The Present State of Instructor-Led Training (ILT/vILT)

Hear David Wilson CEO of Fosway Group speak candidly about why Instructor-Led and Virtual Instructor-Led Training plays a critical role in the modern learning ecosystem. In this deep dive interview, get his take on the future of ILT/VILT, including how organizations can get more impact and better manage their training programs and budgets—and find the right technology for the job.

Read the Full Q&A: 

David Wilson
Founder & CEO
Fosway Group

1. Is there a place for instructor-led training (face-to-face and virtual) in the new learning ecosystem? 

David Wilson: The simple answer is yes. Learning has changed enormously over the last 20 years, but certain things fundamentally will always be true. That is, how do we maximize the ability to impact learners most effectively? There has been significant growth in the use of digital media, content, and learning-type activities. It’s still really, really important to be able to impact learners create strong learning experiences, and motivate learners as a part of the process.

ILT, in terms of face-to-face and virtual forms, still has a significant role within that. It still consumes quite a lot of corporate budget. We’ve seen a lot of growth in virtual instructor-led delivery, arguably that’s one of the biggest trends in the past 3-4 years. It’s not new technology necessarily, but it’s become significant. So yes, absolutely, ILT has a critical role in the learning mix in the modern learning ecosystem.

2. What are the challenges facing organizations that want to get more impact from their instructor-led training?  

David Wilson: There are a lot of challenges organizations face around it. That was true, in absolute terms all the time, but in the modern world, the pressures around it have become more extreme. COVID-19 has dynamically changed the dynamics for a lot of organizations, and we’ll talk about that more later.

At the end of the day, it comes down to basic things: How fast can I reach my audience? How can I impact my audience? How do I create stronger experiences? It then comes down to fairly obvious barriers: resources, costs, travel, time for delivery… All of these create huge challenges for organizations to optimize how they can deliver to their audience. The biggest is how do I reach my audience fast enough. And, how can I be agile enough in terms of engaging with them?

Ultimately budget is always a challenge as well. How do I optimize how I spend money and where I spend money? What kind of value or impact do I get from that? That’s probably the most hidden one, I think. Learning organizations are guilty of ignoring focusing on what outcomes they get from these activities. And focusing on input challenges. But that’s critical as well. The more effectively you can show that the easier it is then to justify everything else you want to do.

The final thing is ultimately, especially if it’s face-to-face delivery, then people have to be there physically to do that. In the current climate that is even more difficult to do. But even before recent challenges, the reality of everyone traveling has always been there and has been significant. It’s one of the reasons we’ve also seen huge growth in VILT activities as well.

3. How can organizations better manage Instructor-Led Training to achieve their goals?

David Wilson: The first thing is recognizing what the challenges really are and then understanding how to build strategies and manage things towards it. Also working out where you spend money. If you’re trying to better manage and optimize the way that you manage any learning, you have to understand the core dynamics of it: where you spend money, what drives activity in the background, and you need to look at how you actively engage in managing those activities. In the past, organizations tended to focus maybe sometimes on the headlines around things and ignore the basics.

The biggest issue for most organizations is how they do that in scale. It’s fine to be able to manage if you’re only doing a few things, managing it is not very complex. But what we see particularly with large enterprise organizations or global companies, is being able to manage the resources that are tied into these learning activities (whether it’s face-to-face or not) is a significant challenge for them. And, they need to be able to track and have strategies for how they optimize the different resources around it, whether that’s physical training facilities or instructor resources. Things like instructor resources, that’s a relevant issues regardless of whether it’s face-to-face or virtual delivery. You can only allocate them in certain ways.

Also, I would argue that organizations have become blended and digital as part of the mix. The more challenges that have been created in terms of how you manage instructor optimization and so on. It’s really important to understand the basic units of what’s going on and you can build and track those activities within it. There are some pretty disproportionate gains to get from that. From an aggregate spend point of view, ILT is still often 50-70% of an organization’s overall training budget. Then, if you even just do that 10% better, it has massive disproportionate gains.

So, it’s a critical part of the mix. It won’t go away; it just becomes more complicated because the number of elements you’re trying to manage becomes more complex. And, again coming back to the point of being more agile, we need to be able to understand that on a more granular level, we need to be able to make decisions on how we allocate resources faster. And we need to be able to make decisions that have a better impact on what we’re trying to deliver as an organization. All of those are critical factors in determining how we manage learning in totality and looking at ILT elements of it.

4. In regards to these core challenges, how can a Training Management System like Training Orchestra, support organizations’ ILT programs? 

David Wilson: It starts with understanding the core units of what you’re doing and being able to track those. And then being able to make sensible decisions around them. To do that you have to be able to analyze the way you’re allocating resources, the way you’re allocating budget. And also looking at basic things like schedules and optimization of schedules, and so on. There is potentially a significant value that can be had in optimizing those things. If it’s a big chunk of your budget, that has a disproportionate impact in terms of what it either frees up or enables you to allocate into other channels and so on. A lot of this is around bringing proper management structures and also understanding how you can analyze that data in an intelligent way, plus, support tools within the systems you’re using that enable you to do that automatically. That’s a critical factor as well.

The specifics of how you do that are sometimes challenging, especially in large organizations because learning is often a decentralized activity, therefore the visibility of the data associated with that is not necessarily managed centrally. Another significant challenge for organizations is how they manage these things on a decentralized basis as well. The answer is to not always just try to put it all in one central pot and assume that can then be managed effectively with full outcomes. That’s never likely to work, or maybe temporarily if it does. Having proper tools to manage these things is important.

