Professional development

Bootcamp training vs. self-paced online training: A comparison for potential students

September 5, 2019 by Kurt Ellzey


Bootcamps and Self-Paced Online Training (SPOT) both can be extremely effective learning techniques when studying for certifications. However, when someone is trying to decide how they want to proceed, their decision can boil down to three key factors: time, money and preferred learning style. 

If they’re trying to decide just for themselves, they more than likely are trying to weave in study time around family and work obligations, as opposed to assistance from an organization. In this scenario, then, which one is better? Let’s break them down and see which one could potentially benefit an individual more. 

Transportation — Pros and cons


When it comes to transportation, it’s important to remember that bootcamps have two distinct states: online and offline. Standard classroom training can be tremendously effective if you benefit from that type of environment — a pre-made lab, a room focused on a single objective and a person physically in front of you explaining the topics. Unfortunately, this also means travelling to the location of the class, which could potentially add a significant expense if the class only happens in a particular location.

Online bootcamps tend to get around this restriction by having a very similar setup, but in a virtual environment. You don’t get the benefit of a physical classroom, but you still get real-time interactions with the instructor and other students asking questions, making this a viable alternative for many.

Self-Paced Online Training (SPOT)

With self-paced training, transportation requirements are pretty much non-existent — you have access to your class wherever you have connectivity. You do miss the ability to have one-on-one real-time communications with the instructor, however, which could potentially be a massive downside.

Comfort — Pros and cons


Standard classroom training bootcamps most of the time have basic rules — no shoes, no shirt, no service. You don’t need to have a suit, but you aren’t necessarily allowed to arrive in pajamas either. It doesn’t seem like much, but in some cases, this can actually be a benefit for being able to focus on the material at hand. If you feel like you’re working, you mind may react more like you’re working. 

Online bootcamps, on the other hand, have the potential to be significantly more laid-back in this regard. If you’re attending one from your home, you could very well have fuzzy slippers on while studying methods of securing entrance points. 


With self-paced training, it really doesn’t matter one bit. You want to be in formalwear? Have at it. Feel like studying by the pool? Knock yourself out. If you want to go through a section on a tablet before falling asleep? That absolutely will work. The critical aspect to this, however, is that you are the driving factor behind how fast you get through the material, so you don’t necessarily want to fall asleep during a lecture. 

Focus — Pros and cons


Both classroom and online bootcamps share one key trait: being able to get away from the day-to-day requirements of your organization and be able to focus in on what is being presented. Classroom means that you’re able to be in an environment that can really emphasize the content being presented, while online means that you’re able to customize the circumstances to your needs. 

Additionally, if responsibilities at home or wherever else you choose to attend an online course become distracting, you can move whatever you’re using for access to a place of your choosing — a library, a back porch and so on.


This is where Self-Paced Online Training has a bit of a weakness. You don’t automatically have a time period set aside to “just learn.” Rather, you need to carve out a schedule that allows you to maintain the focus required to absorb the information. 

Once you are able to do this, however, you gain the benefit of being able to adjust your training times however you see fit. For example, let’s say you normally spend from 6 PM to 7 PM going through your training, but one night you wake up at 2 AM and can’t fall back asleep. Well, then, time to hit the books!

Post-class availability — Pros and cons


Classroom bootcamps rarely have student access to recordings, while online bootcamps allow you to replay sessions for several weeks afterwards. On top of this, most online bootcamps allow for access to the labs involved for a significant amount of time past the class itself, so it’s possible to use this environment to try out any number of things you didn’t have a chance to do during the actual time period.


More than almost any other feature, self-paced training excels at rewinding. If you missed a particular sentence? Rewind. Need to go over a complete section again? Rewind. On the flip side, say that you are looking for a specific section again? Double-speed playback can be a tremendous asset. 

On-the-fly tweaks for classwork — Pros and cons


While there are some modifications that an instructor can make to adjust the covered material to match what the students need, it just isn’t as versatile as what can be done for an online bootcamp. Online training can make adjustments for the students but still allow for time to be able to go over items not explicitly covered by the instructor. 

In most cases, once labs are unlocked, they are available from that point on, so students can go through labs and cover material “in-class” that the instructor did not have time for. 


This really isn’t applicable for self-paced training, as it covers material at the rate dictated by the student. It does mean, however, that any particular section has a maximum amount of detail that can be covered by the instructor; beyond that, the student must go through it on their own.

Costs — Pros and cons


Bootcamps by design are going to cost significantly more than self-paced training. Classroom bootcamps, of the three options, are obviously going to be the most expensive as they require the most in-person resources: instructors, classrooms, lab computers, transportation and plenty of other expenses before you even add in the cost of the class. 

Online bootcamps are able to remove most of these costs, purely by the nature of not requiring a physical classroom to work in. They should be considered if at all possible as a first choice if going for a bootcamp. 


Self-paced online training usually will end up costing the least for the course itself. Granted, you will require some resources such as a lab system and a web connection, but that’s about it. 


Each of these options have their own pros and cons, and you will absolutely want to take everything into account before purchasing any training solution when it’s your own money. Find a solution that works with your available time, budget and learning style — if you can find a particular instructor that you can mesh with easily, that can be a HUGE boost to the effectiveness of the training and really should not be overlooked. 

Posted: September 5, 2019
Kurt Ellzey
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Kurt Ellzey has worked in IT for the past 12 years, with a specialization in Information Security. During that time, he has covered a broad swath of IT tasks from system administration to application development and beyond. He has contributed to a book published in 2013 entitled "Security 3.0" which is currently available on Amazon and other retailers.