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The State of Instructor-Led Training in 2018

Instructor-Led Training

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Instructor-led training, or ILT, is the gold standard for professional development as well as academia. An instructor standing in front of a classroom full of students, lecturing and taking questions is still what the majority of people imagine when they think about training or learning.

But as new technologies emerge, including eLearning platforms and digital training content delivery methods, there is some question as to the future of ILT. Will a video screen powered by artificial intelligence take the place of traditional classrooms? Will professional development be done alone in a room with a laptop, rather than in an interactive environment?

According to the Citrix 2016 Benchmark Report: The State of Online Training:

Technology has not decreased the demand for instructor-led training, but gives instructors new tools to reach learners. The trend in instructor-led learning is enablement through technology, both in hybrid and fully virtual delivery.

Keep reading to learn more about the future of instructor-led training, including how technology can help ILT courses be more impactful in 2018.

How We Define Instructor-Led Training

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Instructor-led training is one of the most common forms of professional and corporate training. Although the terminology makes it easy to infer that all ILT consists of an instructor at the front of a classroom going through a slide deck or otherwise lecturing to a room full of learners, ILT can actually take on many different forms. At its core, all that instructor-led training implies is that an instructor is transferring knowledge to a learner. Traditional classroom settings are one example of ILT, but instructors can also use video conferencing tools, one-on-one training, interactive activities, and many other elements in their training courses and still fit within this label.

The rise of online training and eLearning has meant that more recently, the role of the instructor is in flux. This article will explore what that changeable role means for the future of ILT and the instructors that are still creating great content, courses and training modules.

Overall Use of Training in Corporate Environments

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It is impossible to address to future of ILT for corporate organizations without first establishing the trends for corporate training overall. The importance of training, particularly at the management level, has remained steady or increased for many businesses, according to the 2016 Training Industry Report from Training Magazine.

In the same report, 35% of companies said they planned to invest in online learning tools while 21% said they would invest in mobile learning. Further, budgets for training programs and staff increased at 37% of companies surveyed and stayed the same at more than half, indicating that the need and desire for training remains steady. Companies of all sizes are willing to invest in effective training for their staff, especially non-exempt employees, and for good reason. According to the National Research Business Institute, 23% of employees will leave their job due to a lack of training and development opportunities. Employee retention and the associated cost savings are just one reason that training remains a critical business investment in 2018.

Is Instructor-Led Training on the Decline?

As we move deeper into the 21st century, it is tempting to wonder whether the teaching and learning modalities of the past, including instructor-led training, are on their way towards total extinction. However, one recent report found that even in 2016, instructor-led training still comprised 70% of corporate training, although less than half of that training was offered with no online component whatsoever.

Though the majority of corporate training remains in the ILT format to some extent, there are still signs of some decline in the space. From 2015 to 2016, use of ILT declined by 5%, according to the Training Magazine report. If the decline of ILT continues at the same pace, ILT would remain the most popular corporate training method until 2022.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the fluctuations for ILT demand and use will remain steady. Rather, as eLearning technology continues to improve and more tech-natives continue to enter the workforce, the blending of eLearning and ILT is likely to grow, even if the more traditional classroom setting continues a decline.

Company Size and ILT

Company size does influence how willing an organization is to move from traditional classroom settings to online-only delivery, with larger companies leading the way, likely due to potential cost savings. In 2016, according to Training Magazine, 36% of large companies (more than 10,000 employees) used online-only training delivery methods, with no instructor at all while around 40% of those same companies used some combination of virtual classrooms and blended online/in-person delivery. In contrast, 27% of small companies (up to 999 employees) used online-only, no instructor training and about half used virtual instructor-led classrooms and/or blended training methods.

For now, instructor-led training is managing to hold onto a significant market share for a range of reasons, including its effectiveness. Further, as eLearning technology evolves, rather than replacing instructor-led training, it is giving instructors new tools to make their courses even more effective in terms of time efficiency and retention.

Available Technology is Changing the Role of the Instructor

As alluded to, while eLearning technology is not replacing ILT, it is certainly having an impact on how corporate training courses are delivered. With access to tools that allow for digital training material delivery, real-time engagement analytics, and interactive learning experiences, instructors are able to create courses that are more effective from their existing expertise.

