The Virtual Classroom is Real

The Virtual Classroom is Real

Instructor-Led Online (ILO) training or as is commonly referred to as virtual training, where a live Instructor teaches in real-time over a software package that allows for sharing courseware, video, and audio, has existed for more than 15 years. Not long ago, training companies were practically apologizing for the training. That scenario has changed. Today’s available bandwidth, optimized software and remote lab technologies have made the virtual experience every bit as effective as the traditional Instructor-led Training (ILT).

All research shows that corporate training – technical and otherwise – continues to shift to alternate modes other than ILT. However, a mode that involves a live Instructor is still the preferred method for most corporate learners.
ILT still provides the benefit of greater personal interaction with the Instructor and sometimes more importantly with fellow students. The ILO format does have tools to facilitate a significant amount of interaction including live conversations with the Instructor over a phone or VoIP connection, as well as chat and “break out” sessions for side bar meetings or remote lab sharing. Each teaching tool (Webex, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, etc.) has different ways of providing the services required to conduct effective ILO training and each has advantages and disadvantages but the basic premise and objectives are essentially the same.

A new hybrid model of combining ILT and ILO, called Flex Classroom by Fast Lane has emerged as a truly viable mode of satisfying all customers’ educational, financial and temporal needs. The new ILO Instructor is trained on how to use the software and electronic tools to ensure the greatest student satisfaction possible. Key skills including how to vary their voice for greater interest, how to engage the students and keep their attention and using pointers, text boxes, electronic white boards and similar tools to emulate the classroom all help to improve the ILO experience.

ILO has most of the benefits of ILT while adding a few additional benefits for the student and purchaser. The list includes:

  • No travel is required and therefore the expense and time of travel is eliminated. As long as the student has enough bandwidth, they can even attend from home.
  • Students can attend at a time that is more conducive to their personal schedule. Classes are offered in different time zones and therefore the student can choose the best time – including attending classes delivered from different countries (e.g.; a European could attend a class delivered from the US and essentially be in a night class)
  • Remote hands-on labs can typically be performed at any time of the day including after normal class hours.
  • ILO sessions can easily be recorded and made available to a student that missed some class time.

The software products used to support ILO deliveries continue to improve, and video based options are becoming more and more viable. Cisco’s Telepresence and similar services that create a meeting environment that is real time and video based are becoming a more popular option. This option gives students the ability to be as close to being in the same room as possible without actually being in a classroom.

There is no question that E-Learning is increasing in popularity. The duration of the learning experience continues to be altered looking for the optimal time spent learning versus the time spent away from work. As new people enter the workforce with more varied learning experiences – attending online high schools, colleges and universities – the familiarity and practicality of alternative learning methods will continue to grow. However, it is likely that for the foreseeable future the most difficult and state-of-the-art technical topics will be preferred as interaction with an instructor or expert in some fashion. ILO is a very viable option to meet this goal.

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