One of the most important skills required to head a training program is creativity. Program managers must find ways to deliver training in an engaging way while ensuring that the training is tied to a business outcome and will lead to a desired behavior change. In addition, when training requires great time commitments, leadership concerns over lost productivity begin to mount, making the job of delivering effective training that leads to a desired business outcome even more difficult.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of training modalities that accommodate these needs. Two popular modalities are online, video-based training and instructor-led training (ILT). While both modalities are effective, they each have shortcomings. Video-based learning can save on time, but it doesn’t give learners the option to ask clarifying questions, and it is difficult to simulate on-the-job application from a computer. ILT is costly and time-consuming but allows training managers to customize training to their learners’ needs, answer questions and simulate scenarios.

There’s a strong business case for both modalities, but when you’re looking for an effective training program that creates behavior change, delivers business results, is cost-effective and is sensitive to your learners’ busy schedules, the best approach is blended learning.

The Pros and Cons of Instructor-led Training 

Training Industry reports that in 2018, organizations around the globe spent $366.2 billion on training, and according to Training Magazine, 54% of organizations spend a sizeable portion of their budget sourcing instruction. ILT is costly, and sourcing a credible instructor to teach important content can be difficult.

For companies with multiple locations, instructor-led training increases costs further, as they must fly instructors to multiple locations or deliver instruction virtually. Either way, costs begin to mount, which reduces the return on investment (ROI) of your training program. If you choose to use multiple instructors to educate a dispersed workforce, you risk delivering inconsistent messaging and teaching styles.

Finally, instructor-led training increases employees’ time away from work and disrupts productivity.

There’s a strong argument that the benefits of ILT outweigh the costs, and it’s strengthened by some convincing evidence. First, the ability for learners to ask questions is a major advantage, because questions benefit everyone who hears the answer, not just the learner who asks the question.

Perhaps the strongest advantage to ILT is that most learners prefer classroom training to other modalities. We can’t ignore learner preferences; research from Training Industry indicates 55% of employees prefer ILT to other modalities and that when organizations deliver training in a modality a learner prefers, his or her retention soars.

In a vacuum, when we don’t have to consider ROI, budgetary constraints, and concerns about time and lost productivity, ILT is a strong contender for the best modality for corporate training.

The Pros and Cons of Video-based Learning

Video-based learning is another great option for delivering training. It requires little administrative time, and when you use microlearning, it can take less than 15 minutes to deliver effective training that will lead to a behavior change.

Video-based training is typically more cost-effective for organizations, as well; subscriptions for employees typically fall between $10 and $30 per year. Video learning is also popular among learners (the sixth-most popular modality, according to Training Industry’s research).

That said, video training isn’t without its flaws. While learners can watch and re-watch portions, they can’t always have their questions answered. Additionally, classroom training is typically conducted in an environment with minimal distraction. Online training is held in an environment (the internet) that can provide all sorts of distractions if the learner doesn’t or can’t manage them well.

Overall, online video training can be effective, but it must be used strategically.

The Case for Blended Learning 

We know that both online and in-person training have benefits and drawbacks. We also know that learning is more effective for learners when it is delivered in a modality that they prefer. The answer to working through these challenges is blended learning.

Blended learning’s effectiveness is no longer a question; in a study led by researchers at the University of Iowa, over 95% of students who were enrolled in blended courses earned a grade of C- or higher, compared to 82% of students in lecture-only courses and 81% in online-only courses.

Improved learning isn’t the only benefit of a blended learning approach. Blended learning does require instructors, but it requires less of their time, which helps save costs on travel fees, instructor expenses and training materials. Your learners also gain real-time access to training, so they can review it whenever they need it, which helps your organization retain productivity. These benefits mean that your training costs decrease while your training effectiveness increases.

Finally, delivering training through multiple modalities increases the odds that you’ll deliver training according to learners’ preferences, once more boosting the effectiveness of your training program.

With blended learning, employees have a central location to access training according to their schedule, they can  ask questions and receive clarification, and your organization can save on coordination and travel expenses while increasing learning effectiveness.

Blended learning is popular because it works; research suggests that most organizations use blended learning, and the results from blending modalities speak for themselves. As it continues to catch on in higher education, it will become an approach that younger employees are comfortable with, and its effectiveness should continue to soar.

There are plenty of ways to offer training to your learners. When it comes to delivering a cost-effective, results-driven program, blended learning is the answer in almost any situation.