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How to Convert Face-to-Face Training to Virtual Instructor-led Training


When converting face-to-face (F2F) training to virtual instructor-led training (VILT), you must adapt the content to suit a virtual environment. You can’t simply take the PowerPoint from the F2F training, throw it onscreen, and expect the same results. In the virtual environment, learners are more easily fatigued and faced with distractions from home and their desktop. If you don’t account for this, some learners may disengage and start multitasking or searching the internet during the training session. This article will explain how to build an engaging VILT session and avoid the pitfalls of virtual training.

How to Convert Face-to-Face Training to Virtual Instructor-led Training

  • Differences between F2F and VILT

  • Your VILT conversion team

  • VILT design

  • VILT content

  • VILT facilitator guide

  • Practice

  • Maintaining engagement


Differences between F2F and VILT

Before we dive into VILT conversion strategies, it’s helpful to understand the key differences between VILT and F2F training.

  • Session length F2F training can run from one hour to several days, depending on the topic. If you’re converting a long F2F training, it's best to split the content into several VILT sessions – a maximum of two hours each. If this is not feasible, make sure to include a 10 minute break every hour.

  • Level of accountability and engagement In F2F training, the nature of the classroom setting promotes a sense of accountability for learners to pay attention and participate. In VILT, learners may not be visible onscreen, so the facilitator must monitor the participants to make sure they're present and focused. A VILT must be even more engaging than F2F training to contend with learner fatigue, boredom, and distractions. VILT facilitators should engage learners every few minutes with a question or activity.

  • Types of activities F2F training typically consists of presentations, group discussions, team activities, and role plays. Most of these activities can be accomplished in VILT, depending on the features of the conferencing software.

Your VILT conversion team

Ideally, you’ll have three people on your VILT conversion team:

  • Facilitator The VILT facilitator presents the training to learners via video conferencing software. Typically, the F2F classroom facilitator assumes this role, but if the facilitator is not comfortable teaching in a virtual environment, another facilitator or subject matter expert (SME) may be a better fit. Some trainings may use two or more facilitators.

  • Instructional designer The instructional designer restructures the F2F training to suit the virtual environment, ensuring the training is engaging in its new format.

  • Producer The producer provides tech support for the virtual meeting to ensure it runs smoothly (e.g., troubleshooting; managing microphones, chats, polling, breakout rooms, etc.). The producer can also serve as a back-up presenter.

Now, you may be thinking, “My company does not have the budget or resources to put three people on this project. I’ll have to convert and present this myself.” If that’s the case, you’re not alone. It can be done.

VILT design

The instructional designer is best suited to adapt the F2F training to a VILT format. If there is no instructional designer on the team, consider the following when designing your VILT.

  • Which parts of the F2F training are critical? Prioritize the training content – keep the “need to know” information and remove everything else. Then determine if any of the “need to know” material can be repurposed as pre-work or a job aid. The goal is to provide crucial information to learners while minimizing the time spent in virtual training. After you’ve cut out the fluff and repurposed some content, the remaining material will be included in your VILT. If it’s more than two hours, when feasible, split the material into multiple sessions, including time for introductions, activities, and breaks.

  • What are the features of the conference software? Review your conference software features to determine the types of activities you can conduct in a virtual session. Many conference platforms offer screen sharing, chatting, polling, break-out rooms, and whiteboards. With these features, it’s possible to do most group activities conducted in F2F training. If your conference software has limited features, you may need to redesign certain activities to account for these restrictions.

  • Is there a producer on the team? If your team has a producer to handle the technical aspects (managing break-out rooms, chats, etc.), the facilitator can focus on presenting and running the training activities. This is the ideal scenario, making it easier to maximize engagement and use the interactive features of the conference software. If there is no producer, the facilitator must present the material and manage the technology at the same time. This can be challenging logistically, so you may need to simplify some activities, depending on the capabilities of the facilitator.

Let’s look at an example of how F2F training can be converted to a VILT.

F2F sales training

  • 24 participants

  • Duration 6 hours

  • Activities: 1-hour presentation on company products 5 hours of group discussions and team activities

  • Conference software: robust features

  • Team: Producer, facilitator

VILT design (high level)

Pre-work before VILT session 1: Learners review document on company products

VILT session 1: Monday - 2 hours

  • 10 minutes: Introduction, conference interface review

  • 25 minutes: Jeopardy game (based on pre-work on company products)

  • 30 minutes: Team activity 1 (four breakout rooms with whiteboards)

  • 10 minutes: Break

  • 30 minutes: Team activity 2 (same breakout rooms)

  • 15 minutes: Summary / Q&A

Pre-work before VILT session 2: Learners review handouts of activities for next session and prepare ideas for team activities

VILT session 2: Wednesday – 2 hours

  • 7 minutes: Introduction, tech check

  • 3 minutes: Audience poll

  • 40 minutes: Team activity 1 (four breakout rooms with whiteboards)

  • 10 minutes: Break

  • 45 minutes: Team activity 2 (same breakout rooms)

  • 15 minutes: Summary / Q&A

VILT content

Your VILT content should be similar to the F2F training content – just supercharged for engagement.


