Jonathan DeVore

By: Jonathan DeVore on February 5th, 2021

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4 common virtual training mistakes (+ how to fix them)

2020 gave us all a crash course in virtual learning.

One day we were all able to carry out our trusty training programs in a classroom and the next day — boom — all training had to be conducted online.

Both as a Customer Success Advocate at ScreenSteps, helping clients simplify complex procedures and train employees, and as a student myself, I saw up close and personal how classroom vs. virtual training differentiated. It was evident in two classes I was taking when the pandemic forced us into remote learning in March 2020.

If you’ve already run a virtual training and it didn’t go so well, don’t worry — that will change if you apply what I’m about to show you.

Besides being a student in a coaching course that gracefully transitioned to remote learning, I’ve also run hundreds of classroom sessions and dozens of training sessions remotely using Zoom and teaching end-users how to perform procedures and use technology (like ScreenSteps).  

I’ve learned from experience what works and what doesn’t. I’ve pulled some of the top virtual training tricks to share with you so that you can increase engagement and ensure your employees can do their jobs at the end of onboarding.

In a nutshell, if your remote training didn’t go as planned (or even felt like a failure), these examples, mistakes, and tips can help you develop a successful virtual training experience:

Let’s look at each one of these in a bit more detail.

Compare and contrast: virtual learning experiences

As I mentioned, when the pandemic started in 2020, I was enrolled in two courses. Both of those courses had to make the transition to online learning overnight.

Spoiler alert: One transitioned more gracefully than the other.

Virtual experience #1 – transitioning classroom curriculum to Zoom

My first class was for a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In this case, the quick switch to virtual classes was rough.

The professors didn’t know how to engage students or even how to run the technology. While professors attempted to lecture and ask students questions like they had in the classroom, there was a disconnect between students and teachers.

The assumption was that what worked in a classroom would work on Zoom. But it didn’t. Learning the course content became harder.

How to Plan, Build, and Run a New Hire Training Program That Works Download

Virtual experience #2 – a class designed for Zoom

My second class was a stark contrast to the first.

In this case, I was taking a coaching class. Luckily, this program had already been working on a virtual training option before the world was forced into remote learning.

The coaching class lasted 10 hours per day for 3 days online. And it was great!

Instead of sticking to the lessons they used in a classroom, the coaching class adjusted its courses so they had variety online. Sitting at a computer didn’t feel stale and boring. Instead they had breakout sessions, games to get to know one another, and other engaging activities.

Most importantly, I didn’t feel like I missed out on any learning because I was taking the class online instead of the classroom.

My big takeaway from these two experiences: People think they can take a classroom curriculum and put it online and that’s all they need to do. But if that’s your approach, there’s a high likelihood that your lessons are falling flat.

🔎 Related: 5 reasons call center agents aren’t learning enough in remote training

How do you know if your virtual training was a failure?

Failing or saying your training was disastrous may be a hard way of putting it. In fact, I’m positive that you are doing many things right with your training program.

The point is that you had a hiring class go through training and still aren’t performing as you expected them to. Some key indicators are in how your employees are fulfilling their roles post-training as well as their level of comfort with their assignments.

Do any of these situations sound like your employees following training?

  • They can’t handle basic tasks after completing the 6-week training program
  • More than 50% of your hiring class quits before training is even complete
  • Call center employees are physically ill or break down crying because of anxiety over taking calls
  • Phone coaches and supervisors are still listening in on employees’ calls and correcting them on customer interactions several weeks after training is over
  • Agents still need to be told where to click in the systems
  • Employees are timid, nervous, and scared to work independently

If you’ve seen any of these conditions in your business after completing training, cheer up! You may benefit from adopting some or all of these virtual training tips.

Stop making these 4 common virtual training mistakes


When you were training employees in a classroom, the following strategies may have worked. However, virtual learning has changed the training game.

Stop using these training strategies and look for alternatives to engage your employees as they learn remotely.

Mistake #1 – Using your classroom training curriculum

Don’t just copy and paste your classroom training curriculum and approach into virtual training.

In a classroom, you could pace the floor and ask questions for knowledge checks. On Zoom, it doesn’t work as well. When you ask a question, everyone is too nervous to unmute themselves and answer.

