ILT is turning WBT in2 ILT online – its not working

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I’m tired of hearing the excuses. I’m tired of hearing that because people do not have an instructional design background nor training background, it is acceptable to create linear courses online.

I’m tired of people generating all types of reasons for not building engaging e-learning content.  I’m tired of seeing PowerPoint with an audio or video clip spun as a sound WBT course.

It’s not.

A story

When I entered e-learning, I did not have an instructional design, e-learning developer nor instructional technology background. I did not come from a training background. I did not take courses in education nor graduate with a degree in education.

I had journalism degrees. I never thought about being a teacher an educator. If it was not for the recession in 1991 (when I came out of grad school), I would probably being working for a marketing firm in New York City.

Yet, it didn’t happen.

I taught at the high school level for five years, at an inner city then affluent school. I jumped to the university level to teach full time as a faculty member. I received an e-learning grant and was doing research on online learning, pricing and how colleges and universities could achieve success.

After a period of time, I decided to jump to the corporate level as a training manager. I had no training experience, no training background. Nothing. I believed that anything was possible – you just had to spend the time to learn it.

I knew effective learning, scenario based learning a result of teaching at the inner city level and having the kids inspired to learn in an engaging and interactive process.

I followed the same approach at the corporate level. I spent hours learning everything I could on instructional design.

Success followed.

Fast Forward

A couple of years, I needed extra staff to build WBT courses for our employees and customers.  I did not have the budget to hire the additional resources. I turned to my executive assistant, who knew nothing about training, instructional design and e-learning. 

At the age of 62 with a high school education, with limited technical skills, she would appear to be the last person you would think could create sound interactive online courses.

How did she achieve success?

She went online and read everything she could find about creating online courses. She wanted to learn. She downloaded free trials of rapid content authoring tools, to find the right one for her, that would achieve our objectives.

What’s the point?

She was like many of you out there today. Doing something completely different and then being asked to create online courses, to jump into e-learning.  Yet, still having to do the job you were hired to do, when you came to the business.

What does it prove?

You can achieve success without any formal training or design background. Statements as “I can’t do it”, “I don’t have time”, “I have no technical background”, “This isn’t my job”,  are excuses.

If you think about, how many of these statements apply to people who take online courses. I hear it all the time.

When people start taking the online courses, their whole attitude changes. They enjoy the ability to jump around, to not having to follow a linear path, to learn on their own time, when they want and as often as they want.

They all were use to the ILT approach. Some of them, had experienced awful online courses. Page turners, static, boring courses.

They assumed that WBT, was like ILT but just online. 

Why? Because in their past, someone had followed that mantra and create courses based on ILT principles.

The new learners thought all content was like that. They assumed that someone taking pages of documents and shoving them online or using pure PowerPoint with bullet points was online content.

It was far from it. It was ILT.

ILT – the evil empire

ILT serves some purposes. I’ll admit that. It can be effective if done right. However, how often have attended an instructor led training class that bored you to tears? How often have you spent your time, looking on your smartphone, texting folks, reading your email on your laptop and doing something else, rather than paying attention.

How often have you entered the classroom or seminar room and immediately bolted to the back of the room, even though there are plenty of seats in the front?

When you attend a seminar at a conference, how many of you try to find seats that are closest to the door?

If this is happening at a conference event, where you paid to attend why would you believe that taking the same ILT approach would be acceptable to create online training courses?

Why would you assume that shoving a PowerPoint online with an audio clip, a video clip, which you see often in ILT, especially at conference seminars, would be fine?

If you were bored and not paying attention at your seminar, why would you think that others taking the online course, wouldn’t feel the same way?

For many people, they do not think that way. They figure that following the ILT approach and shoving it online, under the guise of a WBT course is an effective way to learn.

They are forgetting the number one adult learning rule – WIFM. What is in it for me?

Adult learners seek this all the time in training.

Who is to blame?

I would love to say that no one is to blame, but that just isn’t true.

