Together Again and Getting Back to Class

back to in-person learningUp until 2020, in-person, instructor-led training made up the lion’s share of learning that organizations created and delivered. In fact, Brandon Hall Group’s 2019 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study found that 96% of companies were using ILT to some degree and it was the most common modality by a long shot. Years of discussion and thinking about new technologies, modalities and eLearning did nothing to knock ILT out of the top slot. It took a pandemic to break corporations from their ILT habit.

As the pandemic gave rise to a multitude of digital and virtual training solutions to fill the ILT gap, it is impossible to think that there won’t be a return to the classroom. Even at the height of the pandemic in mid-2021, about half of companies said it was either highly or critically important to reintroduce ILT as conditions allow. And multiple years of pandemic conditions are priming many learners and organizations alike to eagerly anticipate that return.

Companies have had a lot of success over the past two years or so with digital learning. Organizations that were resistant or reluctant to explore new modalities were forced to adapt and discovered that these new tools and experiences actually work pretty well. That said, there still is no direct replacement for having people physically together in the same place.

It is the interactivity, connection, and collaboration that occurs in person that people miss the most. As such, when companies do return to in-person events, it is critical to focus on those elements. People who have been isolated for months on end do not want to get back together with colleagues simply to listen to a lecture, read documents, or watch videos. They’ve done plenty of that on their own and will continue to do so. In-person events must change to reflect this new reality.

Once they can reconnect in person, people will want to collaborate and share their knowledge in these environments. ILT programs should be centered on this interactivity, harnessing learners’ excitement at being together again. And while excitement is not often a word associated with ILT, these first few returns to the classroom will carry some excitement.

Of course, we cannot lose sight of the fact that not everyone will be returning to the classroom. Many workers will remain remote long after the pandemic is over. For those workers, ILT events — if they are able to attend — will carry even more significance. For others, organizations may need to figure out how to synchronously engage an in-person/remote audience, if they haven’t been working on that already.

With a new year comes new hope and although we’re already halfway through the second month of 2022, it seems like things may get somewhat back to normal. However, I don’t see ILT returning to its top spot. It will, however, be a critical piece of the learning ecosystem— reimagined and reengineered to deliver its full potential.