Instructor-Led Training vs Online Training 

 February 21, 2020

By  Donna Woodrow

Whether you're a leader, business owner, HR professional, or simply an employee interested in their own development, you may have wondered what kind of training will get you a better result - instructor-led training, or online training? This article aims to clear up some of the myths surrounding these two kinds of training. 


A great place to start is to understand that ILT and OT are two very broad categories and there are many different ways to deliver both of these kinds of training. So which kind of training is right for you or your organisation, and what should you expect from your training service provider? As Ella Fitzgerald once sang, 'taint what you do, it's how you do it.' Continue reading to discover some answers to these questions…

What is Instructor-Led Training (ILT)?

When I talk about ILT in this article, I am referring to training that is held face to face, and is led by an instructor or facilitator. Most of us are quite familiar with this kind of learning environment as we spend our formative years in this setting in a school classroom. In the corporate environment, this kind of training is usually organised ahead of time and an ILT session can run anywhere from an hour long to several days of training.

So now you know the what of ILT, what about the how?

ILT sessions can be delivered in various ways. Some being more effective than others, depending on how the learner filters information. Have you ever sat through a training presentation and after walking out, the only thing you remembered was what you ate for breakfast that day?

In my years as a learner, one of my most common complaints about my own learning experiences were that there was too much theory and not enough practice. But that's just me, I learn best by doing. Now with my experience and training as a trainer, coach and enneagram facilitator, I understand the assortment of learning styles that exist in the world. I now know that my worst training day may just be someone else's ideal learning environment. 

An instructor in the ILT environment may deliver the training content in a variety of ways such as;

At Modo, our facilitators are able to introduce and blend all of these content delivery methods to a single session for the most effective training for each learners development. 

Pros & Cons of Instructor-Led Training

ILT is a tried and tested method of delivering new information to learners, and yet it is not without limitations. Here's some of the things to consider when investing in Instructor Led Training.


  • Adaptable & Flexible Content - In ILT, the training content as well as the delivery method and order of topics can be adapted relatively quickly and without much effort by a skilled facilitator.
  • Sociability - ILT allows room for learners to connect, and bounce ideas off one another for an increased intellectual capacity. This helps your employees develop better team dynamics. This is especially useful for training interpersonal skills.
  • Greater Engagement Opportunities - A formal training session invites learners to be fully present and commit to the session as the facilitator can use a range of techniques to enliven and awaken their audience.


  • Requires additional resources - ILT requires a venue for the training session to take place, often hard copies of the learning materials are warranted, and sometimes refreshments are offered too, this can all increase the cost of ILT.
  • Cost of Training - On average ILT requires a higher investment per employee than online training, due to venue hire, hard copy materials and of course the fee for the instructors time.

What is Online Training (OT)?

Well before the birth of the internet, distance education has been offered by numerous universities and other education institutions. Once upon a time, distance education involved mailing your assignments back to the learning institution and waiting for your grade to be mailed back to you. Thankfully, with the invention of the internet, distance education went digital and online training was born. OT is also sometimes referred to as Computer Based Training (CBT) or e-Learning.

Online training has gifted us the ability to learn and receive feedback on our learning in real time, at a time and place that is convenient to us. If you've started a new job recently, chances are that online training is familiar to you. It has become common place and practice nowadays for staff inductions and safety briefings to be completed by a series of online videos and tests. 

Pros & Cons of Instructor-Led Training

Although online training is fairly new in the history of education, it is a hugely popular training delivery method and has proven its effectiveness in some areas, particularly for computer-based digital skills. Here's some of the things to consider when investing in online training.


