A false dichotomy?
This an observation on the “either/or” nature of support for these two training delivery mechanisms.
Allow me to first define a couple of terms.
“Instructor-led training” as the name suggests will generally involve a classroom situation where students are frequently given an extensive training manual and are guided through the material by an experienced instructor.
In general, “eTraining” will remove both the Instructor and the ‘extensive training manual’ and instead choose some alternate means of training delivery, normally via some kind of computer interface (please don’t confuse the term with eLearning – ‘learning’ happens inside the learner’s head and is entirely outside the control of either the trainer or the designer of the training).
Both have a strong, well-defined place in the wide range of training delivery mechanisms.
One of the first tasks when considering the development of a training solution is to conduct a training needs analysis. This should achieve two things – to define the exact training problem being solved; and also the best means of bridging the “training gap.”
Is there a training problem? Do the learners need to know something that they don’t currently know?
If the answer to this question is “yes” then we will move onto the next question: “what is the best method of resolving the knowledge gap?
To do this, we should consider the type of material that must be addressed.
Procedural or behavioural training (one might refer to it as ‘emotive’) is an excellent solution when the learner is required to become familiar with the availability of a knowledge source - perhaps a new set of hiring guidelines for managers. Alternately, everyone in the company (at some point) would have attended sessions on workplace behaviour and responsibilities.
Both of these are ideally suited to delivery without an instructor. Learners may work through the material at their own pace and when time permits.
Broadly, eTraining is an excellent solution when it is knowledge or attitudes that must be imparted.
Imagine this simple scenario: you come to in hospital feeling like the train that hit you must have been an express. The doctor hovering over you breaks the bad news – you’ve had a heart attack. However, he proudly says, “Although I’ve never done heart surgery before, I’ve done every on-line training module that the hospital has to offer. I’m an expert in this.”
That sinking feeling isn’t your next heart attack (although it may seem that way!).
When it comes to skill based training, learners must actually practice the skill being learned. And not only practice, but also be observed by experienced practitioners who may assist in the development of the skill.
This cannot work when the learner is alone. Worse when they are alone and without any of the tools required to perform the skill.
How many of you managed to learn to ride a bicycle by simply reading a book? No matter how well written, that book will never help you win the Tour de France.
When a skill is to be imparted to the learner, they cannot be left to their own devices. They need to be observed, coached and refined. This requires the presence of an instructor.
Both have their place. Both are important.
So, to return to the theme. Both methods have their place. eTraining is an ideal means of developing knowledge and behaviours and is also useful in that it doesn’t require the diaries of everyone to be synchronised. It also permits the training of large numbers of people very quickly.
Conversely, Instructor-led training addresses the improvement of skills-based tasks where close monitoring and improvement via feedback is required.