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ATD Blog

Ask a Trainer: Developing a Virtual Learning Support System

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Ask a Trainer is introducing guest posts where a talent development expert weighs in on a problem that trainers are facing. In this week’s post, Connie Malamed tackles how to reinforce virtual learning.

Dear Connie,

I am a trainer who usually facilitates in-person trainings for my organization, but I’ve been delivering virtual training since the coronavirus crisis started. It’s mostly going well, but I’m concerned that I’m not able to provide an in-person support network for my learners like I usually do. I’m familiar with the research showing that training can’t be a one-and-done situation; learners need ongoing support to develop long-term capabilities. Under normal circumstances I hold in-person follow-up sessions where they can practice the skills they learned during a training, but I don’t know how to replicate that virtually. Do you have any suggestions for how I can help reinforce learning and create a support network for my learners even though we’re all remote right now?

That's a great question. At the moment I think a lot of people are putting together their virtual trainings quickly. While speed is important, it’s also important not to throw away strong instructional design. Focus on what people need to do to build their skills and to improve performance at work.

One way to support learners and reinforce learning would be to offer a form of blended learning with a live virtual training and an asynchronous e-learning component. You could use e-learning to help learners practice what to do in a certain situation—for example, you can play a recording of an irate customer, ask learners to identify the best way to respond, and provide feedback throughout. Then a live virtual training would offer an opportunity for learners to discuss their responses to the scenarios from the e-learning and how they responded. A blended approach is helpful because you're using different modalities and people are getting information through audio, video, and visuals.

Another way to support learners is by having office hours or times when learners can get together to discuss what's going on. There's a lot of research that says that spaced practice is helpful, so perhaps a week or so after the live virtual training, people should have an opportunity to practice. There is a lot to be said about getting back together, regrouping, and having discussions because people often need to try something before they know what questions to ask.


You can also work on getting managers to help support their learners. Ideally, managers will not only leave time for people to attend training but also support people at work by finding out how they're doing and what they need help with. Getting managers to support a continuous learning environment and a learning culture can go a long way with helping people build their long-term competencies.

Check out more tips for delivering engaging online and virtual learning from Connie on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. Her episode will air on April 22, 2020. She'll also be speaking visual design at the upcoming ATD Virtual Conference.


If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub. Tim will be back next week to tackle a new question.

We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Connie Malamed teaches instructional design skills at the Mastering Instructional Design community. She is a consultant, author and speaker in the fields of online learning and visual communication. Connie is the author of two books—Visual Design Solutions and Visual Language for Designers. She also publishes The eLearning Coach website and podcast. She was honored with the Guild Master award in 2018 for contributions to the learning technologies industry.

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Also agree that this was a very helpful response. Comprehensive and very actionable. Thanks!
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