Chances are that you’ve attended some type of instructor-led training. Maybe it was in a classroom setting or at a conference, but anytime a subject matter expert is leading face-to-face learning, you can consider it instructor-led training, or ILT. As the global workplace expands and goes remote, however, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for ILT as a main pillar of an overall learning strategy, and that’s where virtual instructor-led training (VILT) comes into play: it can bridge the gap between face-to-face interactions and completely solitary eLearning. 

As with all learning strategies, VILT has its pros and cons and it definitely has a place in your overall training strategy. Get to know VILT better to decide when and where it works best for your learners. 

What is virtual instructor-led training?

Virtual instructor-led training can be defined as any training that is led by a subject matter expert or instructor in a virtual environment. Usually used in tandem with video conferencing tools like Zoom, Teams, or Skype, VILT takes the best parts of face-to-face training and makes them more accessible and less expensive to launch. In some cases, learners may be active participants in live training, while other VILT focuses on webinars and how-to videos that are led by instructors but not necessarily in a real-time environment. 

What makes VILT successful?

Understanding the VILT definition means understanding what makes it so attractive to learners and instructors alike. In short, it facilitates training in a simplified way. Even if your organization relied on face-to-face learning in the past, the switch to VILT feels like a natural evolution of training for an expanded workplace. As more companies opt for virtual workspaces, the need for more flexible, global, and convenient learning opportunities becomes the focal point of a solid training strategy. 

Virtual instructor-led training typically features one or more of the following tools: 

  • Pre-recorded videos
  • Video conferencing
  • Chats, forums, and breakout rooms
  • Virtual whiteboards and presentations
  • Opportunities for peer-to-peer practice 

These features work on different levels at the same time, all which activate the “Angel’s Cocktail” of emotions and hormones that fortify learning experiences. From the dopamine of trust in coworkers to the oxytocin released when the instructor makes a joke or the endorphin rush from mastering a new skill, VILT helps strike the perfect balance without compromising your learners’ time. We love VILT for introducing new topics, reinforcing existing knowledge, and keeping your learning and development strategy on track no matter your physical location. 

What’s the difference between VILT and ILT?

Obviously, the biggest difference between VILT and ILT is that VILT is done virtually and doesn’t require learners to be in the same classroom as their instructor. But what does that actually mean for the overall learning experience? Consider some of these key differences between VILT and ILT.

Since it is completed via virtual tools like Teams, Zoom, or Skype, learners can be anywhere.Learners meet in person or face to face with a subject matter expert.
It’s cost-effective since there are no travel costs.Instructors and learners may incur travel and lodging costs.
It consists of solitary learning with built-in community interactions.It consists of communal learning with the support of in-person classmates.
The learner is responsible for paying attention. The instructor has less control over the learning environment and cannot guarantee a lack of distraction.The instructor has full control over the learning environment, so they can create a consistent experience. Learners also feel a certain degree of pressure to pay attention when face to face with an instructor.
Practice opportunities usually consist of scenario-based learning and choosing from options and discussing outcomes.Practice opportunities are often role-playing activities and interacting with others.
Potential individual tech issues could cause boundaries to accessibility.Instructor controls the tech, and the content is available to everyone in the room.
Engaging tools like polls, whiteboards, breakout rooms, and chats keep users engaged.The content is limited to the instructor’s comfort level and learners may feel a lack of engagement when listening to one instructor over a long period of time.
Real-time interactions and feedback are possible.Real-time interactions and feedback are possible.
The content can be repurposed and deployed to different audiences or accessed later for a refresher.It’s usually a one-time or event-based learning opportunity, and it is difficult to repeat the experience.

If we were to sum up the difference between VILT and ILT in a few short words, it would be “accessibility and engagement.” Here’s the thing: VILT isn’t automatically superior to ILT simply because it’s virtual. Both can be done well, and both can drop the ball when not used in the right environment or with the right tools. 

When should my organization use VILT? 

Virtual instructor-led training works especially well with a blended approach to training. When you already have other eLearning and face-to-face training in place, VILT helps fill in gaps and bridge time and distance. 

Because VILT is so cost-effective, we especially love it for tighter training budgets. With one presentation, you can use the same content more than once and limit the amount of resources spent on logistics like lodging and transportation. Even a custom VILT presentation with plenty of engaging media and interaction opportunities costs much less when compared to traditional in-person training. It’s much easier to scale and repurpose while giving all of your learners the same experience regardless of their location. 

VILT best practices (and how to get started) 

If VILT sounds like a natural fit for your learning and development strategy, you’re probably eager to get started. Do so with caution, however. Too often, VILT is seen as simply substituting a video for a face-to-face interaction. To really make the most of VILT, it’s important to think about how your learners will interact with the content and what will keep them engaged and inspired along the way. Here are some of our favorite ways to ease the transition between ILT and VILT:

Keep it short and sweet 

Virtual instructor-led training works best with simplified and short training programs. You don’t want to overwhelm your learners with hours of content; they simply won’t pay attention. Reduce the cognitive load your learners experience by thinking of VILT as a simplified version of your past instructor-led courses. Focus on the “need-to-know” and keep the “nice-to-know” as add-ons or delivered via other methods. 

Use visual content 

Words on a page are akin to an instructor talking without reprieve. Even if you try to stay focused, it’s simply more difficult to avoid distractions and stay dialed-in for a long period of time. Visual content gives your learners breaks throughout your VILT-delivered course. We love animation, but you can also use graphs, videos, and photography to keep learners engaged. 

Blend it

A standalone VILT course is a great starting point for a more holistic learning approach, but it’s rarely appropriate as the only method of training. Rely too heavily on VILT and learners might feel like they can zone out during training or simply click through to finish. Instead, think of VILT as a component to an overall learning strategy that also includes microlearning, face-to-face interactions, and mobile learning.

Focus on quality

VILT is definitely a quality over quantity situation. It’s better to invest in solid content and technology to ensure a seamless learning experience than to throw all your content at the whiteboard to see what sticks. Do the work ahead of time to pare down the information you’ll include and then present it in an engaging, accessible, and consistent way. This helps to limit tech issues and information overload. 

Build in follow-ups

One of the ways VILT often falls short is that, without the in-person environment of ILT, learners simply close out the window and don’t necessarily see the training again. We know that recall is related to repeated exposure to the material, so it’s important to build in follow-up experiences as part of your VILT. It might be as simple as sending out a short quiz or continuing a class discussion on Slack, but following up helps keep information fresh and users engaged long after training. 


Making the switch from ILT to VILT might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. You can start to add VILT capabilities into your existing training strategy by uploading a webinar or having a short lunch-and-learn session via Zoom. As your learners get more comfortable with the process and the technology, you can make VILT one of the foundational concepts of your L&D strategy. 

Ready to take your training virtual? Drop us a line and let’s get started.