  • Books that state PowerPoint can be a successful online
  • Outdated books on WBT – from 1999-2006 that people read and assume this is effective online course building – while it provides some foundation, new approaches, stronger design techniques are showing greater effectiveness then what was available in the past
  • A few rapid content authoring tool vendors who pitch that taking a Microsoft Word document and changing it to flash is effective learning
  • Books, presentations, blogs that state follow the PPT mantra
  • Books, presentations – heck even webinars, blogs that push and talk about theory
  • Instructors whether via education or business who just take the easy way out and follow a linear methodology and who have never offered real world scenarios, role playing in their own classes, seminars or presentations
  • Antiquated classroom learning that starts at elementary school all the way through college
  • Synchronous based learning, which follows the ILT approach but adds discussion boards, so that makes it okay
  • Instructors who believe online learning is just like classroom learning, who just don’t get it
  • People who do not want to spend the time searching online to  learn how to create engaging and interactive WBT, who do not want to spend the time reading an ebook or going to library or asking folks via social media on how to do this or that

Bottom Line

We pitch to our attendees, our students, our learners the importance of knowledge. Understanding it, comprehending it, synthesizing it and taking it to the next level. We implore learning as an effective means to achieve success. We constantly remind folks on the advantages of acquiring new skills, new approaches and the importance of change.

We fail to do it ourselves. 

I’m tired of the excuses.

E-Learning 24/7



  1. LOL, what I felt started as just another e-learning blog “rank” that almost always gets deleted – actually made a lot of sense to me as a leader in the online corporate learning field.

    Craig summarized the exasperated thoughts that have floated in my head during many online course project planning meetings with “so called experts” and articulated them (much more graciously than I might) in just one post. Good job… if anything you made me laugh today with your closing line “I’m tired of excuses”. Hear hear! Derek

  2. YES! So my search is for an effective authoring tool and a great LMS with e-commerce capability on which to build and house highly effective learner centered web based training. Any answers?

  3. I don’t agree that ILT is typically a bunch of boring PowerPoints. If it is, those instructors should go home and not teach.

    How about some positive ideas for what you think WBT should comprise?

    1. Actually what I was saying is that as a result of an ILT background in ref. to the corporate space, WBT has turned into PowerPoint.

      For successful WBT, I’ve written multiple posts on the subject, which in nutshell says it should be interactive and engaging. In 2002, I had a WBT course whereas the learner had to deal with an angry customer. Based on selections, their character on the screen did x or y, and then the other character responded accordingly. It utilized adaptive learning, and enabled the learner to utilize what they learned in each module of the course, which offered a mentor along the way.

      It was ADA 508 compliant, non-linear, and instead of assessments, had real life scenarios as practice sessions at the end of each module.

      The final module was one big scenario. If a person was to take the course in a linear fashion, it could be completed in 50min, with four modules, each which could stand on their own.

      As a former educator, I know full well about successful ILT in the classroom, and as former director of training, the same thing at the corporate space.

      I’m not deriding educators nor trainers with ILT, what I’m pointing to is that people should take the time to learn how to create effective WBT, rather then following the mantra of seeing it as an instructor led approach, which is LINEAR rather then what WBT’s power, which is non-linear. Yes, u can make PPT courses non-linear, but u need to see understand that people in general what courses that apply to them and the real world. Rather then bullets on PPT or a vid clip with someone talking. Honestly, how engaging is that?

  4. I think Andy raises a good point. Bad WBT has not happened directly because of the people who have comeover from an ILT background. The same basic elements that contribute to any good training and learning apply to ILT and WBT. As you mention WIIFM is one of the elements. Actually worse for WBT (or to be more precise from my experience , e-learning) is the number or practitioners coming into it with no training or instructional design background. People for example who may have tools and application expertise, who are then asked to develop some pieces, and then decide to put “instructional designer” on their resume.
    WBT is not inherently non-linear, it is made so by the designer.

    1. Actually, in its original premise, WBT strength is that you can create it to be non-linear. I’m talking about asynchronous courses, not synchronous – which are in themselves linear. The distinction should be noted.

