How to get the most out of virtual training

Live virtual* training courses / workshops have been around for a little while now (and yes, Zoomly offers them). At time of writing, demand has soared, as more employees work from home. People still want and need to learn, develop and grow their skills. Obviously, there are differences between face-to-face and virtual training – yet there are many similarities. If you’re about to participate in work-based training, delivered virtually, how can you make sure you get the most out of the opportunity? Here are my top tips:

Check the objectives

Any training worthy of the name will have clear, behavioural objectives – aims that can be met if the conditions are right. If you’ve signed up for the training, ensure you know what the objectives are and rank them in order of relevance to you and your job. Ask yourself: ‘in what situations will this be most useful to me?’


If you’re not prepared, you won’t arrive ready to get started. If there’s a self-assessment, complete it. If you need to read some articles, read them. If there’s a download you need to have handy, make sure you’ve got it and have read it. Don’t be the person who asks questions that have already been answered. There’s no room to surreptitiously catch up in a virtual workshop; the pace tends to be quicker than face-to-face. Prepare questions that you want answered as a result of the training.

Get organised before the start

Give yourself a 10 -15-minute buffer before the start time, so that you can be present and focused right at the start. Get your kit together: put your phone on silent, plug in a decent headset, check your device settings for audio and check your input/output levels are OK. If you use your desktop / laptop / tablet’s audio, the chances are that all those notification pings and dings, noisy colleagues, or ringing doorbells and barking dogs will be picked up and intrude on everyone’s virtual experience. Have those questions that you want answered to hand; the session may start by asking for them.

Show up

Once you get started, engage with each other via the chat channel, audio or video. Ask questions, share examples, make suggestions for your fellow participants, share resources and recommendations (books, websites, people to follow on social media, etc.). Don’t just let the content wash over you because you can see and hear it: look, listen and take notes to keep your brain alert and aid your memory. MindMaps can be good for capturing the overall themes and specific take-aways. Ask if it’s OK to capture screenshots, as what you’re looking at may be someone’s intellectual property and therefore copyright.

Reflect on what you’ve learned

Once you’ve completed the virtual training it’s time to reflect – as soon after the event as possible, before any learning has leaked away. How will what you’ve learned fit in with your job? What can you apply in the next 24 hours? (leave it any longer and you may lose those valuable insights)? When will you follow up with those shared downloads, book recommendations and other resources that caught your eye? Set some time aside in your calendar.

Make it stick

Some virtual training providers will send a link to a recording of the whole training session; great if you got called away during the event, or if you simply want to replay a part to ensure you’ve grasped the key points. Some recordings can be long; I often playback with speed turned up a bit. Some providers (including this one) have short recap videos that can be very useful. See this post for more tips on making your new learning stick.

*Note: ‘virtual’ in this context is sometimes mistaken for Virtual Reality (VR). Whilst VR is being successfully adopted for certain kinds of training, ‘virtual’ in this case means training delivered synchronously in an online environment. Terms such as ‘digital learning’ and ‘e-learning’ tend to be applied to asynchronous online delivery.

Want to find out more about learning for work? You may find this post useful: ‘Different stages in learning – and what to watch out for’

UPDATE: ‘How To Get The Most Out Of Online Learning’, from the BPS Research Digest is well worth a read. Whilst it focuses on academic learning, many of the tips – such as note-taking – apply for all kinds of digitally-enabled learning.


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’

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Image credits
Learning text sign – @gustavofrazao – Depositphotos
Smiling programmer – @AndrewLozovyi – Depositphotos
Woman in headphones – @EdZbarzhyvetsky – Depositphotos
Laptop & uk flag @ AndrewLozovyi – Depositphotos

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