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Virtual Instructor-Led Training: The Best of Both Worlds

Learning management programs are evolving. Traditionally, instructor-led training (ILT) was the preferred mode within organizational learning. E-learning sparked excitement, but for some it has disappointed, being dubbed as ineffective.

But lately, the learning management community has introduced virtual instructor-led training (VILT). Does it have staying power?

Although the classroom may be the ideal learning environment for many, implementing instructor-led training can become costly for organizations — especially those that were hit hard during the economic slowdown.

“Drawbacks dimmed the appeal of instructor-led training, notably the need for learners to leave their work and the cost of travel for far-flung associates,” said Craig Perrin, director of product development at AchieveGlobal, a training company.

In the last few years, however, data shows that spending for learning is starting to trend up.

According to research from Bersin by Deloitte, overall spending on training increased 12 percent on average in 2012. The firm’s research also revealed “signs that amidst greater financial stability, organizations are focused on reskilling their workforces.”

VILT offers two-way, person-to-person interaction in real time. The technology links aspects of instructor-led training — via live Web chats and video — with certain aspects of e-learning, such as social media discussions and polling capabilities.

A range of companies have implemented VILT, including the National EMS Academy, where some paramedics use virtual training to obtain recertification, and the team of financial advisers, tax experts and auditors at Deloitte.

“Modern learning organizations are embracing these changes by rethinking how they operate to closely align with business needs,” said Karen O’Leonard, lead analyst at Bersin by Deloitte.
“For U.S. organizations, that means committing more dollars to develop internal talent and to build the desired skills for competitive advantage.”

Many features that are not a part of a live classroom are incorporated into virtual training, such as classroom polling and interactive videos that enhance instruction. “We try hard to not only replicate what happens in a live classroom, but also to leverage the unique features of these virtual platforms, which don’t have the classroom environment,” AchieveGlobal’s Perrin said.

Perrin said CLOs and other learning leaders should have an up-front conversation with their learning management distributor. He said it’s important to identify challenges at a company before deciding on a specific learning mode.

“As the pace of innovation accelerates and companies look to expand their operations, employees should acquire more specialized skills and adapt to a workplace that grows more transient, mobile and self-serving,” O’Leonard said.

Jennifer Kahn is an editorial intern with Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.