Instructor-led training is dead! Long live virtual instructor-led training?

As a face to face trainer for the last 10 years I have been watching with alarm the ever-growing body of evidence indicating that instructor led training is expensive, boring, and ineffective. This message has not reached many of my clients and it even seems to be having a bit of a resurgence with the rise in popularity of Zoom and like.

One company I worked with had been leveraging the disadvantages of a 6-hour instructor-led training course by delivering the same content virtually with no changes. Worse still the recording was offered as video ‘learning’ to unwary new starters who had to pretend that they had sat through the whole 6-hour recording as part of their onboarding ‘experience’.

Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) is a useful medium that has been around for a long time but now because of social distancing, it is gaining the widespread acceptance it deserves. McLuhans’ laws of media state that a new medium:

Extends – a human property

Obsolesces – the previous medium and may turn it into a luxury

Retrieves – a much older medium

Reverses – its properties when pushed to its limits

Virtual instructor-led training is often misused, and we risk losing public support for it when social distancing is eased. The short-term advantages of the technology are easy to see but by using the tetrad to analyse the other effects we can mitigate some of the less favourable long-term effects.

Technology lives and dies by public perception of it rather than how good or pedagogically sound it is. Looking at instructor-led training from the learners’ perspective it is rarely the 6 hours away from their job that they relish about the experience but the:

  1. Networking
  2. Certification
  3. Investment of the company in you as a person
  4. Time to explore and reflect

All of these can be achieved without instructor led training of any sort! However, the perception that an instructor led element is required persists. Virtual instructor led training offers a low cost, easily accessible, potentially more environmentally friendly way to offer the option for people that want / need it. Long live virtual instructor led training!


Imamura, E (1987). In Conventional and nonconventional schooling: a comparison of pupil performance in rural schools and schools of the air. University of Western Australia

Laws of Media Marshall and Eric McLuhan

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