However, as the Association for Talent Development notes, “it is not the technology per se that causes learning, but rather how that technology is used to support basic learning processes. A lengthy lecture without graphics or participant interaction is equally ineffective in a classroom or online.”

How Technology Improves the Efficiency of ILT

There are good reasons that traditional instructor-led training programs are increasingly turning to eLearning to support their courses. In many cases, eLearning technology has been shown to improve learner outcomes. For instance, when IBM switched to eLearning, their employees were able to learn 5 times more material over the same time frame for standard training and a Brandon Hall study showed that eLearning takes up to 60% less time to complete than a more traditional classroom-based training session.

Time saving is just one way that digital delivery of courses through eLearning technology can help learners. When compared to more traditional face-to-face learning methods, eLearning has been shown to improve retention as well, with eLearners retaining 25 to 60% of what they learned as opposed to 8 to 10% in face-to-face settings.

Measuring Learner Outcomes

The analytics available from digital learning materials is another way that instructor-led training can benefit from an increased presence of technology in their teaching materials. Access to analytics can be useful in a few ways. For example, instructors can provide students with a pre-class assessment and require it be completed before the ILT portion of the course. With this data, instructors can better tailor their courses to address student skill gaps while spending less time on those areas that students already know well.

On the other end, of course, analytics can be used to determine the course's efficacy through post-class assessments and feedback requests that can be pre-loaded with other digital course materials.

Finally, when course materials are delivered digitally, learners can go back and review materials as needed. Embedded analytics in some programs will let instructors know where students spend the most time and how they engage with the content they create, which can help to improve future courses.

Useful Features for Hybrid ILT Training

Utilizing a blend of online learning and ILT can be the most effective option, particularly when interaction and personalization are emphasized. Instructors can leverage digital tools, for instance, to require that students complete an assessment before attending a classroom session, which allows the instructor to tailor the course to the specific knowledge gaps that exist for that particular class. Further, interactive elements, when added to traditional classroom teaching methods through technology, can serve to maximize learner retention.

By incorporating the strengths of ILT, such as personalized attention and direct instructor/learner engagement, alongside the best that digital learning technology has to offer, instructors can offer courses that appeal to all types of learners and have significantly better learning outcomes in relation to time spent.

Some of the digital learning features that course instructors may find useful in their quest for learner engagement include:

  • Interactive learner assessment
  • Video tools for virtual classroom instruction
  • Social chat features
  • Story-based scenarios

As more options become available, it will be up to individual instructors to determine when and where to implement new features.

When ILT Should Integrate Technology

There are two main concerns to keep in mind when deciding whether new technology will support a particular training course: content and audience.

Audience

For any instructor, the audience is the number one concern when developing training content. After all, it would make little sense to use the same methods to teach entry level employees and top-level executives with decades of experience. But while those types of divisions certainly influence the content being taught, they should also influence the methods used for teaching. For instance, younger students are likely to be more comfortable using some interactive pieces, while learners who have been outside of formal classroom settings for longer may have less experience with leveraging technology in a learning setting. Any insight into the intended audience's learning habits should be taken into consideration when developing course requirements.

Content

Some content simply lends itself better to online learning delivery methods and interactive technology. For instance, in leadership courses when communication skills are being taught, it may make the most sense to have students interact with one another in person, using roleplay or sample scripts. In a sales training course where improved email writing skills are emphasized, utilizing digital tools might make more sense.

Why Companies are Incorporating Learning Technology in 2018

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While every company will have their own reasons for implementing the learning technology they choose, the two most common influencing factors in the choice are cost savings and scalability. Particularly for large organizations, leveraging technology to allow instructors to teach more people in less time can be extremely cost-effective. Virtual classrooms reduce travel cost while improving outcomes from blended learning methods.

Instructor-Led Training Going Forward

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What does the future hold for instructor-led training? While there is no way to know for sure, recent trends indicate that ILT will continue to be a preferred learning method among corporate training clients. However, course developers should be prepared to fully incorporate available technology into their training methodologies, with digital training materials that are mobile-friendly, able to track learning outcomes, and provide interactive learning options.