Interaction: The First Step to Making Virtual Training as Good as Face-to-Face Training

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How do we make virtual training as good as face-to-face training? It’s a question that troubles many learning professionals every day.

Many learners see virtual training as inferior to the face-to-face learning experience. Yes, it is different, but it can be just as good, if not better, more interactive, and more engaging!

There are five steps to ensuring that our virtual training events are every bit as effective as our face-to-face ones. In this series of five blog posts, I will look at each of these steps in turn. Let’s start by focusing on the first, and most critical, element of great virtual classroom design: interaction.

Why do we need interaction? It’s not only vital in keeping and maintaining your audience’s attention and focus; learners are also much more likely to have a beneficial learning experience if they are involved in the learning.


Unfortunately, we have all probably been in a virtual training session that is not highly interactive, one that affords us the opportunity to hide behind the bandwidth and attend to other tasks. Often we hear of organizations that have selected a virtual platform to deliver training virtually, such as Adobe Connect, WebEx Training Center, or Citrix GoToTraining. They expect that their virtual training programs will be interactive because the platform supports interaction—but interaction doesn’t just happen. You need to design it.

In the virtual classroom, we should think of interaction taking place in three different ways:

  • Between faculty and learner: This is the most obvious and often used way of interacting in the virtual platform. The facilitator interacts verbally with learners by asking questions and listening to their experiences, thoughts, and opinions.
  • Between the learners themselves: Have learners collaborate and work together. Ask them to build upon learners’ comments, break into small group activities (as we do in face-to-face training), and present back.
  • Between the learner and the platform tools: There are many ways to get audiences interacting with the platform tools. Ask learners to share thoughts and opinions in chat, annotate on whiteboards, or use “raise hand” and other feedback icons.

    If we pull all these different ways to interact together, the training session is going to be lively, interactive, and engaging. Learners will be less likely to multitask, and they will learn more.

    Want to learn more? Join me at the ATD 2017 India Summit in Mumbai on January 17, 2017, or Bangalore on January 19, 2017. Check out the October 2016 issue of TD at Work, “6 Steps to Moving Your Training Online.” And stay tuned for the next four steps in future blog posts.

About the Author

David Smith is a skilled facilitator and organization development consultant.  He has over 25 years of solid business experience and takes great enjoyment and pride in helping private, public sector, and not-for-profit organizations implement training and development initiatives that produce results.

His passion is the transfer of learning, one of his favorite quotations being “Knowing is not enough we must apply, willing is not enough, we must do!” - Goethe 

His ability to craft engaging and interactive training sessions has been his mainstay and his passion for learning is evident in any engagement that he undertakes with his many global clients. 

David is a certified virtual classroom facilitator and instructional designer and regularly speaks at global conferences and training events on the subject of live online learning and how organizations can leverage the learning technologies of today.  One of his greatest achievements was leading a group of 18 multilingual European facilitators in delivering sales training to a group of 10,000 account managers and 2,500 business managers over a 3-month period using WebEx Training Center.

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