Instructor-Led Training: Is It Still the Delivery Method of Choice for Continuing Education?

As technology continues to expand into more areas of our lives, some in the continuing education field have predicted the move from in-person, instructor-led training to an on-demand, digital approach. As we talk with customers and other CE professionals about the future of the field, however, we realized something: while the trend has been predicted for years, we’ve seen very little abandonment of instructor-led training.

Rather than a complete switch from instructor-led training (ILT) to digital learning, continuing education courses often include both in-classroom and digital training. Trainers and educators are now offering more options for learners to consume their educational materials how, when and where they please.

We turned to ATD’s State of the Industry Report, as well as our very own State of the Continuing Education Industry Report, for the data to support these conclusions.

Instructor-Led Training Still Leads the Way

Although there has been a slight decline in instructor-led training in recent years, it’s not declining nearly as fast as some association professionals had anticipated. From 2012 to 2015, the percentage of instructor-led training courses declined by 7%. That’s only a 1.75% decline on average each year. At this rate, ILT will still be the most popular way for organizations to deliver training for approximately another decade (2026).

Dan Loomis, Omnipress Director of Training and Publications, said, “With the popularity of digital and mobile formats emerging in the continuing education industry, I was surprised to see that instructor-led training isn’t declining as fast as some believed it would. It’s pretty clear that ILT is still an essential part of the learning process, and will be for years.”

A Workforce of Traditional Learners

Most of today’s workforce was educated in a classroom with an instructor and printed materials. Even those entering the workforce more recently, like Millennials and Gen Z, did a majority of their learning in the classroom, despite having digital materials and the internet at their ready.

As one Millennial told us during our Millennials & Print study:

“I think that, when it comes to educational materials, I will always favor print over digital. While we (Millennials) are the first generation to ‘grow up’ with technology, the technology we grew up with is completely different than it is today and it was used in completely different ways. I had access to a computer both at home and school, but in elementary school it was used to learn to type. In middle school it was used to learn Word and Excel. In high school, it was used for research and writing papers. I wasn’t reading textbooks online, I wasn’t taking class notes on a laptop. The first iPad was introduced in my sophomore year of college and I didn’t purchase one until I graduated. While it is possible to highlight and markup materials digitally on an iPad, it was never part of my educational life—I didn’t learn to learn on one.”

-Emily Wiseman; Director of Administration at Association Management Partners & Executive Directors, Inc.

So, as more Millennials join your organization and attend continuing education courses, many still expect instructor-led courses rather an online-only environment.

Flipping the Classroom to Use In-Person Learning Time Efficiently

It’s clear that instructor-led training remains a significant component of the continuing education experience, albeit not the only part. Since ILT is so valuable, your organization should focus on how you’re using classroom time to make the most of it. One way you can capitalize on in-person training is through the “flipped classroom” method.

“Flipping the classroom” is a popular idea often used in higher education. The concept essentially flips the “traditional” method of teaching in order to better use the students’ classroom time and enhance their understanding of the material.

In the traditional teaching model, an instructor will introduce a new concept in class, typically through an in-person lecture. The students will then take time outside of class to complete activities to reinforce the new ideas on their own.

In a flipped classroom, students take time to learn a new concept outside of the classroom; this can be done through textbook reading, a recorded lecture or many other forms. Then, when students meet in class with an instructor, their time is devoted to interactive group learning. This way, instructors can work one-on-one with learners to further explain course concepts, answer questions and help students solve problems in groups or to apply the new information to real-world situations.

Flipping the classroom combines instructor-led training and digital course materials to deepen your learner’s understanding, help them improve retention, and use class time efficiently.

While it’s safe to say that learners expect more options for how they receive continuing educational materials, it’s also clear that instructor-led training is still a major part of the training experience. Help bridge the gap between generations of learners by offering multiple ways to access materials and effectively use time spent in the classroom.

Note: This is an update of an earlier article that was published in April 2016.

