So you need to train someone to do something. What are your options?
There are several different training methods and a number of variations on each. Essentially, I usually group them in three areas: instructor-led training, webinars, and elearning.
Under instructor-led, we can place the standard classroom learning environment. There’s an instructor, with students in the room with the instructor. The instructor can be the classic sage-on-the-stage, or the more engaging and active guide-on-the-side. The classroom might give way to a lab or hands-on activities in the field. At its core, this is classroom-based, instructor-led learning.
Webinars are tremendously useful when the instructor needs to reach out beyond the classroom. Class size is governed by technological restrictions—the number of people who can sign into the webinar. With this training technique, hands-on activities often aren’t possible. Technology plays a large, and limiting, role. Do attendees have bandwidth to receive the video stream? Can they install the necessary plug-ins (or are permissions restricted on their machine)? Do they have access to a headset or speakers to listen to the audio? Can they set all of the features (audio, screen viewing, chat) necessary for an effective experience?
The other broad category is elearning. Elearning has many different definitions. The most helpful one I’ve encountered is pre-set training that’s delivered over the Internet through a computer. There’s no active instructor. Learning is self-paced. Interaction is often limited—click next, answer test questions. Technology mediates the entire experience. Operating system, web browser, browser plug-ins, all need to function appropriately for training to operate as expected.
Within these broad training categories, how do you choose? The training method that will be the most effective depends on the factors that you need for success.
Do your participants need to develop hands-on skills (like firefighting)? In that case, their most effective training will likely come from experience in an instructor-led class. Do they need to master interpersonal interactions, such as leadership skills or conflict resolution? Group work and the ability to read facial expressions and body language could be benefit from in-person interaction.
Is compliance an issue? Do your participants need repeatable, reliable, consistent training on policies or procedures? In that case, elearning might be a good fit. Trainers can serve as subject matter experts to help develop content. Instructional designers can align content with objectives and evaluation tools. Course developers can program the training for delivery. (And sometimes—too often, really—all three roles are served by the same person). The resulting training eliminates the inconsistencies that creep in as instructors teach differently from class to class, which can be a key advantage to using this training technique.
Perhaps the session needs to be delivered quickly (elearning can take time to develop) and to a large and geographically diverse audience (instructors might not have the travel time available). In that case, a webinar might be a good option. An instructor can stand up the training, identify the objectives and content, and talk participants through it. Participants can log into a webinar system, and with access to forums and chat room, engage with each other and the instructor in a synchronous learning environment.
Each of these three broad options have variations, subtle and significant, that can tailor training to precisely suit your needs. Elearning and instructor-led training can be combined into blended learning, which allows certain activities to be self-paced and other, hands-on, activities to be done in person. Instructor-led courses can be recorded and delivered through either a webinar or an elearning platform.
Familiarity with the ins and outs of the different training methods can help you make the right choice for your organization, your team, and your learners. We encourage you to visit a few of our blogs and our web content to deepen your understanding of how different training methods can be used.
- Examples of Microassist Elearning Projects — Interactive segments of real elearning projects
- Book review: The New Virtual Classroom — The book and this review cover best practices in planning and executing webinars
- Interview with Instructional Designer Debby Kaulk — Addresses the differences in developing curriculum for elearning vs. classroom (instructor-led) training, when to choose elearning over classroom training, and more (:15 audio, transcript included)