What I’ve Learned Since Pivoting to Virtual Learning Delivery

L& D Mastermind - Virtual Learning

2020, the year L&D moved to virtual learning delivery faster than you can say ‘control the virus, stay alert, save lives’.

Although a challenging year it also was a year of opportunity. The opportunity to transition to a new learning method. Virtual delivery became our only choice, and as the curious learning professionals we are, we jumped straight in.

Of course, I was curious too, having never delivered fully in this format. I’ve learned a lot about virtual learning and wanted to share this, plus my virtual learning top tips with you, the L&D Mastermind Community.

5 reflections since pivoting to virtual learning delivery

1. Activities take longer than planned

Activities, discussions, breakout rooms… you name it, it all takes longer. The first breakout room I hosted I’d only left 10 minutes for the activity, I soon realised by the time the group transitioned to the room, got acquainted and discussed the activity their time was up!

I’d had big ideas early on about jumping between breakout rooms with lots of activity and this is possible, but it will eat into a lot of your time. So, think about the mix of activities and combine that with best use of time.

Top Tip: Always allow more time than you think whilst lesson planning.

2. Keep it short and sweet

When we’re spending most of our time attached to a laptop screen, the last thing we need is hours stuck to it for training too. Half day classroom sessions don’t work the same online. It’s not great for engagement or personal comfort.

Bob Pike – recommends following a 90/20/4 rule for virtual training. For maximum engagement Pike suggests learning should last no longer than 90 minutes, the pace should change every 20 minutes and there should be interaction every 4 minutes.

As a rule of thumb, I think this is a good principle to stick to. If you’ve got more than 90 minutes of content, think about splitting it into multiple sessions.

Top Tip: Keep sessions to 90 minutes for maximum engagement. 

3. Interactivity is key

As per Pike’s theory mentioned in the previous point, the aim is for interactivity every 4 minutes. You might be thinking every four minutes is a tall order, but honestly. It’s not.

Interactivity can be as quick as asking the group to give a thumbs up, post an emoji in the chat and use polls, or as large as a move into breakout rooms or using interactive whiteboards.

An early indicator for me that a session is going well, and the group is engaged is when cross discussions take place in the chat between participants on the learning point(s) without prompt by me.

Top Tip: Interactivity is SO important and needs to be far more regular than in the classroom.

4. It’s easier to hide

Another experience from virtual delivery is with those who don’t participate. It’s easier for learners to hide in large groups and not interact. To ensure everyone is involved in the session keep an eye on who’s there and bring them into the discussion by asking “XXX what’s your thoughts?”.

My other recommendation is to consider group size, the bigger the group the easier it is to hide. If you want to maximise group engagement and participation then keep the group sizes smaller, I’d say no more than 12 but this will differ depending on your activities.

Top tip: Keep an eye on the group sizes and bring in those who aren’t engaging.

5. Don’t assume everyone will know how to use the technology

My final reflection on the transition to virtual learning is to not assume everyone knows how to use the technology. Even after months of online virtual delivery it can still be new to some.

In face to face learning we’d typically include housekeeping, so use this at the start of virtual learning too. Explain to the group how to participate i.e. chat, polls, or any other systems you’re using throughout.

Top Tip: Keep your digital housekeeping short but sweet and explain clearly how to use the tech at hand.


Although born from necessity I believe virtual delivery is here to stay. Those are my 5 reflections; I’d be keen to hear what experiences you’ve had. Share your views in the L&D Mastermind community.

Sophia Grainger is part of the L&D Mastermind team and owner of the learning and development blog development professionals. Visit her blog for L&D tips, tricks and toolkits.

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