The Next “Big Thing” in Training Technology


This June marks my 29th year at Omnipress. These anniversaries always serve as fresh reminders of how much training technology has changed over the years. Back when I started, we weren’t delivering content in Megabytes and Gigabytes, we were delivering content in printed volumes. As in large stacks of books that would wreck your back if you didn’t lift them right. Then of course, there was a technological breakthrough that changed everything: the floppy disk. (I told you this was a long time ago.) But, like my 8-track player, this technology was quickly replaced by the next big thing, and the next.

Technology has disrupted almost every aspect of how we deliver training and education. Remember, at one point, instructors considered an overhead projector to be a huge leap forward. Now with online content and other tools that enable learning to take place anywhere, an overhead projector seems quaint.

Today’s Training Technology

The technology that we take for granted today would have seemed like science fiction when I started at Omnipress. As the pace of development continues to increase, how will we be delivering course materials 29 years from now?

With the introduction of new technology on what seems like a daily basis, evaluating the effectiveness of training technology is a more important skill than ever. It’s a natural tendency for humans to be optimistic about what new these tools can deliver. But, as events like the recent worldwide cyber attacks have shown us, new technology does not come without its share of risk.

As new generations become the focus of our training efforts, it’s important to move forward on a cautious path. Investing time into every new advancement that promises great results is a losing battle. Rather than being on the cutting edge of technology adoption, focus on finding solutions that create great outcomes.

An Old-Fashioned Focus

So as you evaluate each “next big thing” that comes along, keep these two old-fashioned ideas front and center: How does this new training technology enhance learning and increase retention? Because as fast as technology changes, the human brain still relies on these two fundamental concepts to turn information into knowledge.

5 Ways to Continue the Learning After Your Conference

There’s something magical about the vibe you get at a really good educational conference, isn’t there? Attendees are soaking in the sessions like sponges. You can see the wheels turning as they nod in agreement, already thinking about ways they can apply an “a-ha moment” to their daily work. They linger at their tables after a session has ended, enthusiastically trading ideas. They flag down their colleagues in the hallway, excited about new possibilities. Everyone is buzzing, and the energy is high.

But then the conference ends. And the chatter stops. And we are each sucked back into the vortex of our perpetual to-do lists, hoping to find time to implement at least one new good idea we gained.

The learning we experience at conferences does not have to end when the conference does. And that wonderful content that you spent months collecting and vetting does not have to fade into oblivion. You can use it to keep the ideas flowing, keep your attendees energized and, better yet, increase the ROI of your conference for months, if not years, after the fact.

Here are a few ideas to leverage content after an event:

  1. Start by archiving your content on a searchable website. More than a PDF, a website specifically built to house your conference content means that users can search for relevant topics by session, track, speaker or keyword. By giving your content a user-friendly home, you provide a platform to better leverage your content more easily (see ideas 2-5 below).
  1. Host an exclusive, post-conference online discussion group for your attendees in the weeks following your conference. This can be one larger group, or you can break the group out by session, track or job function. Invite your speakers to participate (ideally, as part of the initial speaker agreement). This provides a great opportunity for attendees to ask follow-up questions of your speakers, particularly if they were short on time during the session.
  1. Wrap your conference content into a broader content marketing strategy for your event. Turn a session topic into a blog post, infographic, video or interview article (with links to the initial session presentation housed on your content website). Send this to your attendees to keep them energized, keep your conference top-of-mind and provide additional value to increase your attendee retention. Send it to your members to remind them of the value your association provides and to let them see what they missed at the conference. Use it to market your association to non-members.
  1. Was there a substantial amount of interest in a particular topic? Based on your post-event surveys, is there an area your attendees want to continue to hear more about? Take a deeper dive into that particular topic with a webinar or webinar series and brand it as a continuation of the conference. Remember to keep driving them back to your content website and remind them of other featured topics they may not have seen at the conference.
  1. Start an online special interest group (SIG) around specific topics, and set monthly or quarterly virtual meetings. Then, use the discussions from those meetings as fuel for your broader content marketing strategy.

What else has your association done (or is considering doing) to maintain momentum after a conference? Share your ideas with your community here!

Want to learn more about how to leverage online content before, during and after your conference? Read our free whitepaper: More Than Paper Behind Glass