminating distractions (both in the classroom and outside), focusing on the learning. Delivery of content in an efficient manner. 
5Connection and Networking Some people are drawn to a training program to meet, network and learn from fellow students. If this is important to you, how might it be affected by your choice of virtual vs. in-person? 
6Delivery of Content / efficiency This one is for the training provider to figure out. There will always be pros and cons of delivering the content in-person vs. online.  
7Carbon footprintDistance and travel, weighing up carbon consumption for being in person for a short period. 
8Work-life balanceBeing away from home can be challenging for many leaders. How does making this choice affect your value of work-life balance? 

In-person vs. Virtual – Comparison

Criteria In-Person Vs. Virtual 
1Quality of coachingThere has been no discernable difference in the quality of coaching between the two options. 
2Program priceIn-person programs are  likely to be more expensive than virtual, taking account for facility costs, printed materials and in-person trainers. Travel and accommodation can also add a significant cost to your program. On average, students spend around $800 / visit for 3 days of training. 
3(In)convenience and costIn-person: On average, students are adding around 1 day per module (3 days) in planning, traveling, administering their travel and accommodation. Occasionally students are late and often not present, distracted by Covid, flight changes, visas and time differences. Virtual: Minimal inconvenience, typically a log in, internet connection and an environment where you won’t be disturbed. Occasionally students have bad wifi connections, but for the most part they can attend to life ? during breaks and in the mornings and evenings. 
4Experience / PresenceIn-person: There are different kinds of distractions for in-person vs. virtual. During  in-person sessions, it is natural to be distracted by other cohort members. We design with the group no usage of cell phones or tablets in the classroom. Typically the in-person cohort composition is more North American-centric , unlike virtual where there is more of a global audience. Virtual: Is it really possible to be truly “out of office” when training virtually? The temptation to keep the social media apps pinging, or to set up short meetings is always there (and must be resisted!). Students sometimes complain of “Zoom fatigue” after 3 days, despite best attempts to have off-screen breaks throughout the day. Conversely, students appreciate being able to practice coaching while walking, choosing times to go off camera, or moving to a different space. When in a break-out room, students are not distracted by other cohort members and are able to focus on the coaching. 
5Connection and networking In-person: There are obvious benefits here of meeting and creating deeper connections with cohort colleagues. Socialization and bonding happen naturally within the cohort, with conversations continuing beyond the classroom. Virtual: Despite what is said above, some of the strongest cohort connections have been created with 100% virtual. It’s just that the experience is different.  
6Delivery of content / efficiency In-person: There are some exercises that are better demonstrated standing up and walking around the room. We can maximize the use of the space, using embodiment to create experiences for students. Virtual: Referencing content in the Participant Guides is much easier with a screen share on Zoom. Important programmatic information, watching videos, sending links etc. is much easier online than in-person.
7Carbon footprint At ACT, we no longer offer full in-person courses. Based on the feedback and data from students, we believe we can deliver the content and create amazing coaches without needing to be fully in-person. This honors one of our values of protecting the planet and making a stand for climate change. 
8Work-life balance Almost all of our students are busy working professionals. Taking time off, 3 days at a time to be away can be a significant challenge. Anecdotally, virtual students mention how nice it is to spend time with spouses and pick up kids from school each morning . Others attending in-person appreciate the break away from home. 


The short answer is – it depends. Hopefully you can use the 8  criteria above to help you choose which option works best for you based on your own personal circumstances and learning preferences. Feedback from our students results in some  preferring in-person, some preferring virtual but students highlighted the benefits of cost and time savings of doing some of the learning online. 

About ACT

A Leadership and Performance Coaching company focused on developing exceptional leaders, helping leaders become Aware of their impact so they can make better Choices leading to Transformative results.

Our commitment to transformative learning, innovation and diverse thinking, and making an impact in the world is at the core of what we do. We are a family-owned, service-driven company who partners with the Brown University School of Professional Studies, organizations and government agencies to deliver our life changing programs.

ACT, in partnership with Brown University School of Professional Studies, an international leader in executive education, is excited to offer ACT’s ICF accredited Leadership and Performance Coaching Certification Program. ACT shares Brown University’s mission to develop reflective leaders, to effect change in the world, and to improve human welfare.

ACT is an internationally recognized coaching, leadership development and consulting company known for its commitment to leadership and performance coaching, valuing its long term partnerships with Brown University, the intelligence communities and its loyal and devoted diverse community.