Does your F2F training have 30 minutes of slides that look like this?

Chances are that many of these slides or even the entire presentation can be repurposed as pre-work. Ideally, you'll keep your presentation time to a minimum and focus more on engaging activities.

Any slides you include in your VILT should be designed in a way more likely to hold your learner's attention.

On every few slides (or where appropriate), add questions, polls, or short activities to engage your learners.

Session activities

The bulk of your VILT should consist of team or class activities. The types of activities you include will be determined by the course content and the capabilities of your conference software. Below are examples of activities you can include in your virtual training.

  • Learning games Games like Jeopardy are a fun way to engage your learners and quiz them on pre-work content. You can build a Jeopardy board in PowerPoint or get really fancy and create one in Storyline that keeps score and has sound effects. Make it your own by customizing the rules and adding virtual prizes.

  • Teach-backs Teach-backs involve assigning material to learners, so they can teach it to the group. This works especially well in long VILT sessions where it's not feasible to split the F2F training over several sessions.

  • Team activities Team activities conducted in F2F training, like case studies and scenarios, work well in VILT if the conference software has the ability to set up breakout rooms and whiteboards.

  • Class activities Class activities in VILT can include group discussions, polls, and brainstorming sessions, depending on the capabilities of the conference software.


Pre-work can take the form of assigned readings or an eLearning course, depending on how much time you have to convert the F2F training.

VILT facilitator guide

The VILT facilitator guide should be a play-by-play of what happens in the training. Every presentation, activity, poll, and question should be planned out along with an estimated timeframe. In some cases, it may be appropriate to write a script. Due to the short timeframe of VILT sessions, there is little room for error or winging it.

Key components of a facilitator guide

VILT checklist

  • Conference software set-up (layouts for screens, break-out rooms, pods, etc.)

  • List of training materials (pre-work, presentations, videos, activities, job aids)

  • Pre-VILT session tasks (email notifications, practice sessions)

  • Post-VILT session tasks (follow-up activities)


  • Interface overview

  • Ice-breakers

  • Training agenda

  • Objectives

Information about presentation(s) and activities

Producer information

  • Technical details related to running the meeting with the conference software.

Here's a snapshot of what a VILT facilitator guide might look like.


Give yourself plenty of time to learn the conference software and rehearse the training before your scheduled VILT session. Make sure you have enough participants in your practice session so you can test the software features (e.g., microphones, chats, polls, breakout rooms, etc). If you are working with a producer, include him/her in the practice session.

During your practice session, note whether any activities run beyond the times estimated in your facilitator guide. If so, make adjustments as necessary.

Maintaining engagement

Since you may not be able to see your learners onscreen, it's important to monitor them periodically to make sure they’re still present and engaged. You can do this by asking questions and launching polls, and checking the response rates. For example, if only 17 of the 20 participants answer a question, this means that three learners are not paying attention.

Handling disengaged participants

If you notice a learner tuning out, try reaching out with a question, “Scott, what do you think is the best approach?” If you don’t receive a response, make note and move on, “I guess Scott stepped away for a moment. Michelle, what do you think?” There may be a legitimate reason for Scott’s absence, so there is no need to dwell on his lack of engagement. You can try him again later in the session. Tips for improving engagement

  • Schedule VILT sessions early in the day (if everyone is in the same time zone)

  • Encourage learners to turn on their videos at the beginning during introductions

  • Set expectations for participation at the beginning of the session

  • Ask questions to the audience and call on specific learners by name

  • Take short stretch breaks

  • Use the producer as a “plant” in the audience to ask questions and volunteer for activities


By incorporating these practices in the virtual environment, you can create a learning experience that rivals a F2F training session.

What are your thoughts on improving engagement in VILT sessions? Please share them in the comments.


Natalie Sikes is an accomplished learning consultant with 20 years of experience developing training programs for corporate, legal, and non-profit organizations. To learn more, visit or email


Today's trivia question

Which president was the wrestling champion of his county at the age of 21?

a. Gerald Ford

b. John F. Kennedy

c. Woodrow Wilson

d. Abraham Lincoln

Answer to last weeks trivia question:

What was the top baby boy name and top baby girl name in the U.S. in 2019?

Boy: Liam Girl: Olivia

190 views2 comments


Natalie Sikes
Natalie Sikes
Oct 18, 2020

Thanks Lisa for your great comment! I'm excited that you want to forward this post to your college!


Lisa Hockey
Lisa Hockey
Oct 18, 2020

These are excellent ideas and very practical. I like the alternatives you provide if the budget or staff does not exist to support an ideal VILT course.

I am currently taking classes, two of which are completely online, two of which are hybrid (and one that is a practicum). I find that I am paying to teach myself the two online courses straight from the textbook, and one of the hybrid courses is as unengaging as it is possible for a course to be. At the conclusion of my semester, I plan to provide the link to this article to my college: while it is not designed for virtual instructor-led college classes, I can see where many of your ide…

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