What is the Best Training Modality? Don’t be Confused

What is the Best Training Modality?  Don’t be Confused
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The Best Training Modality
What training modality is best for you and your unique situation?

  • Inexperienced Instructional Designers Say…
    If you ask inexperienced instructional designers, they will most likely tell you their favorite approach and then provide all the reasons why it is better.
  • Experienced Instructional Designers Say…
    However, if you ask experienced instructional designers, they will tell you, “It depends.” And they are right.

Why Experienced Instructional Designers Are Right
Experienced instructional designers are right because the discussion about training modalities usually happens way too early in the instructional design process.  The training modality is given way too much credence compared to other business and training strategy questions that are far more important.  Because no one training modality makes sense for every situation, the best approach 100% depends upon what you are trying to accomplish, for whom, and why.

The 5 Most Common Training Modalities
The five most common corporate training modalities are:

  1. Live Instructor-led Training (ILT)
    The instructor-led training modality is comprised of seminars led by an in person facilitator where the content is either generic (off-the-shelf), tailored, or highly customized to meet specific learning objectives.

    This training modality is best suited for higher-level skill development, important behavior change initiatives, cross-functional collaboration concerns, and team building.

  2. Online Training (eLearning)
    Online training or eLearning typically consists of microlearning of skills, knowledge, job aids, videos, and simulations that are highly targeted and easy to digest anywhere at any time.

    This modality is effective for a geographically dispersed or on the move target audience that needs bite-sized information and knowledge

  3. Webinar or Virtual Training
    Typically done in 60- to 90-minute sprints, webinars, and virtual training enable learners to remotely attend a training session and interact with peers and the instructor.

    This virtual training modality makes sense when people cannot meet face-to-face, when the target audience is geographically dispersed, and when saving travel costs is important.  And as we have all learned during COVID, this modality can be very effective if designed correctly.

  4. Blended Learning
    Blended learning combines instructor-led training with Virtual and/or Online Training to typically create a thoughtful combination of pre-work, action learning assignments, coaching, and reinforcement opportunities.

    This modality if often used to create higher levels of reinforcement and to improve the training of transfer to the job.

  5. Train-the-Trainer (T3)
    Train-the-Trainer sessions enable internal trainers to deliver externally created content.  A high number of participants and frequency is typically required for this training modality to make sense financially.

How to Select the Right Training Modality?
To select the training modality that works best for your situation, you need to understand the goals of the training in terms of the:

  • Desired business and performance results and their comparative importance to other initiatives
  • Target audience
  • Desired learning objectives

But one thing has become sure over the last 5 years – eLearning has a rather narrow applicability and, if relied upon to deliver sustained behavior or performance change in the wrong setting, it can be full of risks and additional costs.

Take the U.S. Navy’s Experience
About ten years ago, the Navy decided to cut costs and eliminate instructor-led training in favor of computer-led training for their entry level programs. But the conclusions of a study conducted by Robert M. McNab and Diana I. Angelis of the Defense Resources Management Institute showed this was a poor decision.

Not only were technology maintenance costs higher after the training (an additional $16m) but learners were also less well prepared. Not at all what the Navy envisioned.

The Bottom Line
Be forewarned of a bad outcome if your instructional designers are discussing what training modality is best or designing training content before the business and learning objectives are finalized and agreed upon with your key stakeholders. Once success metrics are clear, you can thoughtfully assess all the pros and cons of various delivery methods to meet your unique needs.

To learn more about designing and delivering training that works, download 3 Steps to Building a Smarter Training Initiative – One that Gets Results

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