In the post-COVID era where self-directed learning dominates, U.S. companies of all sizes still prefer instructor-led training. This traditional approach offers hands-on learning and immediate feedback that enhances learner engagement and knowledge retention.
In this article, we cover the basics and best practices of ILT to help you determine if it’s the right training method for your customer education initiative.
What is Instructor-Led Training (ILT)?
Instructor-led training (ILT) is a traditional education model where instructors or facilitators deliver training content to learners within a classroom-like setting.
ILT can take place virtually (Virtual ILT or VILT) through online webinars or face-to-face in the following ways:
- Large or small groups
An ILT session can stand alone within a learning management system (LMS) or complement other training modules. At Intellum, our customer education platform supports ILT sessions, allowing customers to easily sign up for ILT or VILT.
Why use Instructor-Led Training?
When the full self-service education model isn’t sufficient for a customer training program, ILT helps companies “deliver a solution that is scalable, yet personalized enough for customers to feel confident,” said Monica Sindwani Walsh, Customer Enablement Manager at AgentSync.
For customers with unique use cases or for companies with complex products or multiple applications, ILT teaches customers how to maximize product benefits. “We consistently get positive feedback because our ILT program allows customers to ask questions and practice using our solution within their workflows,” Monica shared.
Joe Ryan, Training Program Manager at Maltego Technologies, shared that selecting ILT as their first training solution was an easy way to quickly deliver trainings early on. As the company expanded their training solutions to include on-demand trainings, ILT sessions continued to be among the most valuable.
While less convenient than on-demand, self-directed counterparts, ILT offers many other benefits.
Personalization. Educators can tailor instruction to the audience and answer customer questions.
Value perception. Customers perceive more value from personalized training than they do from on-demand learning.
First-hand experience. ILT supports the integration of labs and other hands-on elements.
Greater focus. ILT offers a dedicated classroom structure that reduces distractions and provides accountability.
Feedback opportunities. Instructors can adjust their pace or lessons based on learner needs while offering real-time feedback.
While ILT offers many benefits, it also has limitations. ILTs are difficult to scale. When you have fewer customers, ILT is very doable. But, as your customer base grows, it becomes increasingly unsustainable. There are only so many trainers—and this kind of personalized education can become very expensive to offer. (The Association for Talent Development estimates it takes 35-85 hours to develop a 25-minute online training module. For the 60-minute training session, you could nearly double that development time.)
ILT can also be limited by geography, time zones, language, and travel logistics. “On-demand training options can help handle some of these issues,” said Joe. “This can make for a better solution in many situations, especially for customers who have distributed teams across the globe.”
Is ILT right for your customer education training?
ILT may be right for your training if you:
- Prioritize discussions or relationship building
- Require a full day or multi-day training for successful deployment or use of your product
- Host training conferences
- Have technical or complex products
- Need to offer timely feedback in your training setting
- Have high-touch customers who are willing to pay for ILT services
How to get started with instructor-led training
Identifying explicit learning objectives helps instructors design a curriculum—but it’s important to think beyond just your company’s goals. Customer education training must be relevant to your customers’ needs—and they need to understand how this training is valuable to them.
Here are 5 steps to get started with instructor-led training:
1. Set clear objectives
Start by identifying what learners need to know by the end, then create an outline of the skills and competencies necessary to get there.
- Define what they need to learn
- Determine metrics to assess learning
Example: Your product is a behavioral assessment that HR teams use during the interview process. Your goal is to ensure all customers understand how to administer the assessment accurately and use the data fairly to inform hiring decisions.
- How to administer the assessment
- How to understand the data
- How to apply assessment results to hiring decisions fairly and legally
2. Plan for diverse learners
Some learners have more experience or background knowledge than others, so it’s important to find out what’s valuable and most helpful to them ahead of the training. During the training, breaking into small groups based on background can facilitate better discussions and help you address gaps.
3. Build your curriculum
With what to cover established, now it’s time to plan how to deliver it. Design your learning experience by expanding your outline to include learning activities that support skill development.
In building your curriculum, consider the following aspects:
- Foundational content required, plus skill-specific
- How you’ll present the content and in what order
- Visuals, media, resources, or other materials needed
- How to evaluate customer learning
- Ways you’ll add variety and hands-on activities
- How you’ll collect feedback for future iterations
4. Incorporate active learning
To support learners in engaging with your content, incorporate active learning strategies from the following examples:
- Breakout sessions for problem-solving or role-playing
- Dissecting data or real-world examples
- Question and answer sessions
5. Consider scale
As mentioned previously, a drawback to ILT is that it’s not very scalable. Intellum’s own Education Program Manager, Jordan Hopkins, shared some insights on how to maximize the value of your instructor-led trainings:
“The time invested in the development of ILT includes subject matter expert (SME) interviews, designing, creating job aids, creating collateral and slide decks, etc.When you're thinking about ILT as a solution, it's important to make it scalable and reproducible for your team.”
His suggestions for thinking scale-first include:
- Templatizing ILT and VILT sessions
- Enabling more trainers
- Recording your offerings so people can access them on-demand—and leveraging social learning elements like community to help with questions and modifications
Best practices from training experts
Customers need three things to feel successful: a holistic education of the system, performance support, and hands-on practice, Monica shared. When building an ILT customer education initiative, she recommends the following best practices:
Keep learning interactive. Keep customers engaged with interactive learning activities like hands-on practice, recall activities, and quizzes.
Take a hybrid approach. Blended learning that features additional asynchronous learning opportunities helps learners with different preferences. Monica finds hybrid learning facilitates a stronger, more effective program and recommends customers take self-service training first to lay a foundation for learning in the classroom.
Support ongoing learning. To help customers cement their learning, provide take-home materials like job aids and checklists, plus ongoing performance support through help center articles, in-app support, and full courses.
Offer follow-up opportunities. Hold a follow-up training session after customers use the product to provide learning reinforcement and to drive customers back to self-service materials. Use this opportunity to collect customer feedback to apply to future ILT sessions.
Scale your training. Try out different session topics to see what benefits customers most, then expand the popular sessions into full-length courses.
Joe’s best practices closely mirrored Monica’s. He emphasized that making training fun helps to connect with customers. He also shared the following additional ILT best practices:
Listen to your customers. Customers will tell you what they want to know. Better outcomes are possible when you tailor training content to these requests.
Prioritize gathering feedback. Getting customers to fill out feedback forms can be difficult, but it’s necessary to improve the success of your trainings.
Focus on real-world skills. Avoid placing emphasis on theoretical knowledge. Knowing each button’s function means nothing to a customer if they don’t understand how to apply it to their work.
Ready to implement instructor-led training?
ILT supports stronger customer relationships through personalized learning, while hands-on activities and real-time feedback aid retention.
Jordan recommends the following next steps to implement ILT at your organization:
- Identify facilitators and trainers
- Establish positive connections with SMEs and your product team
- Start digging into customer and product data to find immediate needs for ILT