Scaling Instructor-Led Training: Yes, It’s Possible! Here’s How!

Allan Dodson
Posted: June 20, 2019

Remember your school days? Sitting in a cube all by yourself and watching video lessons interrupted by the occasional online quiz? Never interacting with anyone else? Those were the days, right?

Of course, none of us remember our school experience that way. In school, students sit in a classroom with a real live person explaining the concepts. It’s a social experience where we can also learn from the successes and mistakes of others. And a good teacher can tell when someone is “not getting it” and will work to break the information down in a different way.

Traditional school uses this instructor-based approach for a simple reason: It works. With the help of our teachers, we learn math, language arts, social studies, and whatever else they might throw at us.

Then we enter the workforce and begin our corporate training. In the past 20 years or so, most large companies have adopted a high-tech approach to employee training: web-based, video-based, self-advancing PowerPoint presentations, etc. While all these tools have their place, many corporations are learning that there’s no substitute for the human touch if we want to get the best out of our workforce. Tech giants have led the way. IBM discontinued their work-from-home program in 2017, and both Google and Apple have created workspaces that encourage in-person interaction.

In corporate learning, instructor-led training (ILT) is making a comeback. Companies who want to hire and retain the best Millennial and Gen Z employees are paying attention to the research: Despite their omni-present smartphones, the younger set actually prefers in-person communication, and a recent ttcInnovations webinar poll showed more than 90% of participants have seen a surge in requests for ILT.

So, let’s start training everyone with instructor-led training!

Not so fast, my friend.

Before we all run out to get ILT certifications, we have to remember why large companies gravitated away from ILT in the first place. It comes down, of course, to cost. Putting enough trainers on the road to teach a workforce in the thousands or hundreds of thousands is very expensive. We can argue that good training more than pays for itself (it does), but it’s hard to push the C-suite to let go of that kind of money.

By now, alternate training methods are everywhere. Training Magazine’s 2016 Industry Report showed that 36% of large companies and 27% of small companies used only online training. An additional 40% and 50% respectively used some kind of virtual classroom instruction.

If we want to answer the call for more ILT in corporate training, we’ll need to offer solutions to scale classroom-based learning for large, geographically diverse audiences.

How can we keep the benefits of ILT while keeping costs in check and managing large workforces? Here are three methods for bringing ILT to the masses.

#1: Blended Learning

Blended learning is, quite simply, a combination of online tools and in-person instruction. Hybrid learning comes in many forms, but the most common examples are:

  • Online tools and assessments completed by trainees before the classroom training
  • Classic ILT with an in-person group and a videoconference connection to an online group

Both methods offer cost savings over traditional ILT. Online prework streamlines the training process (saving time), and videoconferencing saves travel dollars while keeping many of the best elements of in-person training.

Early reviews for blended training are good. According to Sharedbook.com’s State of Instructor-Led Training 2018 report, hybrid training increases engagement, retention, and course completion while expanding reach and reducing costs.

Related: How to Create a Blended Learning Program Your Learners & Business Partners Will Love

#2: Virtual Instructor-Led Training

There’s not a more efficient way to take training on the road than virtual instructor-led training (VILT). In this scenario, a live trainer teaches a “classroom” of online learners. The number of trainees is limitless, but of course larger groups mean less personal interaction. As with hybrid training, there are countless ways to use VILT, but a couple good methods to get started include webinars and video conferencing.

Webinars are a good choice for large groups when you just want to “get the message out.” While some interaction is possible, webinars are generally better as a one-way communication tool. Video conferencing can be a great alternative for smaller groups where you’re looking for that personal touch. In a Skype-style conference, all participants can see each other and even share screens to check work.

Participants give VILT high praise. According to an article in Training Magazine:

  • 86% of virtual classroom participants rated the experience “just as engaging” or “more engaging than” traditional classroom training.
  • 100% of participants were highly satisfied with their training experience.
  • Participants averaged a score of 90% on a test that measured mastery of skills — one percentage point higher than cognitive scores in the traditional classroom.

VILT seems to be a great alternative to providing ILT to large audiences at a greatly reduced cost.

#3 Train the Trainers (to Train!)

Another way to scale ILT is to create more trainers. Most large organizations already have a train-the-trainer model in place where managers in the field are taught new systems and expected to train their groups for implementation. The results of this method are predictably spotty, as managers have vastly different levels of training skills, availability, and patience.

A great solution to this age-old training problem is to train the trainers to train. Rather than just giving field managers the system knowledge and pushing them in front of a group, provide them with tools such as training manuals, workbooks (paper or virtual), etc. — and give them a training plan! In addition, train your managers on basic instructional techniques to get even more consistent results.

Your managers will thank you — and so will their beleaguered trainees!

Reports of ILT’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

ILT is still alive and well in corporate America, and companies want more of it. But today’s world demands that we adapt if we want to keep the many benefits of in-person training in a digital universe. Companies struggling to scale ILT often find training outsourcing a great way to bring in new ideas and kickstart new methods.

For many trainees, going “back to school” and the classroom environment is the best way to learn new skills. It’s like being in high school without actually being in high school. What could be better?


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