5. How would you position training management in the learning technology ecosystem, and does it overlap with the LMS?

David Wilson: From a Fosway perspective, the way we look at learning ecosystems is probably a little different from other organizations. We’ve been tracking the learning technology market for well over 20 years, and it’s never just been around an LMS and content or training admin system, for example. It’s always quite diverse and complicated, it’s an ecosystem. From a learning management perspective, the LMS has been a dominant part of that story for a long time. But in reality, LMSs in themselves have been an evolving entity. Many started managing just the e-learning side, and then many started adding instructor-led activities as well, and training admin tools as part of the ecosystem.

Now, more and more are becoming much more diverse and supporting more learning channels. So, we can talk about learning management system suites, a suite of tools managing modern learning activities in a general sense. But, within that, there are some areas of disruption. So, the way we look at training management is potentially a specialist area within it. It’s a general capability that a lot of the learning suites have, but it’s not an area of deep competence generally. That becomes very important when talking to big organizations who are spending lots of money on this activity, it’s very complicated to manage it, in a decentralized way anyway.

So, having a specialized tool within that makes a lot of sense. It also enables them to focus on multiple or disruptive agendas at once. They can focus on things like training optimization on one level, things like training experience, and others, solving more than one problem. We see it all as being part of the learning tech ecosystem as a whole. We see this as being relevant, particularly for larger organizations. In terms of the training management specialization, how it fits into their broader ecosystem. Whether that’s through specialist components, or what. It’s a key component of the leading suites in the market. It needs to integrate into the ecosystem and needs to share data about learners, learner activity, classes and sessions, etc. It’s a tightly integrated part of it, bringing specialist essential tools to the table that enable you to manage and optimize at scale.

Another relevant piece is that in certain countries there are regulatory structures in place, that focus on things like training, management, reporting, budgeting, and financial structures around it. So, in those environments, it takes a disproportionate importance as well because often it’s being used to provide the regulatory reports and structures to manage things like training spending in a way that is supplementary to what an organization would normally do.

6. What is the impact of the changes organizations are having to make to their learning programs and priorities as a result of COVID-19? 

David Wilson: Clearly, it affects it in the short term, as no one can travel for face-to-face delivery or face-to-face courses, almost everything has immediately gone online. So, the first statement is the importance of being agile, and having active strategies toward this is paramount now. But, just switching everything online doesn’t solve any problem. So, I think there is a tendency for organizations to throw things like digital content at the table as a first strategy, because it enables them to push it out to an audience that is now working from home, or whatever it is, very rapidly. The question is, then, does that drive much value? I think what we’ve seen that’s been evident in a lot of ways, is that the value of online training sessions has become disproportionally higher than it would have been before. From our research, we already knew it was an area of growth for organizations, whether virtual or not virtual instructor delivery sessions, etc.

So, the first challenge is how do I move faster, and reach an audience that is inherently now virtual? The virtual instructor-led element of this has now become very important. The second impact is around the outcomes and impact expression itself: what is effective here? Efficacy is an interesting word. So, if all I’m doing is tracking online content to people and tracking if they’ve opened and read it, that doesn’t necessarily do anything for me. I need people to be effective and do a job when working remotely. I need to be able to coach and support them. It’s critical to be able to do those in a supported way, whether that’s through an instructor-led delivery session, or straight virtual session, or virtual coaching type of activities as well.

So, overall, we’ve seen a shift away from travel and physical attendance, and very rapidly seeing organizations trying to push content to people but then realizing that’s not enough, so they have to add other elements to it. What it’s doing to some degree is sweeping away some of the barriers to change, and we’ve already been there anyway. What we’re doing is things that had already started to happen and are now happening more, and we’ve stopped certain elements temporarily while we do it. I think some of those elements will come back, but they will not necessarily have some barriers. Some organizations will look at their workforce and where they operate from, and will look at learning activity in a different way around it.

The final barrier, thinking about this in scale, is the complexity of how I manage that. So, when organizations aren’t running big face-to-face delivery events, they’re running maybe 10x or 100x the number of virtual events instead. That creates a significant complexity around scheduling and delivery. But, it simplifies certain elements around resources, like not worrying about physical classroom events, and so on. It’s relevant to understand how you do that well and effectively. How you track, optimize, and make other decisions are accentuated in some ways now, even if we don’t physically have to travel there.

7. Looking forward, in what ways can organizations future-proof their training budgets? 

David Wilson: The easiest way to future-proof training budgets is to be seen and understood as being more relevant and impactful in the future. All learning organizations have to raise their game as part of this, just like HR, IT, etc. Some of them are a little wanting in terms of their ability to respond. Having great intent to respond is not the same as actually doing it, in terms of the current crisis and so on. The most obvious way to be more impactful is to be more agile, to embrace the opportunities that are there, and to be able to deliver more effectively within it.

The other key outcome is that learning organizations need to be more accountable for the outcomes that they create. Being able to be more effective and professional at managing what they do and the impact they deliver becomes more and more paramount. If you can prove impact, or that you have a role in doing that, then the budget will be made there to do it. Budgets are only taken away if there is either no money at all for anything and the organization is collapsing, or when people think you don’t make a difference when you’re doing it. No CEO or CFO is going to cut budgets unless they have to, if they know it has a bottom-line impact on the organization. Better manage what you do, and prove that you add more value, that’s the simple answer.

What’s Next?

For over 18 years, Training Orchestra has been helping 600+ organizations worldwide address the complexities of automating and optimizing their ILT and vILT training operations: session scheduling, resource management, instructor calendars, vILT, 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 vILT and ILT management? Contact us or Request a demo.