Train The Trainer

Online Training

The Rise of Online Training

Who’d have thought that doing training online would become such a widespread activity?  We did for a start!  However, we did not foresee that online training would take off to such an extent because of a pandemic.  In this blog we give some hints and tips on how to run online training sessions, and indeed how to manage online discussions etc.  We hope that these online training insights from our past happier times of training will help you in your future roles in an ever more online world.

Hints and Tips

Online Training should be participant-centred and interactive with activities that promote engagement and involvement.  It is not a presentation with lots of slides and someone talking at the participants.  It should avoid long periods of time where the participant has to look at a screen and just listen.  The difficulty is how to integrate all the participant interaction with each other in addition to the trainer, as well as the hands-on activities and exercises.  Here are some of the things to take into consideration.

Body Language

An existing face to face course gives the trainer all the opportunities to read body language and respond quickly to any non-verbal signals that any participant gives.  Just walking around a room or glancing around gives the trainer ample opportunity to step in and assist or give additional information presented in a different way to help participants grasp the concepts.  When you are delivering a course using technology and you have only a face visible not a whole body, you are less likely to spot the hidden cries for help.

Also as you are probably presenting using a webcam, your facial expression and gaze will appear to be wandering and not as focused on the participants.  You are no longer looking directly at them via the webcam, but at possibly another monitor to see their responses.  Although you may be happy running the face to face course on your own, it is advisable to have another person who can assist you with watching the participants and looking out for the questions or comments received in a chat window.  This is recommended for at least for the first few deliveries of the course online.

Depending on the technology and software used to deliver online training, you may have chat, questions and answers panels and symbols that indicate slow down or speed up, or just requests for a quick break.  This is a lot to manage when you are used to a classroom environment with physical bodies present, where you can adapt you tone, your stance and your movement to meet the needs of your audience more thoroughly.

Also bear in mind that your audience may not be in a meeting room at the office where all distractions are the other side of a closed door.  At home there may not be the physical space to be shut away from partners and family, so a little tolerance by the trainer and the learner/participant is necessary, as is the discipline to concentrate on what is going on via the screen and not what is happening in the kitchen!


The transition from a face to face course to an online course does not stop at the delivery techniques that you need to adapt to.  The course itself has to be thoroughly re-thought.  For example, you may use an ice-breaker at the start of the course to allow each participant to introduce themselves and their own objectives for attending.  Other ice-breakers in the form of games or quizzes may be used throughout the course to introduce a new topic or provide an informal, fun way of testing and reinforcing the learning.  In a face to face environment this can involve far more movement and use of the room, giving the participants a chance to stretch their legs as well as their minds!  The possibilities of mobility are restricted in an online environment and the course design (or re-design) has to take into account that it is more tiring for the participants to look at a screen and sit in the same place for any length of time – the same applies to the trainer too.  Unless your participants know each other, be prepared for less interaction and bonding between them than you would get in a face to face situation.


We use technologies such as Skype, Twitter, Zoom and Facebook to communicate with friends and family, and virtual meetings, videoconferencing and the like to communicate with clients and colleagues.  When designing a course that is to be run online, we need to consider the device that the participants will be using to join the session.  One of the benefits of virtual instructor led training is that the participants can join anywhere, on any device, such as a laptop, iPad or Smartphone.  The ability to have the sound and vision on these devices is a bonus, but often there are limitations.  Consider carefully what your delivery technology and software is capable of.  Ensure that you configure it to appeal to your audience and the device they will be using.  In an organisation there should be someone available to help you with how the network and infrastructure is set up and the types of devices issued to each person.  Ensure that you pilot your course using the various devices so that you can understand what the participants are able to see or not.  It is not only what they can see, but what they can use, for example the chat or ‘hands up’ icons, emoticons, etc.

Finally, all training should be enjoyable and relaxed, including virtual online sessions.  Try to talk naturally even though you can’t always see your participants.  Do not talk for too long without some form of interaction, question and response exercise, breakout session or assignment.  If you do, then you might as well have pre-recorded that session or done a webinar.  Variety and interaction are the keys to your goal.


Part of the adaptation has to start with us as learning professionals.  We need to develop new skills as we design and deliver training to a virtually invisible audience because virtual classrooms are not just plug and play. There’s a separate skill set for designing and delivering engaging, effective instructions in a virtual classroom.

In a recent webinar, several hundred practitioners were asked about their online training skills:

  • 15% had received some formal training
  • 30% had developed their knowledge and experience through trial and error
  • 33% planned on doing formal upskilling for the virtual classroom

Activities in the Online Classroom

  • Facilitator Led Brainstorm – Use the chat tool, ask learners to suggest ideas, which you can then summarise and debrief. Alternatively, invite learners to write their ideas directly onto the virtual whiteboard.
  • Case StudiesPrepare a case study with detailed instructions, making them available in the virtual breakout room. Assign learners to the various breakouts and invite them to collaborate on working through the case study. Then, bring the group back together and invite representatives from each group to present their solutions verbally.
  • QuizzesDevelop a series of questions with multiple-choice or yes-or-no questions and create a series of polls, which you can run. Share the results with participants and then go through the correct answers.
  • Group DiscussionProvide a discussion question and show it on the screen or in the chat space. Invite participants to share ideas using chat or by raising their hand and speaking verbally.
  • Group PresentationsGive each group of learners a task (the same one or different ones), provide separate instructions and expected outcomes. Assign participants to the breakout rooms and invite them to use the different tools to complete the task or prepare a presentation to share with the rest of the group.

If you need more help we have a course – How to Deliver Training Online.

12 Oct 2020

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