Instructional Design Strategies for Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT)

Virtual instructor-led training or VILT is exactly what it sounds like. Training led by an instructor in a virtual space. At The Instructional Design Company we design all types of training, including instructor-led courses (more info on those here). But we love the VILT format because it offers the convenience of online learning with the support of a live trainer.


What is VILT?

VILT is live, synchronous learning where both the learner and instructor are present simultaneously. However, in this case, the “same place” refers to a virtual environment. When designing for this virtual environment, we must consider the unique challenges it presents. Unlike in a traditional instructor-led setting, we can’t rely on physical cues like body language or eye contact to gauge engagement.

Adapting to this new dynamic requires thoughtful consideration and innovative approaches.

Facilitating VILT

The most critical factor in a successful virtual learning experience is the instructor. They must ensure that learners stay motivated and engaged using their facilitation style, technology, and well designed instructional materials.

In a virtual instructor-led environment, we utilize tools such as Zoom or Teams, which offer engagement features. However, these tools often have limitations in their capabilities. While we do have the option for some immediate feedback, the methods for obtaining feedback are also restricted.

We may ask participants to share their thoughts in the chat, use emojis, raise their hands, or conduct polls to gather their input. However, this differs from having a dialogue where we can directly address individuals and seek their opinions. In addition, managing distractions becomes more challenging in a virtual instructor-led setting. We may be unaware of these distractions since participants may not have their cameras turned. We can’t always tell if our learners are paying attention or if they are distracted by other tasks, such as checking emails.

This means, our virtual facilitators might be competing with various distractions that pull participants’ attention away from the learning experience.


Engaging Virtual Participants

Engaging participants in a virtual environment necessitates the use of creative instructional design strategies. While we may have fewer options compared to in-person training, we are continuously exploring innovative approaches.

Throughout the past year, I have witnessed the emergence of new and exciting methods, and I eagerly anticipate discovering even more inventive ways to enhance engagement. Now, you may wonder why I am discussing facilitation when our focus is on instructional design.

Let’s take a moment to address this.

As an instructional designer, you are responsible for crafting experiences for facilitators who will lead these sessions. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how to effectively design this learning experience.

Webinars vs VILT Experiences

Webinars and virtual instructor-led learning experiences may seem similar, but they have distinct differences. In a webinar, it is common to have large groups, ranging from 50 to 500 or even a thousand attendees, depending on the platform’s capacity.

Typically, webinars involve one-way interaction, where the instructor or facilitator primarily shares information. While some engagement may occur through chat, it is often challenging for them to address every message due to the volume.

Webinars may cover a broad range of topics or focus on a specific subject, but the level of interaction and engagement varies. Although there are tools available to track participant engagement, the primary goal is not always to maximize engagement.

The purpose and format of a webinar play a significant role in shaping its dynamics, which often resemble a lecture or informational session.

In a virtual instructor-led setting, there is a sense of intimacy and coziness. We gather on platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, where we can see and hear each other. We can engage through chat, ask questions, and even raise our hands to interact. It’s a different, cozier, and more intimate experience compared to traditional instructor-led sessions. Virtual instructor-led sessions often focus on specific topics or skills. Participants engage in discussions, sometimes in breakout rooms, fostering connections among themselves, the instructor, and the content.

Common Causes of Ineffective VILT Experiences

Now, let’s discuss some common causes of ineffective virtual instructor-led training.

Failure to Adapt Content

One major pitfall is attempting to directly transplant an instructor-led learning experience into a virtual setting without proper adaptation.

In a virtual setting, the classroom experience differs significantly.

Adapting to this space requires thoughtful redesign. Consider what engagement looks like, the level of interaction needed, and the pace required to keep virtual learners engaged.


Lack of Interaction

Another challenge is the lack of interaction with learners, a common cause of ineffective virtual training sessions. Merely delivering a lecture without thought-provoking questions or engaging activities can lead to boredom and distraction.

It’s important to remember that the human brain processes information faster than someone can speak. Finding ways to actively involve learners is crucial.

As instructional designers, we strike a balance between delivering information and actively engaging participants. We must gauge how much content individuals can absorb before requiring interactive elements.


Technology Issues

Another reason why virtual instructor-led sessions can be ineffective is due to technology issues. For example, during our last ID Accelerator Summit, we had the privilege of hearing from Marissa Leman, a certified career coach and resume expert who works with our students in our Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program.

As she began speaking, her microphone started to produce garbled sounds, making it extremely difficult to hear her. Despite our patience and hopes for improvement, the audio quality remained poor, leading to disengagement and frustration among participants.

We ultimately had to interrupt the Summit and have Marissa switch out her headset and microphone to ensure that the participants could hear her and actively engage in the session.

Undoubtedly, technology issues like these can significantly impact the overall learning experience.


Poor Visuals

The final example is ineffective visuals. When we refer to ineffective visuals, we are often talking about slides where there is an excessive amount of information displayed on the screen.

Excessive amounts of information can result in cognitive overload. When a bunch of information is displayed at once, it can be overwhelming.

The sheer volume of information can lead to learner shutdown. If you’re designing slides for VILT, check out these best practices for slide design.

