Fiona Leteney
Senior Analyst
Fosway Group

By guest author and senior industry analyst, Fiona Leteney of Fosway Group

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown traditional corporate classroom training into the spotlight. In light of the crisis it could be tempting to think that everything previously based in the corporate ILT classroom would end up as a like-for-like online swap. But the reality is that moving to an effective virtual instructor-led training (vILT) model needs a different approach.

L&D needs to reimagine ILT classroom courses and programmes long, concurrent days into smaller, bite-sized chunks spread out over several weeks. Not only does this require a different design but also poses new issues with managing the people and resources required for delivery. Here, Fiona Leteney, senior analyst at Fosway Group, Europe’s #1 HR industry analyst, explores some of the options.

The corporate classroom sees a digital transformation of learning

The Fosway Digital Learning Realities research published in February 2020, just before COVID-19 struck, showed there had been a continued progression of digital transformation in organisations across Europe, with 76% in progress and 15% saying they had completed their journey. But with everything that has happened since, I wonder if they still believe their journey was complete?

corporate classroom post pandemic graphic by Fosway

This research did not specifically highlight if this journey included any transformation of Instructor Led Training (ILT). But the subsequent pandemic has accelerated changes like no other – particularly where the ILT classroom is concerned. In our later research into the impact of COVID-19 on learning (published in May 2020), 94% of L&D professionals reported having to change the L&D strategy in response to the pandemic.

We know many internal trainers were furloughed or are now operating in new roles (all hands to the pump) while some external training companies have unfortunately not survived the crisis. Our data shows there was a 50% decrease in expenditure on external trainers or events and internally it was down by 35%.

But for L&D as a whole, it has not all been bad news. Many organisations are reporting that previous funding battles have now been won, with acceptance of digital or online learning. Better late than never, the data shows that digital learning content expenditure is up by 46% and unsurprisingly, the platforms that were the most successful during this period were (drumroll) virtual classrooms. The demand for face-to-face training has not gone away, but circumstances have dictated it must embrace a new digital home: vILT.

The art of virtual ILT goes beyond ‘lift and shift’

Humans are adaptable creatures and where there is a will there is a way. In the short-term, armed with some hasty re-skilling, access to Zoom or an equivalent, and a PowerPoint deck – vILT filled an immediate and very real need for organisations striving to adapt to the shift of working from home (amongst the other demands of the pandemic). But the reality is that a full day online is not even close to ideal. ‘Zoom fatigue’ is now part of everyday parlance, proving that just lifting and shifting classic face-to-face ILT is not what people want, never mind being a less-than-effective way to learn. So how do we navigate the shift in the corporate ILT classroom to a future that delivers a great learning experience, without being in the same physical location? As travel is not currently an option, chunking the programmes over a longer period of time needs to become the new normal. A traditional two day ‘course’ could be spread across multiple shorter sessions over a month or even two. Much better for the individual learner to have time to return to the workplace to practise – and reflect upon – what has just been learnt.

Great, that’s that sorted then? Hmmm no, not really! In the background, the delivery and administration of multiple sessions on multiple days is significantly more complex to manage. Using spreadsheets to manage training resources (in particular, instructor availability) is no mean feat. It simply isn’t really even a viable option, particularly at scale.

Harnessing technology effectively to manage vILT for the corporate classroom

So now is the time to harness technology effectively, or at least get it into next year’s budget. But don’t jump to a conclusion about the type of platform you need or assume that a standard Learning Management System (LMS) is the right technology to solve the issues of transforming traditional ILT to vILT. Many do allow the booking and reporting the completion of ILT classroom training and you may want to keep your LMS as the system of record; however a training resource management system (TRMS), integrated into your existing corporate learning ecosystem can help to optimise the use of resources and control the costs in real time.

Another aspect that most learning systems attempt but have not yet nailed is the provision of engaging content design of the longer programmes, e.g. those required for ‘high value’ senior leaders. With a few exceptions the corporate learning industry has some way to go in its provision; this needs to be a significant trend in terms of technology development in the months and years to come. It’s key to remember that whilst so much of ILT is about delivery – that the learning process needs to incorporate time to practice, time for reflection, the opportunity for feedback and everything else we refer to in our PLASMA learning model.

Virtual ILT now has more scope for some of these key activities. It is an opportunity to further the digital transformation of instructor-led training beyond simple scale and remote access. Instead, we have the power to help people learn, adapt, reskill, upskill, retrain and ultimately support our organisations through this crisis. And it is not an opportunity we can afford to miss.

For more information on the present state of vILT and ILT, watch the latest interview with my colleague, David Wilson, Founder and CEO, Fosway Group.

About Fosway

Fosway Group is Europe’s #1 HR Industry Analyst focused on Next Gen HR, Talent and Learning. Founded in 1996, we are known for our unique European research, our independence and our integrity. And just like the Roman road we draw our name from, you’ll find that we’re unusually direct. We don’t have a vested interest in your supplier or consulting choices. So, whether you’re looking for independent research, specific advice or a critical friend to cut through the market hype, we can tell you what you need to know to succeed.

Talk to us today on +44 (0) 207 917 1870 or via info@fosway.com, or visit us at www.fosway.com

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About Training Orchestra

For over 20 years, Training Orchestra has been helping 600+ organizations worldwide address the complexities to automate and optimize their ILT and vILT training operations: session scheduling, resource management, instructor calendars, cost tracking and reporting. As a complement to your existing learning technologies, Training Orchestra’s Training Resource Management System can replace all XLS spreadsheets and manual tasks, so you can better manage training as a business.

Interested in how you can improve ILT / vILT efficiency and do more with less? Contact us to learn more!

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