effectively manage virtual instructor-led training (vILT)

In today’s learning environment, technology plays a primary role in the shift from traditional classroom training (ILT) to virtual instructor-led training (vILT), with the learner often the primary focus of this digital transformation. But, there is opportunity to innovate beyond the learner. What does this mean in terms of finding ways to more effectively manage virtual instructor-led training today?

Innovation and transformation are often primary discussion points within the learning landscape, especially in today’s rapidly shifting environment. But, before our “new today,” was it ever about innovation and transformation in relation to the classroom? Rarely.

Before we dive into what innovation beyond the learner looks like and how to better manage vILT, let’s back up a second to drill down the basics.

What is virtual instructor-led training (vILT)?

Definition: Virtual instructor-led training is a type of training led by an instructor in a virtual or remote environment. Think of it as traditional face-to-face or corporate classroom training turned virtual. In some cases, virtual instructor-led training might simulate the traditional classroom or learning experience.  Other times, it may have its own unique approach or experience. It is one of the fastest growing learning delivery methods used today.

Is the classroom obsolete?

Despite the recent changes in the learning space, both instructor-led training and virtual instructor-led training are here to stay. In fact, Brandon Hall Group found that 96% of organizations still use ILT / vILT to some degree to deliver learning today.

The pandemic forced many L&D professionals to rapidly shift from classroom training to virtual classroom training. However, the “2021 Trends: Learning and Development in a COVID World,” by The Ken Blanchard Companies, found that those same L&D professionals expect to use both ILT and vILT equally, post-pandemic. So, why is that the case? And, will ILT / vILT still wear the crown going forward?

In the same Ken Blanchard Companies report, 51% of respondents felt that their new digital offerings were somewhat or much less effective than their face-to-face offerings. The top areas they felt their digital and virtual course designs could be improved were through “learner engagement, social interaction, and more learning touch points.”

The fact is, 64% of organizations use ILT because it’s more effective than other modalities in improving learners’ understanding of the material. Plus, in today’s unique learning environment, the need for human interaction is even more important. But with a widening skills gap pushing for faster training and increasing pressure on budgets, it’s increasingly harder to justify the costs.

So, what will ILT / vILT look like moving forward?

Classroom training and virtual instructor-led training will still play a major role, but it will look different for many. The crown will need to be shared as L&D continues to transform. Though some say ILT is the gold standard and preferred delivery method, 57% percent of L&D professionals believe ILT has a role, but it’s part of a blended learning experience. So, as Ken Blanchard puts it, it’s no longer an “either/or” proposition, but rather a “both/and” proposition, because both classroom and digital training can work together to create a smarter, more skilled, and diversified workforce.

Innovating virtual instructor-led training: beyond the learner

Our industry is already laser-focused on connected, virtual classrooms, collaborative experiences, and personalized, blended curricula that benefit our learners and their experiences.

But, looking beyond the learner, many companies are missing out on the part of the iceberg that is submerged – the vast amount of back-office / operational time and resources needed to plan, schedule, manage and report on instructor-led and virtual instructor-led training. The reality is that most of these processes are still managed manually in XLS spreadsheets and calendars. There’s much room for progress.

Banks, for example, need operational savings of 15 to 20 percent to maintain viability, according to a PwC survey. Perhaps in no other industry is the need for more efficient training management more obvious. In fact, “64% of CEOs see neither innovation nor operational effectiveness as being dominant – they are looking to succeed at both!

But ILT and vILT of the future are not bound to be inefficient and opaque. We argue for an entirely new, impact-oriented approach to managing instructor-led and virtual instructor-led training. One that reduces costs and administrative workload while increasing flexibility and visibility.

The shifting classroom: how to effectively manage virtual instructor-led training today

Managing the shift to vILT today, and beyond, should encompass these three things:

  1. First, it should be cost-effective, maximize revenue, and able to respond to tighter training budgets.
  2. Second, it needs to be collaborative to improve efficiency and data consolidation.
  3. Third, it should be transparent and enable better training reporting and decision-making.

