Is Instructor-Led Training Still the Best Option

As technology continues to expand into more areas of our lives, some in the continuing education field have predicted the move from in-person, instructor-led training to an on-demand, digital approach. As we talk with customers and other CE professionals about the future of the field, however, we realized something: while the trend has been predicted for years, we’ve seen very little abandonment of instructor-led training.

Rather than a complete switch from instructor-led training (ILT) to digital learning, continuing education courses often include both in-classroom and digital training. Trainers and educators are now offering more options for learners to consume their educational materials how, when and where they please.

We turned to ATD’s State of the Industry Report, as well as our very own State of the Continuing Education Industry Report, for the data to support these conclusions.

Instructor-Led Training Still Leads the Way

Although there has been a slight decline in instructor-led training in recent years, it’s not declining nearly as fast as some association professionals had anticipated. From 2012 to 2015, the percentage of instructor-led training courses declined by 7%. That’s only a 1.75% decline on average each year. At this rate, ILT will still be the most popular way for organizations to deliver training for approximately another decade (2026).

Dan Loomis, Omnipress Director of Training and Publications, said, “With the popularity of digital and mobile formats emerging in the continuing education industry, I was surprised to see that instructor-led training isn’t declining as fast as some believed it would. It’s pretty clear that ILT is still an essential part of the learning process, and will be for years.”

A Workforce of Traditional Learners

Most of today’s workforce was educated in a classroom with an instructor and printed materials. Even those entering the workforce more recently, like Millennials and Gen Z, did a majority of their learning in the classroom, despite having digital materials and the internet at their ready.

As one Millennial told us during our Millennials & Print study:

“I think that, when it comes to educational materials, I will always favor print over digital. While we (Millennials) are the first generation to ‘grow up’ with technology, the technology we grew up with is completely different than it is today and it was used in completely different ways. I had access to a computer both at home and school, but in elementary school it was used to learn to type. In middle school it was used to learn Word and Excel. In high school, it was used for research and writing papers. I wasn’t reading textbooks online, I wasn’t taking class notes on a laptop. The first iPad was introduced in my sophomore year of college and I didn’t purchase one until I graduated. While it is possible to highlight and markup materials digitally on an iPad, it was never part of my educational life—I didn’t learn to learn on one.”

-Emily Wiseman; Director of Administration at Association Management Partners & Executive Directors, Inc.

So, as more Millennials join your organization and attend continuing education courses, many still expect instructor-led courses rather an online-only environment.

Flipping the Classroom to Use In-Person Learning Time Efficiently

It’s clear that instructor-led training remains a significant component of the continuing education experience, albeit not the only part. Since ILT is so valuable, your organization should focus on how you’re using classroom time to make the most of it. One way you can capitalize on in-person training is through the “flipped classroom” method.

“Flipping the classroom” is a popular idea often used in higher education. The concept essentially flips the “traditional” method of teaching in order to better use the students’ classroom time and enhance their understanding of the material.

In the traditional teaching model, an instructor will introduce a new concept in class, typically through an in-person lecture. The students will then take time outside of class to complete activities to reinforce the new ideas on their own.

In a flipped classroom, students take time to learn a new concept outside of the classroom; this can be done through textbook reading, a recorded lecture or many other forms. Then, when students meet in class with an instructor, their time is devoted to interactive group learning. This way, instructors can work one-on-one with learners to further explain course concepts, answer questions and help students solve problems in groups or to apply the new information to real-world situations.

Flipping the classroom combines instructor-led training and digital course materials to deepen your learner’s understanding, help them improve retention, and use class time efficiently.

While it’s safe to say that learners expect more options for how they receive continuing educational materials, it’s also clear that instructor-led training is still a major part of the training experience. Help bridge the gap between generations of learners by offering multiple ways to access materials and effectively use time spent in the classroom.

Note: This is an update of an earlier article that was published in April 2016.