Scaling Instructor-Led Training (ILT) with eLearning in Manufacturing

Scaling Instructor-Led Training (ILT) with eLearning in Manufacturing

July 9, 2024
Customer Onboarding
Instructor-Led Training (ILT)
Training Tips

Use eLearning to Scale Instructor-Led Training in Manufacturing 

As training needs expand, the limitations of instructor-led training (ILT) for manufacturing companies are becoming clear. Traditional, face-to-face training sessions can only accommodate a limited number of trainees at a time. Scaling up training for a larger audience requires additional instructors, which can be costly and time-consuming to find. Instructor-led training (ILT) sessions also have a fixed schedule, which can be inconvenient for learners with busy schedules or those working across different time zones. As demand for your product ramps up, you need to be able to ramp up your internal teams, partners, and suppliers quickly. In this article, we address the challenges of traditional ILT in manufacturing and explore how to leverage eLearning for scaling training for team members, partners, and suppliers.

Challenges of traditional ILT in manufacturing

ILT has been a mainstay in manufacturing for years, but cannot support rapidly upskilling new or larger audiences. Here's why:

  • Limited reach: There are only so many hours in an instructor's day, and classrooms only hold so many people. This makes it difficult to train a large team quickly, especially if your factories or facilities are spread across different locations. You'd need to fly your instructor(s) around the country, which is costly and exhausting for the training team. 

  • Inconsistent delivery: Each instructor has their own teaching style. This can lead to variations in how information is presented and confuse trainees who may be working with others who didn’t receive the same training.

  • High costs: The traditional ILT approach can get expensive in that training costs multiply as you grow. You must factor in travel costs for instructors, venue rentals, printing materials, and catering. Plus, standard ILT training does not take into account retraining when new information or guidelines become available, training staff turnover, or trainee attention span - they may forget what they learned in training and have no recourse to refresh their knowledge. 

  • Knowledge retention: Sitting through a lecture for hours doesn't guarantee trainees will remember everything later. Traditional ILT often lacks interactive elements that help trainees retain information or go back to the curriculum for clarification or on-the-job access. They might forget key details by the time they need to apply their new skills on the job.

  • Time constraints: Pulling employees off the assembly line for training disrupts your production schedule. In manufacturing, deadlines matter and delays impact budgets and company reputation. The longer it takes to train your team, the longer it takes for them to acquire new skills, and the slower your completion and delivery times. Further, delivering products of poor or unsafe quality due to shortcuts taken or lack of product knowledge can be even more damaging to a brand.

Benefits of integrating eLearning modules

While traditional ILT may have worked in the past, integrating eLearning modules offers several advantages to help you meet demands in today’s environment. Some benefits of eLearning for manufacturing include: 

  • Cost-effectiveness: eLearning poses a better value than traditional ILT, especially as your team and partnerships grow. Budgets for instructor time and travel training venue, hard copy workbooks and materials, and shipping of demo materials are eliminated. The development cost of implementing an eLearning program is usually relative to the number of trainees, which makes it a much more manageable and cost-efficient solution in the long run. It also reduces the admin load of planning and managing several in-person trainings in a year.

  • Consistent and standardized training: With eLearning, everyone receives the same core information, regardless of location or instructor. Self-service modules deliver a standardized training experience, ensuring everyone has the same foundational knowledge that they can return to as needed. This consistency eliminates confusion and knowledge gaps that can arise with traditional ILT.

  • Increased accessibility and flexibility: eLearning modules are available anytime, anywhere through a self-service training platform. This allows trainees to learn at their own pace, on their own schedule. They can fit training in around their work duties, eliminating scheduling conflicts. Learners also tend to be more engaged when they carve out their own time for learning, as opposed to being taken away from their daily duties or having to plan a trip out of town.

  • Ability to track and measure learning outcomes: eLearning platforms have powerful tracking features. Platform administrators can see how trainees are progressing through the modules, identify areas where they might be struggling, and measure their overall comprehension through quizzes and assessments.

  • Improved knowledge retention: eLearning modules can incorporate interactive elements like simulations, quizzes, and gamification. They can also link to knowledge center articles for a deeper dive, or watch video demonstrations of the task at hand. These features keep trainees engaged and help them retain information more effectively compared to passive lectures in traditional ILT.

