"The Hunter Who Chases Two Rabbits Catches Neither"

I first heard these wise words while working at Samsung in South Korea, and I find myself repeating them quite often these days. It is not only difficult but oftentimes risky to chase two rabbits at the same time. Ok… perhaps I should stop speaking in proverb and let you in on the specifics of what I am referring to.

As I work with more and more clients who are dabbling in the area of Virtual Instructor-Led training (vILT), I can see that the tendency is to start with a hybrid approach. By hybrid I mean that they continue to run their instructor-led classroom version and then plug in the virtual piece to expand enrollments and reduce the need for an additional instructor. From the fiscal perspective, I certainly understand where they are coming from as we are all looking very closely at the bottom line these days. From the pedagogical approach however, this practice puts their brand at risk, which if unchecked, can have an even bigger negative impact on the bottom line and one that is much more costly to reverse.

Is your organization heading down this path in favor of a better bottom line? Here are a few points that might help tip the scales in the opposite direction:

  1. Instructors who are great in the classroom are not necessarily great in the virtual environment. First they have to want to make the jump, and second they have to adapt their approach and methodologies to specifically target a virtual audience.
  2. Hybrid classes divide the focus of the instructor beyond what most instructors can effectively handle. In the traditional classroom, you have different levels of mastery and different types of learners to contend with. Once you add in the virtual learners simultaneously, you now have an additional dimension to deal with. With virtual learners, interactions must be deliberate and very carefully orchestrated, physical humor and gestures are often lost, and building a sense of camaraderie among participants is that much more challenging. Image trying to balance all of this while actually trying to teach something. And if the technology acts up… forget about it!
  3. It is nearly impossible to offer an identical level of service to both groups at the same time, and it is easy to alienate one group or the other while trying. Online learners can easily become frustrated if they can't participate in all aspects of the class, and learners in the classroom can become impatient if the instructor has to side-track to resolve a technical issue or adapt a lesson to accommodate the online audience. It oftentimes comes down to giving two different sets of directions on how to complete any one activity.
  4. Virtual Instructor-Led training, in order to be effective, needs to be delivered in a different format than the typical 2-3 day workshop with lunch and a few coffee breaks. It just isn't feasible to keep an audience riveted to their screens for that amount of time. Virtual learning is best done in two hour chunks that allow for participants to complete exercises on their own or even with a remote partner and then reconvene to discuss and ask questions.

Understandably so, most organizations try the hybrid approach and eventually come to the conclusion that if they want to offer top-quality training that is consistent with the caliber of their classroom training, they have to bite the bullet and offer the virtual equivalent on its own and take the time needed to adapt it to a new mode of delivery.

Do you have experience with this issue? Please join the discussion and share your successes, failures and lessons learned. 

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