I’m often asked “Is instructor-led training (ILT) the best method for delivering training on topics that are heavily interpersonal in nature, such as on sales skills or interpersonal communications?” In my experience, the short answer is yes. The best way to deliver training on interpersonal skills is with a great instructor in front of a small, attentive class. However, the long answer is more nuanced since this ideal class environment isn’t always available and some learners may not be able to attend a live class due to logistical issues or time constraints.
From an ILT standpoint, great instructors can engage their students and provide a level of personal connection and support that cannot be achieved online. However, there are several logistical challenges associated with ILT. A single instructor can only reach a limited audience, hiring enough instructors to reach a large population of learners can be quite expensive, travel costs can be prohibitive and not all students can fit a live class into their schedule. In addition, even great instructors can struggle if the class is too large or one or more students are inattentive or disruptive.
eLearning cannot provide the same level of personal connection and support as a live class but proper Instructional Design and the use of audio, video, learning exercises and interactive scenarios can increase eLearning’s emotional appeal. In addition, elearning can be used to overcome the limitations of ILT. eLearning is fully scalable, fits into the student’s schedule and provides for consistent delivery of the content. Learners that cannot attend a live class due to location or schedule can still recognize much of the educational benefits of the program through elearning as it makes the training available literally anywhere and anytime.
Therefore I think the most important question is not which method is best, but rather “When should each method be used?” If you just need to deliver interpersonal training to a small audience, ILT is the way to go. However, if you want to reach a wider audience you should incorporate both methods. Offer ILT for those who can access it and elearning for those who you can’t reach via ILT. It’s much better to provide this wider population with engaging and interactive elearning rather than no training at all.