DEFINITION

Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) refers to training that is delivered in a virtual or simulated environment, or when instructor and learner are in separate locations. Virtual instruction environments are designed to simulate the traditional classroom or learning experience. VILT can be conducted synchronously or asynchronously. The term is also referred to as virtual classroom training (VCT).

OVERVIEW

VILT is one of the fastest growing methods of internet-based learning delivery. Steady increases in bandwidth and collaboration software technologies have promoted VILT to a practical and inviting solution for reaching widely dispersed learners efficiently and cost-effectively.

Virtual instructor-led training is transforming the way millions of people learn, both on and off the job. Increasingly, businesses are employing it as part of broader blended solutions for training and development. Other common business-related uses include customer and product training, professional development, sales training and onboarding.

The growth of virtual instructor-led training in academia is equally robust. Many colleges and universities offer established online graduate and undergraduate degree programs based on VILT technology. More recently, schools have begun launching massive open online course (MOOC) platforms to provide free education courseware to a global audience, often in collaboration with other institutions.

There are two schools of thought surrounding virtual instructor-led training; one school of thought suggests that virtual instructor-led training should simulate the traditional classroom or learning experience, while others believe it should have a unique, customizable design and experience.

FACTORS OF SUCCESSFUL VILT 

Within business, VILT is principally driven by the need to effectively train a growing and more dispersed population at a controllable cost. Its use enables organizations to provide valuable learning experiences for employees, customers and channel partners while avoiding travel and lodging costs and valuable time spent away from the job.

VILT provides an engaging experience in which participants can connect with the content and interact with both the instructor and other classmates. Successful implementations, visible through high retention rates and satisfied learners, demonstrate that VILT delivery can be both effective and efficient. Successful VILT requires the seamless interplay of three important factors: technology, content and delivery.

Technology

VILT technology is based on comprehensive and scalable collaboration software that features functionality, availability and ease of use. A full range of engagement tools typically includes live conversation, chat, polls and quizzes, all controlled and monitored by facilitators. Leading VILT platforms also incorporate tools for webinars, remote labs and video conferencing.

Content

The design of VILT programs requires a different approach than classroom or online asynchronous programs. The instructional designer must provide the instructor and student with mechanisms to communicate frequently, and must keep the content engaging and collaborative. Learning content must be developed with maximum student engagement in mind. To capture learners’ interest and promote retention, VILT must be designed around a comprehensive learning strategy. Visuals and interaction are paramount to promoting engagement and increasing training effectiveness.

Delivery

Facilitators, whether trained instructors or subject matter experts, must also be skilled communicators in order to deliver compelling VILT.  The principal limitations to successful VILT implementation are the failure of facilitators to interact with students and manage their classrooms effectively.

BENEFITS OF VILT

    • Reduced cost. Due to the nature of VILT, travel and lodging costs can be reduced or eliminated completely.
    • Convenience. VILT students can choose when and where they would like to participate in training courses – whether they are at home, in the office, or on their mobile devices.
    • Modular design. To appeal to busy students and professionals, many VILT programs offer training content in short, incremental modules, which can be completed independently or in combination with other courses or curricula.
    • Increased capacity and scalability. VILT can accommodate large numbers of students without increasing the amount of materials or space needed in typical classroom settings.
    • Increased diversity. Because of the reach that VILT provides, students and instructors from a variety of culture and geographic backgrounds can participate simultaneously.

RELATED RESEARCH

In a study conducted by TrainingIndustry.com and MicroTek, learning leaders cited the ways in which their organizations use virtual and hybrid instructor-led training. For this study, 261 companies completed a confidential survey reporting their organizatoins’ use of “next generation” virtual/hybrid classrooms to deliver training. Some of the primary findings are listed below.

    • 31 percent of learners attend training in a virtual classroom setting.
    • 37 percent of companies’ training portfolios are being offered in virtual and hybrid delivery modalities.
    • 30 percent of the most effective companies at virtual training reported using virtual/hybrid ILT frequently.
    • One learning feature that was considered a high/moderate priority for conducting virtual training was the ability to reuse training content and materials (80 percent).
    • Organizations currently use virtual/hybrid ILT applications most often for internal employees, but some organizations also use them with contractors/partners and for customer education.
    • The typical training class in 62 percent of companies contains fewer than 25 learners.

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