Getting started with eLearning

Here are a few items to consider as you plan your eLearning content strategy: 

  • Practical and hands-on components: Not all skills translate well to an eLearning environment. Tasks requiring fine motor skills (e.g., hand-eye coordination, precision) or complex decision-making in real-time might require a hands-on component. However, eLearning can bridge the gap by providing foundational knowledge and pre-work activities.

  • Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT): Led by experienced instructors, virtual training offers a cost-effective way to learn. These instructors don't just deliver the content, they're there to answer questions and initiate discussions. Webinars are a common format, but the most engaging sessions go beyond lectures. They use chat functions, breakout rooms, polls, games, and other features to keep you actively involved.

  • Personalized learning paths: It’s important to consider the individual learning styles and skill levels of your training group. Partners will need a different set of skills than line workers or field reps.eLearning platforms can adapt course content based on learner roles and needs. Customized learning paths let you group a number of courses together in a particular order, including courses specifically designed for partners, suppliers, or internal employees.

  • Microlearning for maximum impact: Manufacturing processes are often complex with constantly evolving procedures. Bite-sized microlearning modules allow trainees to focus on specific topics in short bursts, improving information retention and reducing training fatigue. Think of a series of short video modules focused on new safety protocols for a specific machine, rather than a lengthy lecture talking about the components in abstract terms.

Integrating eLearning modules with ILT

While ILT has long been a cornerstone of manufacturing skill development, integrating eLearning modules can further improve your training programs. Here's how:

  • Use a blended learning approach: While eLearning excels at delivering clear, step-by-step procedures and factual information, highly complex concepts or skills requiring in-depth explanation might benefit from a knowledgeable instructor who can answer questions in real-time. A blended approach to eLearning mod can introduce core concepts virtually, followed by instructor-led sessions for deeper dives and hands-on practice.

  • Determine the appropriate mix of ILT and e-learning: Ensure the eLearning modules and instructor-led sessions are aligned and connect seamlessly. Modules can introduce core concepts and foundational knowledge, preparing trainees for the in-person sessions. The face-to-face training can then cover practical applications, using real-world scenarios and collaborative activities to solidify understanding.

  • Provide support and facilitation: Offer ongoing support and facilitation throughout the blended learning program. Instructors can play a key role by monitoring trainee progress within the online modules and identifying areas where additional explanation might be needed. Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) sessions can be used to address specific questions or challenges that arise during self-paced online learning. This ensures everyone has the opportunity to clarify concepts and achieve mastery.

Implementing blended learning to scale manufacturing training

Blended learning combines the best of online training and ILT, so you can educate more of your manufacturing workforce, partners, and suppliers faster and give them the skills they need to succeed. Here are some steps to get you started.

Train instructors and facilitators

The instructor-led training (ILT) sessions should provide practical application for the concepts introduced in the online modules. This ensures a cohesive learning journey for trainees, where the online modules prepare them (and also give them a reference point later) for the practical application of those skills later. Also, encourage instructors to move beyond traditional lecture formats. Train them on techniques that promote active learning.

Address technical and logistical challenges

Manufacturing roles require varying levels of tech skills these days. To ensure everyone feels confident and prepared for your new blended learning program, a quick digital literacy check can help identify areas where we can all sharpen our skills. This isn't a test, but a chance to see what kind of training would be most helpful. Based on the results, we can develop short, targeted modules or workshops to make sure everyone gets the most out of the program.

Manufacturing processes are dynamic, and safety protocols can evolve. To ensure your eLearning modules remain relevant, establish a clear system for updating. It should allow for updates to be made in one place, automatically reflecting those changes across all instances of the module, regardless of location or device. This streamlined approach keeps everyone on the same page and ensures the most current safety information is readily available

Skilljar enables scalable training solutions 

Manufacturing success depends on well-trained distribution partners who understand your products. Skilljar bridges this gap by enabling you to create clear, engaging eLearning modules to ensure consistent product knowledge across your partner network. Subject matter experts, even without coding experience, can easily build modules using Skilljar's intuitive interface. Skilljar's analytics then identify areas where partners might need additional support, allowing you to tailor ILT for maximum impact. Learn how Skilljar turns partners into powerhouse sellers

You may want to check out this case study to learn about how OSIsoft built OSIsoft Learning, a partner education portal that offers a holistic customer learning experience.

Get a Skilljar demo and see how offering eLearning on our platform can supplement instructor-led training and increase manufacturing training scalability.

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