Tips to Enhance the Design of VILT

Now, let’s explore some valuable tips for enhancing the design of virtual instructor-led training.

Tip #1

Tip number one is to encourage learners to activate their learning prior to the session. This can be done in a few ways. Often, sending out an email before the session can be effective. For example, “Join us on Wednesday, April 12th, for a session on virtual instructor-led training. Here’s what you’ll be learning.”

By providing this information, you ignite curiosity and anticipation.

Alternatively, you can ask a question such as, “What topics would you find beneficial to learn about virtual instructor-led training?”

To engage participants and stimulate their thoughts prior to the session, consider posing thought-provoking questions. These questions can serve as prompts to encourage reflection and anticipation.

Tip #2

Tip number two is all about promoting high interaction in a virtual instructor-led setting. It’s crucial to engage participants as much as possible without going overboard and causing distractions.

There are various ways to achieve this.

You can encourage chat conversations, ask participants to unmute themselves, and invite them to raise their hand or use their favorite emoji.

Conducting polls, using whiteboards for annotations, and facilitating breakout rooms for discussions, activities, and exercises are effective strategies as well.

Despite the limitations of the virtual environment, it’s important to maximize the available opportunities for engagement.

So, let’s think creatively about how to make the most of this virtual space!

Tip #3

When delivering virtual instructor-led training, it’s important to chunk your content just like you would with in-person training. However, in a virtual setting, you may need to break it down into smaller chunks, perhaps around five minutes each.

After each chunk, engage your learners by asking them to reflect and participate. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a long break, but rather giving them a moment to absorb the information and interact with you and their peers.

Remember, breaks in virtual training are about pausing the delivery of new content, allowing participants to breathe and engage, before moving on to the next topic.



Tip #4

Let’s move on to tip number four, interaction and engagement. It’s crucial to make the most of the chat feature by encouraging questions.

For example, “Out of the four tips shared so far, which one resonates with you the most? Which one would be the easiest to implement, or have the most impact for you? Feel free to drop your thoughts into the chat.”

These examples demonstrate how to create an experiential learning environment in the virtual space.

Remember to keep things varied and avoid excessive repetition. You want to keep your audience engaged and intrigued. The brain craves novelty, surprises, and new experiences.

Let’s inject some excitement and creativity into the instructional design of our courses!

Tip #5

Let’s move on to our fifth tip. It’s important to schedule breaks during your session to rejuvenate yourself.

Whether it’s a two-hour training or a 90-minute session, make sure to incorporate a break in the middle.

During these breaks, encourage participants to get up, stretch, and move around. This movement sends oxygen to the brain, reenergizing and refocusing them for the remainder of the training.

Hydration is also crucial, so remind everyone to grab a drink of water.

Additionally, vary your on-camera and off-camera presence. You can choose to be on full screen, have a slide up, or even use a split screen like me. This variety keeps the session engaging and dynamic.


Wrapping it Up

The key to designing and developing a successful virtual instructor-led session is to build in interaction and engagement.

By building in points for the facilitator to ask and encourage questions, creating activities for participants to do individually and with others, scheduling breaks, and including facilitator notes to vary their on-camera and off-camera presence, you can ensure that you design learning experiences that keep audiences engaged in the virtual experience.

Keep these tips in mind on your next instructional design project to ensure that you develop virtual instructor-led sessions as effectively and successfully as possible. If you’d like step-by-step support to create your own VILT assets for your instructional design portfolio, check out the Instructional Design and Tech Accelerator System.


The Testimonials are In:


Shola Richards

Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.

Shola Richards


Graphic Designer

I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.

After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.

Gayle Bower


Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.

Laurie Henderson


Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!

Wendy McMillian


L&D Project Manager

The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!

Gabby Grimaldo


Future Instructional Designer

If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!

Shanna Howe


Future Instructional Designer

I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).

Aviva Berkowitz


Future Instructional Designer

I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.

Krista Johnson Awomoyi


Freelance Instructional Designer

I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.

Darlene Dalgleish


Instructional Designer

This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!

Shawnice Edge


Instructional Designer Training Facilitator

Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.

I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!

Brian Hightower


Freelance Instructional Designer

My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!

Sarah Smith


Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design

I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.

Lee R


Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!

Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!

Sheryl Rhoades
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer


Shawntay has been incredible!

Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.

President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.


IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!

The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.

LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker


A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!

Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.

Amanda Buckley
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University


Creative & Highly Talented!

Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer.  She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program.  It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.

Susan Gatti
President, IMMIXID


Breaks Down Mammoth Projects

“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”

Rick Miller
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach


eLearning Development

“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”

Ashley Christian
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning


Top Notch Professional

Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.

Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research


Fortunate to Find Shawntay!

“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”

Jonathan Burt
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.


Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!

“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”

Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services


Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?

“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”

Mellora Moore
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships


Quality Products & Solutions!

“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”

Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach


“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”

Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.

Patrick Hodges
Managing Partner, PHiG


“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”

Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!

Mike Stubblefield
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics


“Spot on”

I have known and worked with Shawntay  as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations.  The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention.  Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.

Owner, Certified Consulting Services


“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”

I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.

Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!


Katie Carter
Training Specialist, LegalShield

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