For this reason, we propose a completely new way to think about instructor-led training and virtual instructor-led training, resting on strategic planning, operational excellence, and technology to maximize impact and minimize costs:

1. Strategic decision-making for face-to-face and virtual classroom training

Unlike online training, instructor-led training is inherently less flexible and scalable as it entails scarce resources and limited capacity. Therefore, planning is crucial and represents the first step.

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Planning your virtual classroom training: There are unique complexities for managing instructors, virtual rooms, materials, and new roles as everything continues to shift. Some of these new complexities may include:  

  • Tracking and managing new roles for virtual sessions such as producers or digital facilitators, in addition to the instructor.
  • Managing vILT courses that extend over longer periods of time (i.e. a face-to-face class that used to be 3 full days, is now virtual spanning over 6 half day sessions.) 
  • Offering a blended learning or hybrid model (classes that are developed as a blend of face-to-face, virtual, and eLearning).
  • Interfacing with new technologies such as Zoom, and others to automate the scheduling of  virtual sessions.

Planning your global strategy: This entails forecasting enterprise-wide training needs for all populations including external audiences such as your customers and partners and non-desk workers who don’t have LMS portal access. Then, creating a comprehensive long-term training plan based on these forecasted volumes. Lastly, you would transfer this forecast into your provisional budget, which will allow you to create a budget well aligned with your L&D strategy.

Prioritize training investments: For instructor-led training, this entails consolidating complete training costs. This includes both variable costs such as catering and flights, and fixed costs such as venues and instructor fees. However, with virtual instructor-led training, training investments may look different. For vILT, that may mean more instructor fees, more courses, and resources that require different investment scenarios. 

A clear picture of costs will allow you to identify the highest return on investments. It will also help you select only the most strategic training sessions. Lastly, simulating different budget scenarios will help you in making an optimal investment decision.

2. Operational excellence

After having decided on an optimal training plan and budget in line with your L&D strategy, the next step is operational excellence. This means managing vILT and ILT in the most efficient and flexible way to reduce costs.

Streamline logistics and administration: Two distinct capabilities are needed to improve efficiency. First, logistics capabilities such as instructor and resources curation, flexible course and resource scheduling, as well as occupancy rate monitoring and optimization. You can do this, for example, through enterprise resource planning systems. Secondly, an administrative capability that includes, for example, automated registrations and waitlists, electronic document management, and internal and external communication tools.

Optimize budgets: Tracking and reducing training costs in real-time is probably one of the most difficult hurdles in instructor-led and virtual instructor-led training management. It can entail anything from precise cost-computations, including amortization of fixed assets, to invoice management and currency-consolidation. Tracking costs in real-time then feeds into higher-level monitoring of the remaining budget. This can be benchmarked against your initial plan. You should ideally do this with custom indicators reflecting your priorities.

3. Monitoring and reporting

Frequent reporting around your instructor-led and virtual instructor-led training management is key to ensuring that your teams remain flexible in responding to falling performance, sudden change in training volumes, rising costs, or other unexpected challenges. This is a three-step process:

  1. First, access real-time shared data, key performance indicators (KPIs) and reports, enabled by the consolidation created through operational excellence.
  2. Second, identify weaknesses and opportunities by benchmarking actual versus planned metrics.
  3. And lastly, make clear-sighted decisions based on your initial strategy and track improvements.

Bringing ILT and vILT into the future

For years, the learning industry has been focused on driving innovation in learner experience. This makes sense for online learning / eLearning, whose main strengths are cost and scalability but who suffers from inferior engagement. Innovations in the traditional classroom have been timid and mostly focused on learner experience. But, the environment within the corporate learning ecosystem is changing, and ILT and vILT learning experiences are meeting today’s demands. It’s time to take advantage of the rapid shift to virtual instructor-led training and re-evaluate how to reduce costs, improve training back-office efficiency, and continue bringing instructor-led training, both face-to-face and virtual, into the future.

>> Learn more about the corporate classroom post-pandemic and what’s next for instructor led training by senior industry analyst, Fiona Leteney, of Fosway Group. <<

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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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