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ATD Blog

Basics of Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

In today’s world, you’ve likely heard myriad terms for online learning. For example, there’s virtual classroom, blended learning, live online learning, synchronous virtual classroom, asynchronous learning, virtual learning, virtual training, and virtual instructor-led training—just to name a few.

Today, we’re focusing specifically on virtual instructor-led training. Let’s explore the definition, highlight its key benefits, discuss tips for success, and understand how to select a virtual training platforms.

What Is Virtual Instructor-Led Training?

Simply put, virtual instructor-led training (or vILT for short) is interactive, online training hosted by a live virtual facilitator(s) connecting real time through a video conferencing platform with remote participants in one or many locations. In this methodology, learners and their facilitator(s) create and share in a learning environment across time and distance through an internet connection. Let me let you in on a secret: Several of the terms mentioned in the opening paragraph are synonymous with vILT, including live online learning, virtual classroom, virtual learning, synchronous virtual classroom, and virtual training. You may hear these terms used interchangeably.

As opposed to vILT, instructor-led training (ILT) takes place in a four-walled traditional classroom. In this classroom training, the instructor is live but also in the same physical room with participants. The vILT classroom often exists purely online.

Key Benefits of Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Often, the most cited benefit of vILT is the savings in training budget. It’s cost-effective because organizations avoid the high cumulative costs of flights, hotels, and rental cars to bring employees together for in-person training programs. This translates to fewer travel days, and ideally, more productivity at work.

Additional benefits of vILT include maintaining the dynamics of real-time learning, live instructors, the opportunity for group discussions, Q&A, access to virtual facilitator feedback, the potential for live discussion with a guest expert found in traditional ILT, while adding the flexibility to connect from anywhere and the convenience of being able to attend from home during adverse weather, illness, or family commitments. A virtual learning space also widens the audience reach because global attendees can participate regardless of location or time zone.


Tips for Facilitating Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Here are a few key tips to ensure your vILT training sessions are productive and meet learning goals:

Apply a blended learning strategy. Pair synchronous training (live sessions) with asynchronous (on-demand activities that can be completed outside of live classes) to create a unified training program. For example, request learners view a video, listen to a podcast, or read an article on the topic before attending vILT. This can better prepare them for richer discussion and whet their appetite for the topic.

Partner with a producer. Working with a producer is golden. They are there to assist and resolve technical issues, which allows the facilitator to focus on learners and their learning experience.

Prepare a facilitator guide. This document guides learners, facilitators, and producers, so everyone knows who will do what, and it clarifies expectations.


Keep vILT sessions short. Shorter is always better. Keep learning segment sessions to two hours or less. The sweet spot for live vILT sessions is 90 minutes. If you have more information to share, spread several live sessions out over weeks to create an entire learning program. Within longer sessions, don’t forget to give participants breaks to move around and refresh themselves.

Weave interactive learning activities throughout for an optimal training experience.
Engage learners by giving them multiple opportunities to participate, share their ideas, apply concepts, annotate on a virtual whiteboard, and discuss in small breakouts with ideally 3–4 people in each group.

Selecting a Virtual Instructor-Led Training Platform

There are many vILT platforms on the market for facilitating instructor-led virtual training. Some popular platforms include Zoom, Adobe Connect, Webex, Microsoft Teams, and GoToTraining. As you consider these, be mindful of the features within each, their respective affordances and limitations, ease of use, and overall cost. From there, you can determine which platform best fits your organization.

Most platforms include common interactive tools you can leverage for online learning activities. Make sure the platform you select includes anything you need, including features such as easy-to-use breakouts to support small group work and discussions, user-friendly whiteboarding tools, screen sharing, annotation toolbars for facilitators and learners to annotate shared visuals, public and private chat, virtual hand raising, icons to represent learner reaction feedback, quality video camera capability, and live polling.

Virtual instructor-led training offers multiple benefits and can support well-designed and interactive learning. Adding vILT to your training portfolio gives your organization added flexibility often with welcome cost savings.

About the Author

Diana L. Howles, MA, is an award-winning speaker and international virtual trainer who brings 25 years of experience in the learning industry. As a world-class facilitator, she has trained Fortune 100 and 500 companies and facilitated virtual programs in more than a dozen countries. Diana is currently CEO of Howles Associates. She earned a master's degree from Colorado State University and is a frequent presenter at international in-person and virtual conferences. She is author of the new book Next Level Virtual Training: Advance Your Facilitation available on Amazon. She can be reached through her website, via LinkedIn, or on Twitter @DianaHowles.ions.

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