Moving Past Either/Or Comparisons
By Holly Sheldon, Senior Business Analyst, Expertus
For years, we’ve seen trend lines shift, as enterprise learning organizations abandoned traditional instructor-led training (ILT) in favor of virtual solutions.
Long considered the backbone of corporate learning, ILT had clearly moved from center stage by 2010. Adoption of virtual classrooms was so brisk that industry analysts at Bersin predicted ILT would shrink to 37% of corporate learning activity before 2021.
The Business Case For Virtual Learning
Because Expertus is an innovation leader, we’ve always been enthusiastic about digital learning technologies. Several years ago, we even hosted a “Cloud vs. Classroom Faceoff” webinar that pitted ILT against virtual delivery in a showdown based on three key decision criteria — cost, speed and effectiveness.
Not surprisingly, cloud-based classrooms won hands-down. That conclusion was supported by strong evidence from a global sales readiness program we had implemented for Microsoft Corporation. The first-year results were compelling:
- Volume of learners served surged 157%;
- Increase in overall learning participation was 20% higher than goal;
- On-demand learning drove deeper engagement — 33% of content was consumed after live online programs were delivered.
As Microsoft’s program manager noted, “During a time of limited T&E budgets, virtual learning enabled field representatives to continually ramp their scope of knowledge, while staying fully engaged with customers.”
Faster. Cheaper. Better. The benefits of virtual classrooms are compelling. But wait. That’s not the end of this story.
Reconstructing The Brick-And-Mortar Classroom
While virtual meetings, MOOCs, and other “social/mobile/cloud” breakthroughs have been storming the corporate castle, traditional classrooms haven’t just faded away into oblivion. Instead, as CLO Magazine notes in its October issue, old-school classrooms have been stirring up a revolution of their own.
But make no mistake — this isn’t your father’s classroom. According to CLO, “It has transformed into a more dynamic tool, providing practitioners with in-person collaboration as well as a space where evolving learning technologies are integrated and used to promote knowledge transfer with those physically present and others dialing in from locations around the globe.”
In its new capacity, the classroom is no longer the centerpiece of “chalk talk” lecture-based training. Instead, it is only one element in what CLO calls “a larger learning pie.” ILT has a natural role in today’s increasingly rich and diverse spectrum of learning tools, resources and functions. How prominent is this new role? Of course, that should be determined by your organization’s unique needs. However, CLO suggests that classrooms ideally represent anywhere from 20-60% of the overall learning experience.
Saying Goodbye To The Zero-Sum Game
What does this new face of ILT mean for virtual classrooms? It means that the real issue for learning leaders is not an either/or choice. The real question is whether and how both ILT and virtual approaches can be combined within a compelling continuous learning experience. As we’ve mentioned before, it starts by considering the mix of content and channels that naturally align with a learner’s environmental context.
That can be a tricky challenge in today’s fluid workplace. The concept of work, itself, is being redefined by rapid innovation in social applications, mobile platforms, and networked collaboration. At the same time, opportunities for professional skills development and knowledge transfer are accelerating. CLO is right — it truly is a “larger learning pie.” And that pie continues to grow exponentially.
Best Of Both Worlds
With so many options emerging, how can ILT and virtual classrooms work best together? It begins with an infrastructure that supports all modes of learning, and offers seamless integration with whatever tools, resources and systems you require. This makes it easy for training organizations to develop rich, robust, relevant learning experiences — while ensuring that programs are easy to implement, support, and analyze.
For example, consider ExpertusONE Meetings. This virtual conferencing module is built directly into the ExpertusONE LMS platform, providing instant, on-demand access to all the capabilities today’s enterprise workforce expects — from real-time video conferencing and chat, to file sharing and whiteboarding. It also integrates easily with popular e-conferencing tools. However, because ExpertusONE Meetings is built into the LMS, administration, support and reporting is automatically coordinated with traditional classroom offerings.
This kind of innovation is important, because it helps L&D organizations shift their attention to what matters most — how to most effectively empower their workforce — not how to coordinate training administration activities and information. It means that learning leaders can choose ILT, virtual classrooms, or combine them both, without having to worry about how to orchestrate those elements behind the scenes.
That’s the kind of choice everyone can support.
What Do You See Ahead?
What are your thoughts on the future of classroom training? If you could improve your organization’s blend of ILT and virtual learning, what would you change? In coming months we’ll be writing more about HOW to mix these learning modes, so we welcome your ideas and opinions.
Image Credit: Pixabay