  • Cost of training  - Often an Instructor is not required at all for online training, so reduced instructor costs, little to no travel or venue costs all contribute to online training being more cost effective per learner per course than traditional training methods.
  • Flexibility & Convenience  - This is where online training shines, for remote locations or for large enterprises, online training offers the convenience of delivering training to large audiences all within the business premises. Training can now be done onsite, and at a time that suits both employer and employee.
  • Self-Paced Learning - Although instructors will do their best to control the pace of ILT, often the reality is that a certain amount of content has been prescribed for the allocated time slot. With online training, the learner has full control over their learning pace and can take breaks when needed to digest and embody new learnings.  


  • Interruptions - As a learner attempts to complete online training at their desk, they may be easily interrupted and distracted by the emails, phone calls or desk visits. With distractions, the training could potentially take twice as long as instructor-led training, and potentially even be ineffective.
  • Potential Lack of Support - One thing that many organisations forget when they implement new online training programs is that learners require support. Online training doesn't have the ability to answer all the learners questions or enter into a discussion with the learner - both of which are valuable and important learning activities that assist learners in making sense of the new information.

A Myth About the Cost of Online Training

I was hesitant about listing the cost of training as a pro or con, because indeed it can be both. Typically, online training has been promoted and advertised as the low cost alternative. Whilst this is true in many cases, it's not always true. On average ILT requires a higher investment per employee, but we're not all average are we?

Small businesses might find it cumbersome to enter into a 3 or 6 month project to creating e-Learning material - which may only be used once per year. Alternatively if the business chooses to use publicly available training content and materials, they may find that it's not fit for purpose and not contextually relevant. Furthermore, some training topics are more effectively delivered face to face, such as interpersonal skills training, so delivering some training topics online may not get your your best outcome. 

So, whether you're budget conscious or not (and especially if you're budget conscious) ask yourself a few questions before you jump into online training - and understand the real cost of your employee training.

  • Is the topic of the training best suited to ILT or OT? Why pay for training that's not actually going to get you the result you want? Online training is great, but it should be fit for purpose. If you're not sure, reach out and discuss it with one of our qualified trainers and assessors.
  • How much are you willing to invest in the creation and upkeep of online training materials each year? Businesses change, so do your training requirements. Taking a set and forget approach to your online training could lead you to bored and disengaged learners. Be prepared to have an ongoing cost, even if it is minimal.

Looking for Something Else?

Are you finding that neither instructor led training, nor online training will meet your needs? Well, don't despair, there are a range of other ways that you can support yours or your employees development. Let's take a look at your options.

Blending Learning

This kind of training combines the best of both worlds. The flexibility and convenience of online training, with the support and engagement of an instructor. This kind of training can also be delivered in different ways. For example, it could consist of participants completing online modules, either with or without an instructor available in the virtual room. Another blended learning approach is to deliver face to face training or coaching sessions, followed by an online module which helps the learner transform their learning into knowledge even after the instructor has left the room.

Coaching & Mentoring

Technically, this isn't training at all. Whilst coaching and mentoring doesn't focus on teaching new technical skills, it can be extremely effective at facilitating employees to access new resources and ways of being. Many of our coaching and mentoring clients have started out seeking 'training' in soft skills such as confidence, only to find through coaching that they have all the confidence they need, and the process of coaching facilitated them to tap into this resource and put it into action. 


As you can see, not all instructor-led training provides the most effective learning space. Similarly, not all online training is going to save you money or get you your outcomes at a cheaper cost. Both of these training modalities can be effective when used in the right way, and of course there might be certain contexts or training topics where a particular modality would be more effective. For example, learning verbal communication skills may not be highly effective when learning silently in front of a computer, and we wouldn't recommend learning how to code software without a computer in sight.

Did you know that we can help you with your instructor-led training and online training needs?

Contact us for a free consultation to answer your questions and help you understand what's right for you and your team.

Donna Woodrow

Donna takes a genuine interest in the collective and personal growth of the human race and its individuals. Donna is a seeker who loves to travel and invests considerable time in her own personal growth. Donna is a professional coach and trainer, experienced Enneagram facilitator and the Managing Director and Partner of Modo Coaching & Training.

Donna Woodrow

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