Why LMSs Are Not Built to Manage Instructor-Led Training—And What to Do About It

Instructor-led training and e-learning have fundamental differences: Learning technologies should address them for optimal management.

Learning management systems (LMSs) have been around for nearly 30 years, and nearly every organization has one—or more—to manage their training and learning functions. But the truth is, LMSs were never designed to manage instructor-led training (ILT)—and ILT is likely one of your biggest training investments (representing 70 percent of training, according to Brandon Hall).

So why do LMSs struggle to manage ILT, and what you can do about it?  

Understanding ILT Processes

ILT is fundamentally different from e-learning: It involves more complex back-office processes and a wider range of resources, and as a result, tends to be more costly. One question is crucial in understanding why LMSs fall short in ILT management: What’s most important to you in managing ILT?

A successful ILT program generally hinges on the achievement of three core goals:

  1. Streamlining logistics, scheduling, and administration: Rationalizing back-office processes has a tangible impact on efficiency—every rescheduled session, and hour spent on low-value added tasks, represents a cost and time loss you could avoid.
  2. Managing resources: One reason ILT tends to be costly is that instructors’ time, traveling costs, and classroom capacities are not properly managed. While resource utilization rates generally hover around 50 or 60 percent, efficient organizations should aim for 75 percent.
  3. Optimizing the budget: Budget optimization is the No. 1 challenge when managing ILT, because ILT involves a wider range of processes and resources than e-learning. Appropriate software should help proactively track costs and align the budget with your strategy.

Why do LMSs fall short in addressing logistics, administrative, and financial challenges?

Back to basics—how do LMSs handle ILT? They generally include the following features:

  • Scheduling sessions
  • Managing registrations
  • Downloading supporting material
  • Creating completion records
  • Tracking test scores

These features, while helpful, are not optimal in addressing the core ILT goals for four main reasons:

1.               Different Challenges

ILT and e-learning have different strengths and challenges: ILT’s main strength is its effectiveness (56 percent of organizations find ILT very effective vs. 21 percent for e-learning, according to Brandon Hall Group), and its main weakness is lower cost efficiency. E-learning’s main strength is its low cost and flexibility, and its main challenge is delivering engaging, effective training. Considering these radically different challenges, it isn’t surprising that the technologies to address them should be different.

2.               The E-Learning Mindset

The LMS initially is designed to optimize the delivery of online learning, which is why many of the features listed above, such as test score tracking and downloading documents, make sense as extensions of e-learning features. So even if an LMS offers some tweaks to manage ILT, its expertise will remain on the delivery rather than the organizational side. Features such as resource management and cost tracking, which are the core of ILT management, will come as peripheral features, if included at all.

3.               Optimized for Front-Office Interaction, Not Back-Office

The unifying theme in LMS features is the focus on front-office interaction with learners—student self-registration, downloading material… These features are not centered on your administrators’ needs. When managing ILT, you want to be thinking about collaboration within your training teams. Visualizing available instructors and resources? Instantly updating training schedules? Accessing session costs in real time? These are all things LMSs are not built to facilitate.

4.               Learner-Centric, Not Session-Centric

From a technical point of view, LMS software uses the learner as a building block, not the session. This is not optimal for ILT for which the business logic is driven by the training session. An example is cost distribution: An LMS consolidates cost per learner to define session costs. However most ILT costs are fixed regardless of the number of learners: room reservation, instructor fee, etc. This is why LMSs struggle to provide accurate cost tracking. It also means LMSs have a hard time planning future investments for which learners are not yet identified by name.

How Can You Optimize ILT?

  1. Focus on relevant processes that drive ILT efficiency.
  • Maximize resources: Have a clear repository of all your resources and keep track of occupancy rates to optimize session financial efficiency.
  • Rationalize logistics: Plan steps that must happen before, during, and after each training session; communicate which team should be responsible for each step; and track task completion.
  • Track costs: Consolidating accurate data is capital for budget optimization. This can only be done by tracking investments across different business units, countries, and currencies.
  • Create a proactive training plan and monitor progress: Use precise forecasts of training volume and costs to plan long-term, and track improvement of key performance indicators (KPIs) year after year.
  • Improve collaboration and data-sharing: Get rid of spreadsheets and encourage collaborative tools to ensure logistics, scheduling, and financial processes integrate seamlessly.
  1. Fit technology to your learning mix.

Technology should fit your learning delivery, which should fit your goals—highest effectiveness, lowest cost, flexibility?—and type of training. The key is to get a good understanding of available technologies:

  • Home-grown systems provide a system tailored to your needs, but take a lot of time and resources to put in place and are hard to maintain.
  • LMSs are specialized in e-learning management.
  • Training Resource Management Systems are specialized in ILT management.

As much as we’d like to believe it, “one-size-fits-all” training software does not exist yet. ILT is not e-learning, and cannot be optimally managed with the same tools. There are many ways to create an efficient learning technology environment: All of them involve understanding the core differences between each training delivery method.

Stéphan Pineau is CEO at Training Orchestra, a leader in Training Resource Management Systems, which provides an integrated full Web solution dedicated to the entire training ecosystem: Training departments, corporate universities, extended enterprises, and training companies. Covering the whole training process, including finance, logistics, administration, sales, and portal, Training Orchestra has proven its efficiency with more than 300 satisfied clients, 1.5 million users, and $1.5 billion of training budgets managed. Pineau can be contacted via e-mail at: s.pineau@training-orchestra.com