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What's the Problem with Traditional, Instructor-Led Training?


Warning! Reality check ahead. 

Traditional learning alone is not enough in the modern corporate sector. The face-to-face, one-size-fits-all training that many companies are happy to dump on their employees is obsolete.
It is now time to embrace digital transformation and deliver online training too. It is time for a change.


But if you have been dreading change and keeping innovation at bay because you are afraid to make the jump, here are five reasons why traditional learning alone fails in the modern workplace scenario. 

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1) The sage on the stage cannot keep the audience engrossed

The sage-on-the-stage lecture style is a typical feature of the traditional learning model.
Here an SME or instructor conducts the training session. He or she delivers a lecture to the employees with a PowerPoint presentation running behind.

The trainer probably didn’t learn all that he knows today by just listening to classroom lectures; he learned more on the job, experiencing it himself. Yet here he is today, trying to hammer jargons, concepts, definitions, and numbers in the heads of the (reluctant) learners.

As for the learners, they are just going through the motions. They were mandated to attend the training session, so here they are. They are staring at the sage on the stage and nodding their heads occasionally, but they are bored, confused, and unfocused. Worse, they will forget what they have listened and nodded to as soon as they step out of the classroom.

Here’s why the sage-on-the-stage lecture style does not deliver effective learning anymore:

  • Rote learning is no longer relevant for the modern workplace that requires critical thinkers and problem solvers who know how to “apply” their learning.
  • In an age where almost everything under the sun can be googled, learners hate being made to sit through a lecture session and learn in the way the trainer wills. The modern worker is a self-directed individual.

Instead of the sage-on-the-stage model, let the trainer be the “Guide on the Side” who supports the learners from the sidelines instead of taking charge and dictating the experience. For instance, in eLearning environments, learners can explore new concepts with role-playing, exploration and interactive activities a while the trainer can guide them with appropriate feedback. 

2) Lack of flexibility puts a brake on learning

Josh Bersin said, “Leverage learning everywhere.”

The demands of a fast-paced economy have made workers restless; they want to learn as many skills as are relevant to their jobs, and they want to do this fast and in the most convenient way. They demand flexibility, a feature that the traditional learning model, with its emphasis on face-to-face training sessions, lacks.

Here’s why the traditional learning model is not flexible enough for the modern, mobile worker:

  • Workers today spend more than 50 percent of their time away from the desk. This makes structured training restrictive and cumbersome to access, as it takes workers out of their routine. 
  • Workers are not motivated to attend on-site training sessions. This translates to negativity towards learning.
  • ILT demands that employees spend time away from their jobs. The company has to bear these costs. It may also involve traveling for the trainers and the workers. This can make this learning model prohibitively expensive to execute.
  • ILT also restricts learning to a one-time event. Remaining stuck in this mode takes away the opportunity to deliver relevant and just-in-time learning.

The flexibility of online and mobile learning offers an opportunity to embed learning into the everyday workflow. Here are some resources to help you create effective mobile learning courses.

Also read:

3) Lack of relevance prevents an effective desk-to-job transfer of learning

More than 62 percent of the employees who have access to training believe that it has little or no relevance to their jobs. This is scary!

The traditional learning model harks back to the lectures we went through in high school. We hardly remember what we learned in these classes. There is almost nothing of value that we carry over from those classes. Now compare these to all the lessons you have picked up on the job, from the people who you live, work, and play with, and on your own from travels, books, and movies.

We probably learn more when we are not consciously “learning” than when we are made to learn.
Here’s why the traditional learning model has failed in the modern workplace:

  • There is a tendency to get over somehow and get done with mandatory training. The result: in a rush to tick boxes or to use up the funds allocated for training, courses are rolled out mindlessly.
  • The rush to roll out training leaves no time to carry out a thorough training needs analysis. The result: these sessions often have no relevance to the workplace realities of the learner.
  • No focus on application. Workers might learn from a course but if they aren’t applying the skills or knowledge learnt on a frequent basis, then it’s easily forgotten.

4) The Push Model drives away the learners

The corporate training model is traditionally hinged on the “push” methodology. You drag employees out of their desks to attend training sessions. You make them sit through long lecture sessions and endure the blah, blah, blah of the sage on the stage (point #1).

The Push model is a centralized, top-down training strategy that originates at the C-suite level. The top brass “decides” that employees lower down on the corporate ladder “need” training, so they roll out educational programs for them. The employees are “pushed” to take the training.

Here is what is all skewed about the Push Model:

  • The modern learner detests being told what to learn and how to go about it. He wants choices and craves flexibility.
  • The traditional model fails to take into account individual and unique training needs and learning preferences.
  • The model fails to provide training when employees really “need” it.
  • Many of them are a wastage of time and effort. Employees are compelled to attend training sessions to learn something they won’t have to apply right away. The result: they forget most of what they had learned.

But now, with e-learning and other digital learning solutions, training content can be much more of a “pull” process. For instance, eLearning-training programs let learners learn at their own pace, in their own time, and wherever they may be. It’s time you open up, and be comfortable giving up full control over content, pace, and learning schedules to your learners.

Read more: Understanding the push of training and the pull of learning – How adults learn

5) Long + Boring = Learner fatigue

Even great content fails to make a mark on the minds of the audience if it is too long or boring. Unfortunately, many companies go to great lengths to create exactly such content. They erroneously think that the more content they cover in an ILT session, the more productive it will be. The result: bored learners don’t learn much, or whatever little they learn, they forget soon. 

It's time for companies to acknowledge that the way people consume content has changed along with the evolution of digital media. Traditional, face-to-face training mostly represent a lack of convenience. The modern learner is accustomed to consuming on-demand online content and deriving instant gratification, courtesy of Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix. They demand the convenience of consuming content that their iPhone and e-Reader provide. Your three-hour long boring PowerPoint presentations don’t impress them at all.

The solution: Bite-sized eLearning. According to a survey carried out by the Rapid Learning Institute, a whopping 94 percent of the Learning & Development professionals who took part in the study said that their learners preferred bite-sized learning modules to eLearning courses that run to 30 minutes and more. They have their reasons.

Also read: 


Traditional learning has its place, but it is not the sole training solution for the modern corporate learning environment. You have to accept this change and move on with the times. 

Also read: 3 Signs Your Training Strategy Needs to Evolve


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Karla Gutierrez

Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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