When comparing the value of corporate learning delivery methods, one question always arises: how do instructor-led training (ILT) and eLearning stack up? While it’s actually counterproductive and even detrimental to think of the two in opposition to one another (they’re really not!) it is helpful to compare the uses and costs of ILT—with which everyone has at least a passing familiarity—to those of eLearning. So let’s take a look:
Classroom Instructor-Led Training
When is it most effective?
Instructors and learners can easily meet in the same place
If your goal is to train a large volume of people, especially if those people live in different locations, in-person ILT is going to cost a lot in time and expenses. If all of the learners are in the same location, or at least near each other, getting everyone together with minimal interruptions and absences is much easier.
Learners and the course material will benefit from hands-on activities
With today’s tools, knowledge transfer and discussion are no longer confined to people the same physical space. However, some activities, like role playing, team building, and demonstrations, are much more effective if the participants are experiencing them in person. If the course materials are such that in-person learning will make the course more effective, ILT may be the best option.
If you don’t have your own classroom space, you’ll need to rent one—and depending on how many people are participating, how many days you’ll need it, and how many hours each day, that can get pricey.
If participants aren’t in the same area, or if you’re flying in an instructor from somewhere else, there’s travel costs to consider. Other benefits, such as the boost in employee satisfaction from taking a work trip, can help to offset the impact of these costs, but in some cases, the need to travel makes classroom ILT cost-prohibitive.
One of the benefits of classroom ILT is also one of its biggest costs: getting the undivided attention of the participants means they’re not working on the responsibilities that keep the business running. While a well-designed and relevant course should, theoretically, pay for itself down the road in employee development, the drop in productivity in the moment could have cost repercussions if not properly addressed.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training
When is it most effective?
The organization wants to utilize an instructor, but participants can’t meet in the same space
The majority of business decisions come down to resources, and if you are able to leverage an excellent instructor—whether they be someone with extensive expertise or superb speaking skills—wasting the opportunity due to space, travel, or scheduling logistics can be a big missed opportunity. Recorded or live-streamed ILT can help instructors reach more learners.
Recorded sessions will be accessed by others after the training is complete
Virtual ILT courses can easily be recorded and distributed after the course is complete, making it more cost effective, as those recordings can essentially function as training videos for learners who couldn’t attend the live session.
The equipment needed for virtual ILT is a variable cost. The instructor could do it with their laptop webcam and microphone, or in a studio set-up with quality equipment. Consider, though, that with higher production values, additional assets and resources such as animations, presentations, and interaction can be inserted into the session, and the subsequent recording is more likely to stand the test of time.
Virtual ILT requires more than just the instructor to keep the course running smoothly. You may also need a team of conversation moderators and IT staff to ensure that participant interaction and the quality of the stream or video is conducive to quality learning.
When is it most effective?
Learner flexibility and autonomy is a top priority
One of eLearning’s greatest strengths is in the multitude of ways that learners can use it. Cloud-based modules allow users to access lessons and materials any time, anywhere, and from practically any device. It can be used to teach entire courses and skillsets, or as a resource for answering questions in the moment they arise.
Course materials are frequently updated
In industries where processes and best practices change rapidly, or those where new technology is frequently introduced, the ability to update eLearning modules with accurate information is critical to keeping employees up-to-date.
The organization foresees periods of rapid change or growth
Similarly, in periods of rapid change or growth within an organization, ensuring that both established and new employees are receiving the same information is vital to ensuring that business success scales with its size.
Developing a custom eLearning module requires extensive and varied expertise from instructional designers, developers, and other experts that your organization may or may not have in-house, as well as buy-in from management and the employees themselves. As a result, many companies feel ill-equipped to develop and implement eLearning.
While it may seem unthinkable to some in today’s world, many people don’t have around-the-clock access to devices with which they can access eLearning modules. Employees without access via a personal device will have to use company technology, and more than likely, company time.
As unsatisfying as the answer may be, neither ILT nor eLearning is necessarily “better”—what’s best for your organization depends on the learners, the material, the objective, and dozens of other factors.