Instructional Design

Which Training Delivery Method is Best for Your L&D Program?

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a delivery method for your employee training. The most important considerations are learning objectives and what’s best for the customer[KDR1] , but there are also practical matters like budget, whether the customer has a learning management system, and employee wellbeing, especially now. Here’s a run-down of some of the more popular training methods, with considerations to think about.

Training Delivery Methods: Choosing the best method for your employee training

Instructor-led training (ILT)

Right now, it’s hard to imagine that classroom-based training will ever happen again, but it’s still an effective training tool, especially when you want learners to try out scenarios and work out problems as a team. There are also topics that are simply more suited to in-person learning, such as training on corporate culture, highly technical skills training, communication skills, executive development time management, and sensitive topics such as sexual harassment. And – in-person training is a good way to train a lot of employees at the same time and encourage peer-to-peer interactions.

Think about the conversations during coffee breaks; the discussions that happen during lunch…

And, according to Training Magazine’s 2020 Industry Report, stand-and-deliver training, even during the pandemic, remained the top delivery method at 40% of all training hours over online or computer-based training at 29 percent, virtual classroom and web-based training at 23 percent, and training via mobile device at 10 percent (the survey collected data from May 2019 to June 2020).

The downside to in-person, classroom training is that it takes time out of the work day, and may not be the best way to ensure that learners actually remember what they learned. Post-COVID-19, other downsides will include travel expenses, catering expenses (all of those trays of turkey sandwiches and mid-afternoon cookies!), and renting facilities, if companies don’t have adequate space. For these reasons, virtual instructor-led training (VILT) may be the logical alternative.

Virtual instructor-led training

With VILT, the instructor is still in the room, albeit remotely, which means they can be there to problem solve and encourage discussion. Like ILT, VILT is synchronous, meaning that learners are taking the training at the same time with webinars and video conferencing tools such as Zoom. VILT can also be combined with collaborative tools such as discussion boards and roleplay so the human element isn’t lost. For example, between sessions, participants can take quizzes and test out scenarios, while during sessions, instructors can conduct polls and have participants engage with screen sharing, annotations, and chat apps.

In this brave new world of remote learning, one advantage of VILT is that learners can access it from anywhere—from their kitchen tables—to a park under a shade tree. Other advantages include access to the instructor or subject matter expert, something that’s lost in eLearning; and, VILT can be combined with eLearning so instructors can track progress from their LMS or through quizzes in real time. Like we said before, a disadvantage of ILT is cost; with VILT, there are no travel or hospitality costs, and the training can be broken into smaller pieces, making it easier for learners to digest, and for teachers to track progress. With recording tools, learners can replay a class to get clarity on a topic they might have missed during the regular class.

Because it’s interactive, VILT can take on much of the same subject matter as instructor-led training. With that said, converting to VILT doesn’t mean you have to toss out your ILT; ELM has a lot of experience transforming existing ILT into VILT.

On-the-job training and job shadowing

Other training methods are outside of the classroom – virtual or otherwise. They take place in the actual, everyday work environment. On-the-job training is the best way to get hands-on learning that relates to an employee’s actual job. Of course, it requires the attention of a more experienced employee to show the newcomer the ropes and offer insights and practical advice. Another advantage is individual attention, allowing new employees to ask specific questions – and the trainer to adjust training depending on the skills the new employee needs – or already has. On the job training also shows employees where they can go, creating buy-in and encouraging future career growth. Speaking of buy-in: what better way to improve company culture than having managers and co-workers take the time to train? Not everyone is a natural trainer, however, so it’s important to provide train the trainer opportunities, and to make sure on-the-job trainers are carefully selected.

On-the-job training involves more than a trainer showing the ropes; videos and learning modules can enhance the instruction. And, unlike classroom training, which may teach learners things they may not need to know, on-the-job training teaches learners EXACTLY what they need to know.

Even with its many benefits, on-the-job training has its drawbacks. The major drawback is time. On-the-job training can’t be rushed, and requires dedicated time from the trainer, who may have to put off their own job responsibilities at the expense of the new hire.

Closely related to on-the-job training is job shadowing, which allows a new employee—or an experienced one—to learn about a job by observing an employee in that job. Job shadowing is a useful tool when someone in the next higher position is considering a promotion, and wants to promote from within. It’s also helpful for employees to understand the particulars of a job when they’re planning their next career move.


While there is no substitute for a human-to-human experience, eLearning allows learning to take place when and where it’s needed—on laptops, smartphones, tablets, desktop computers—at locations other than a classroom or workplace.

And—there is a lot of evidence that eLearning produces better retention, engagement, reinforcement, and personalized learning experiences than traditional training—and saves time and money.

Think of a PowerPoint presentation in a typical training session. eLearning takes that presentation and makes it personal, providing ways for learners to test out of subjects they already know, to go at their own pace, to run through branching scenarios, to earn points through gaming, to engage in simulations and scenarios, to test their understanding and get immediate feedback with quizzes, to play videos and animations, and to put themselves into a story, making their learning fun and engaging.

eLearning encompasses microlearning, which provides quick answers to targeted questions; gamification, which applies game mechanics to eLearning; mobile learning or mLearning, which is content written to be displayed on mobile devices; videos, animated or otherwise; and instructional storytelling.

eLearning is great for interpersonal skills training, IT/systems support, management/supervisory training, apps training, onboarding, customer service training, remediation courses, sales training—almost any training subject that can be made more engaging through interactive, engaging content.

Blended learning

Blended learning combines the best of two training environments—traditional face-to-face classroom training and high-tech eLearning. While blended learning engages traditional learners and learners who are more comfortable in a digital environment, it also does something else: it allows instructors to assign skill building or scenario-driven tasks outside the classroom so learners can come to class ready to get feedback from their peers and instructors.

Another advantage of blended learning is that learners can learn at their own pace—in their own time— taking quizzes, and playing games, videos, and tutorials from their smartphone, laptop, or tablet. And, it saves time and money. Combining eLearning with VILT, for example, reduces time away from work and cuts down on travel and hospitality costs, yet keeps the human element in the training.

We cover this and much more in our Blended Learning article.

There are lots of things to consider in the training realm: choosing the best training delivery method requires attention to learner needs, learning outcomes, budget, and access to technology.