If you are subscribed to a few company newsletters, chances are that in the last few months, you’ve seen invitations to webinars in your email inbox. You almost never see an invite for a virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT). Why do you think that is?

It’s because webinars and vILTs are two different things that serve different purposes.

Webinars are lectures

Webinars are generally designed to share a specific agenda in a one-way communication with a silent audience. In that way, a webinar allows the presenter to maintain great control over the session. But in return, it loses any hope of creating a dynamic environment.

While vILTs can be lectures too, they generally include a higher level of interaction with the learners. vILTs take advantage of discussions, back-and-forths, and activities to create a more dynamic and engaging environment. We wrote a blog post about making dynamic sessions: “Use Activities to make a Dynamic Training Program” 

Webinars are marketing tools

Many companies have gone on record that their marketing strategy includes webinars as a key component. They organize webinars for new product releases, important business updates, and even just their opinions on industry news. The purpose is only to educate their audience, but to get their opinions out into the world.

I’m not saying webinars are bad. I’m not saying marketing is bad. This sort of content marketing has its own value. However, vILTs go deeper. A vILT does not primarily aim to market or sell something, but provide a complete, encapsulated learning experience based on a specific topic.

Webinars may not have any audience interaction

The word webinar comes from “web seminar”. Any format that fits a seminar is also applicable to webinars. Therefore, you could have formats such as book readings, interviews, and panel discussions as webinars. The audience can be mute spectators.

However, even webinar organizers are aware that a mute audience is a lost audience, therefore they always include a Question and Answer section to let the audience have a voice.

A vILT should go beyond that. A vILT should allow the audience a greater amount of influence on the flow of the session. The audience shouldn’t be relegated to ask (or not ask) a few questions in the last 10 minutes of the program runtime. They should be given activities and opportunities to add value back into the session, for the benefit of the other attendees.

The Big Takeaway

From these points, it becomes a fair assumption to say that a vILT is a specific type of webinar. This is an important point to note. In any field of knowledge, nomenclature is important because it explains not just what something is, but what it is supposed to be.

If we make no distinction between vILTs and webinars, we lose the specific traits that make a vILT a great L&D tool. This specificity is important. Classroom Instructor-Led Training has a very specific audience in mind. It takes into consideration their age, geography, experience, and training needs, among other things. Virtual Instructor-Led Training should be just as specific in defining their audience.

Webinars are designed to cast a wide net and appeal to big categories of people – “all our customers”, “every interested L&D professional”, “all the employees of a company”. While this is great for sharing material of a general nature, it does not address the specific needs of each audience member. By definition, it cannot have full depth.

So the next time you’re organizing a session as an L&D professional, don’t design a webinar. Design a vILT.