If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it really make a sound? This question is at the heart of the need for people who help training reach students. It’s only by helping students through the course that it has had any impact or value. There’s no good in a course that sits on the shelves, never to be used. Distribution staff, of which instructors are a part, are the bridge from the completed training to the impactful implementation.

The instructor is probably the most recognizable part of an instructor-led training process; it’s in the name. The instructor is the powerful person who takes the development work and helps it reach the students.

What Is an Instructor?

For instructor-led training, the instructors are the front-line workers who are in the trenches every day helping students learn. Even in computer-based training where live assistance is needed, they’re supporting actors who may not hold the lead role but are nonetheless essential to the delivery of the content.

What Is Expected of the Instructor?

The instructor’s expectations may be simple, but they’re not easy. They’re expected to know the material in the course and to transparently fill in the gaps left in the authoring process. They’re expected to be good presenters and solid facilitators who can help the class be effective. In many cases, they’re expected to know the topic that they’re teaching better than the average person.

The expectation is that there’s a wide variety of content to be taught, and the professionals will need to adapt to teaching whatever content is required – usually with insufficient time.

What Is not Expected of the Instructor?

Instructors are not expected to be the ultimate expert in the topic. It’s not expected that they know everything – though students would prefer that they did. Being an instructor is a demanding job that is, unfortunately, often unforgiving and thankless.

Where’s the Role Going?

The transition from instructor-led courses to electronic courses and courses that do not require an instructor is slow. In fact, there will probably never be a time when good instructors won’t be necessary. However, there is a movement toward better leveraging instructors, who are the largest cost in training. That shift may mean that courses are mostly video-based with only some facilitated discussions, thereby reducing the time commitment for the instructor. This trend is particularly evident in the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

While there is pressure to keep instructor costs down, resulting in lower wages and a move toward less instructor time per student, there are still likely dozens of years before the role will change in a substantial way.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Instructors may have the most personally rewarding role and the most exhausting:

  • Good: They are able to see the learning happen.
  • Good: They interact with a lot of different people.
  • Bad: If the company doesn’t have a standard training room, it can mean a lot of travel – with no time to enjoy it.
  • Bad: The buck stops here. If the rest of the team didn’t produce good content, the instructor still has to create the best learning environment possible.
  • Ugly: The classroom can take a lot out of the instructor. Even extraverted people can be exhausted by a week of training.
  • Ugly: Instructors are the front line and have to listen to student complaints, whether or not they can do anything about them.