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Virtual Instructor Led Training vs. E-Learning – what’s the difference?

Although Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT) and E-learning are both online educational forums, there are distinct differences in the way content is delivered and in their overall effectiveness. They each have a place and purpose within the spectrum of online learning, and understanding their advantages and disadvantages helps clarify how they meet different types of requirements.

Aren’t E-learning and VILT basically the same?

VILT is a synchronous event that allows participants to connect, from anywhere in the world, into an online classroom where an instructor is facilitating the program. It includes participant interaction, rich discussion, and participation that seeks to duplicate the experience participants have in the classroom. In fact, it’s the next best option to the classroom setting.

VILT has seen significant improvement in recent years, most of which can be attributed to improved technology and innovative facilitation. The experience of more advanced platforms can be substantially better when compared with the standard virtual programs that most people are familiar with.

In contrast, E-learning is considered more of a one-dimensional experience. It is simply the transfer of information that typically satisfies a single purpose. The participant logs onto a website at their convenience and completes the course material. This method of learning operates without personal interaction, the ability to ask questions, or to initiate a discussion about the content.

Is VILT better than E-Learning?

When the goal is long-term retention and learning, the discussion participants engage in with VILT is critical. Whether virtual or in person, participants generally retain information more readily because they remember the conversation. Without the experience of rich discussion and interaction, however, the retention of information is not nearly as long as it could be with a virtual connection.

Another benefit of VILT is the flexibility it offers. Once the facilitator assesses the knowledge base of the participants, they can accelerate or decelerate the conversation and adjust the approach or the content along the way. Whether participants are seasoned employees or more junior level, content can be delivered in more or less detail, and Q&A sessions can be shortened or extended.

E-learning is an ideal choice for sharing information when you’re not necessarily concerned about the long-term retention of the material. It’s also advantageous when training does not require a specific schedule or location. E-learning also offers the most consistent delivery since the information will be communicated in the very same way each and every time.

To some degree, E-learning takes into consideration the fact that participants will have various levels of experience when they sign into a session, but it cannot be as personalized as when an instructor is present and can adjust the material as needed.

Is VILT right for everyone?

Once companies are introduced to the new and improved, modern-day VILT, they generally choose this option if the classroom setting is not a viable option. However, there is value in combining methods for a more impactful experience.

The key to choosing the right learning method is knowing your organization and your environment. In today’s workplace, there are many employees who work virtually, travel a substantial amount of the time, or work flexible daily schedules. Keeping a physical classroom available is always the first choice, but accommodating other employees through VILT could be the next best solution.

When choosing VILT, however, the technological capabilities of an organization are also very important. While meeting the equipment requirements is not as challenging as it has been in the past, laptops still need to have cameras and microphones, high-level video and audio quality is a must, and bandwidth limitations need to be evaluated. All of these factors will impact the overall experience of VILT.

Cost is also a major consideration. VILT requires a certain level of technical capabilities that you’ll want to invest in, especially when it comes to the support and the ability to leverage all the features of the platform. While there are costs associated with these features, you’ll also realize substantial savings when you choose VILT, such as the cost of flying the participants to your home office for two days of training, paying for hotel accommodations, and other expenses.

New technology

If you think VILT is still a slide presentation with a voice over, you’ll be amazed at the advancement in technology, the creativity of instruction, and how it’s positively impacting the learning industry. It isn’t until you have the opportunity to investigate further or to participate in a session that you realize the improvements and the added capabilities.


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