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Posted by on Apr 8, 2014

Is ILT Dying?

Virtual TrainingYes, ILT (instructor-led training) is dying, but we need not mourn its loss. Instead, we should realize we are standing on the brink of something exhilarating: the reincarnation of instructor-led training as virtual instructor-led training (VILT).

The traditional brick-and-mortar ILT classroom has been smoldering for a while now. As federal travel budgets shrink and training dollars dry up (although the future of training is looking up), organizations are seeking alternatives to fill their training needs. Organizations are continually looking for a way their employees can be out of the office for less time.

In response, virtual instructor-led classes, which are typically delivered by an instructor in a virtual environment, are swooping in to meet this need. Organizations that have previously only offered traditional ILT classroom experiences acknowledge the customer expectation that these same courses be available virtually.

ILT Reborn

VILT marks the rebirth of ILT. In this format, employees can take required training courses without leaving their worksite. Some parts of the training may be available asynchronously, meaning students can learn at their own pace, and when their schedule allows. The classic VILT experience is guided by a facilitator, who in many cases will be delivering instruction real-time, so students can ask questions and participate in peer discussions.

Given that there has been an overall increase in the use of VILT, and it is likely not going away anytime soon, it is important to address some of the common questions that come up around this training modality.

How can you possibly replicate the ILT experience virtually?

The answer is you cannot — and should not — simply carry over the ILT experience into virtual training. Instead, you design VILT courses so that the material can come to life in a virtual space. VILT courses are not mindless page-turners; rather, they have the potential to be highly interactive, relevant training experiences with frequent instructor and peer interaction built into the course.

Where does the instructor fit in this new format?

In the VILT class, the instructor still stands at the helm of the learning experience, coaching students, telling stories, answering questions, and delivering lectures (recorded or live). In fact, the instructor may be even more tapped into how individual students are doing than if the class were offered only in a traditional face-to-face classroom. VILT has the potential to provide more engagement through discussion forums, chats, polls, and other “pulse checks” that help the instructor gauge each learner’s mastery of the content.

How do you reach those students who prefer to learn in an ILT setting?

The point of VILT classes is not to set students adrift, floating alone in the virtual sea. Instead, they are part of a community of learners who happen to interact in a virtual classroom. Students often have the opportunity to explore course content at their own pace, so they can take the time they need with the material. In addition, the virtual environment encourages support, as peers respond to questions and share knowledge with each other.

In the VILT classroom, there may also be some hesitation on the part of non-digital natives. Those who have built their careers sitting in the physical classroom with an instructor leading from the podium may find it difficult to envision a productive virtual training experience. Given that the instructor still leads the course, those newer to VILT won’t be left behind. The instructor will guide students in use of the technology, and peers can also lend a hand in getting students who are struggling with the technology on board.

Looking Ahead

The shift from ILT to VILT brings with it a new, exciting training experience that supports the customer’s shifting priorities and needs. However, despite the convenience factor, VILT needs to mature in order to be a more efficient and effective training tool. The common challenges organizations currently experience with this training format include lower learner engagement and not maximizing use of the VILT tool.

Until organizations work to overcome these obstacles — by designing excellent virtual courses and getting instructors up to speed on virtual training best practices — these challenges will impact the effectiveness of VILT and may increase resistance to the technology.

Whether you love the possibilities that VILT heralds, or you are devastated by the death of ILT, virtual instructor-led training is likely to continue its rise as the go-to choice of training by organizations strapped for travel and training dollars. As a result, educators, students, and instructors alike need to adjust their vision of what an engaging learning experience can look like.

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