      WBT – key elements for asynchronous learning
      *Access anytime, anywhere, and as often as you want
      = Non-linear. While it is true that people could create linear courses and did years ago, the fact is that “non-linear” is the strength of asynchronous based learning and even 3rd party content off the shelf follows that exact premise. Sure, you can create linear courses if you so choose and people do/did – especially with compliance training, it does not mean that it is the most effective route.

      The whole idea that I do not have to start at the beginning, as I do in ILT or in reading a book, is a key strength to sound asynchronous based learning. If I want to learn about labels, they why should I have to start on how to open a file? I don’t and the reason why? WBT.

      Since I started in the industry in the late 90’s, when true online learning – thus WBT was appearing, the whole premise was behind non-linear within an asynchronous based learning environment. If you look at Authorware or Toolback in 2000 – they were designed to maximize course authoring, with a TOC and drill down subjects – the whole purpose behind that – was the ability to jump around anywhere in the course. Could people go from A to Z in a linear fashion? Absolutely. At the end of the day it is up to the learner to decide how they want to learn inc. their own pace, etc. But- and this is the key – the course was designed to execute the premise of asynchronous based learning – which includes non-linear.

      In reference to the article, it is known that more and more people are coming from either no e-learning background (which is the vast, and totally cool) and that people are coming from an ILT world or as trainers in the classsroom (Corporate side on both fronts). Nothing wrong with that, but there are products out there that do not offer the learner an opportunity to choose between the A to Z approach and the A to D to B to X – “non-linear” approach. I say let the learners decide, not the author – give them the choice, rather then create a linear course in the same manner as you would training someone in a corporate seminar or at a presentation.

      Appreciate the comments..good stuff.

  5. Interesting and really struck a cord. the “I can’t do it”, “I don’t have time”, “I have no technical background”, “This isn’t my job”, is a fair observation and will only be solved by a change of culture in learning in terms of the realisation of the end product impact. Breaking the strangle hold of ILT/PPT mediocraty will take some doing and your final summation really hits the nail on the head. From my own perspective I would like to add to your statement list “I don’t want to fail” with which I would answer, what have you got to lose. Dave in the UK

  6. @Craig, as a whole, I agree with what you are saying. I think that to create compelling content for online learning one needs to stop thinking like a trainer/teacher, and start thinking like an animator or TV show producer. The latter frame of mind really promotes the visual and contextual input of the course, not just the textual, thus creating engaging interactions.
    I disagree, however, with your remarks about PowerPoint. It is still a good way to build courses, but – linking back to the above, one needs to stop thinking “slide with bullet points” and start thinking “let’s create an animation sequence that will illustrate that point”, and “heck, let’s make it funny”.

    @Dave, @David – very good points. None of these are excuses, but certainly in a corporate environment, content development is restricted by time and budget and most people think that they can’t create quality, engaging courses in 3 days. But they can. They just need to think differently. (easier said than done…)

  7. ILT and WBT both have a common core: The instructor/designer. Having a dynamic instructor in ILT can captivate (no pun intended) an audience. A well written WBT has the same effect.

    Too many times, budget comes up and upper management orders for the most simple fastest way of creating “training” which eliminates any sort of simulation or animation.

  8. What is–alas–always missing from polemics of this type is consideration of the cost/benefit equation. By cost I mean primarily the designer’s time. More interactivity and images translates into more time and thus into fewer slides per hour. When the need for content–immediately–is very high, slides that can be created very quickly generally offer the most benefit for the cost.

  9. Yes, a lot of activities are going on to convert talking PPT (ILT) into WBT. Very inspiring and bold article.

  10. In our institution, we teach music production using modern techniques and software hacks. Our programs are ILT. Majority of our students took WBT courses from other institutions. They felt it wasnt enough and now looking for an ILT alternatives. This could be due to inadequate instructional design and lack of interactivity between instructors and students (LMS constraints?). However, could subjects which are artistic in nature only be taught ILT?

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