Instead, call on somebody: “Steven, just a heads up that I’m going to ask you a question in just a moment. [Explanation/Demonstration] Alright, Steven how would you process a refund request?”

In a classroom, you would have your PowerPoint presentation going in the background while you paced the floor talking. That doesn’t work on Zoom.

Instead, come up with activities that learners can do to stay engaged. Use the breakout rooms feature to pair learners up and have them work through situations together (team building activities or operation-related) and then come back to class with an answer.

In a classroom, everyone would take breaks and mingle by the snacks. That doesn’t work on Zoom.

Instead, include a few virtual breaks where everyone grabs a snack and shares what they’re eating, shows off a talent (like playing the banjo), or grabs an object that represents them so they can talk about it.

Mistake #2 – Using hard copies and PDFs for your learning materials

In classroom training, you can get away with resources like PDFs and printed training materials. However, when you rely on them during a virtual training, they can be distracting and overwhelming.

I know one trainer who said that his reps needed to have at least 10 PDFs opened just to handle caller questions. Add to that the procedures for entering transactions in the system and the 5 different applications they use to process transactions, and they were up to 20 open windows on their computer.

That doesn’t even include Zoom!

How do these learners keep everything straight? The answer is they don’t. They lose time shuffling through papers, clicking the different windows that are opened on their screen, and trying to see you and your screen on Zoom.

Consolidate resources and reduce the number of windows your reps need to have opened.

🔎 Related: 4 Strategies for Remote Call Center Training

Mistake #3 – Lecturing for hours on end

Listening to someone lecture and go over a PowerPoint presentation all day is hard.

Watching somebody do that on Zoom is exhausting. Literally. “Virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain.” You want to avoid Zoom fatigue.

But when your employees are expected to listen to hours of instruction, they will tune out at some point. They are only human, after all.

Here is a truth that you need to internalize — your employees can learn without you lecturing to them. Leverage alternative methods such as:

  • Group breakout sessions
  • Reading procedures
  • Responding to pretend scenarios
  • Trying things out and getting them wrong
  • Asking somebody to read a policy and then teach it to everyone else

Make lecturing your last resort.

Mistake #4 – Expecting trainees to remember everything you say

It turns out that a picture perfect memory (or perfect hearing) is not a common trait.

Another truth to internalize is this: trainees won’t remember everything that you, the trainer, says. It helps if they can follow the Hear-Say-Do Learning Method, which gives them multiple points of learning.

Start using these 4 virtual training hacks


Now you know what’s not working during your virtual training. So what should you replace those remote learning strategies with?

These alternatives to remote training will help increase engagement in your virtual classroom as well as prepare employees to do their jobs.

1. Teach employees to use your knowledge base

Let me be very clear — hundreds of Word files and PDF documents uploaded to SharePoint is NOT a knowledge base. Wikipedia describes SharePoint best: “SharePoint is primarily sold as a document management and storage system…”

And a document management system is “used to receive, track, manage and store documents and reduce paper.

An online knowledge base, on the other hand, is a searchable website that acts as a one-stop shop for information that can be used to run your company.

Learners should be able to use your knowledge base like they use Google. If they don’t know something, they can type in a question and get an answer.

If you don’t have something like that, you need to find something like that so you can build up your articles and content in a way that your employees can have all the answers at their fingertips.

All they will need to do is type in keywords to find help articles.

In the end, you want them to be masters at finding the right information. You want to shift trainees from relying on you to them relying on your knowledge base.

🔎Related: 3 Ways You Can Support and Train Remote Workers with an Online Knowledge Base

2. Make knowledge base articles accessible

Do you know how many clicks it takes for employees to find the right section of your PDF guides?

We recently had a customer compare employees finding PDFs in SharePoint and finding procedures in a ScreenSteps knowledge base. In SharePoint, it would take at least five clicks.

No wonder employees aren’t using procedures to do their jobs!

In a ScreenSteps knowledge base, it took two clicks. That probably explains why ScreenSteps customers are seeing reports of their learners using ScreenSteps over 1,000 times in only 10 days.

If your materials are not easy to access, employees will eventually stop accessing them. Which is why the ScreenSteps knowledge base includes things like context-sensitive help that suggests help articles depending on which application page they are working in online.

For example, when on a page to schedule a doctor’s appointment, the context-sensitive help could suggest a checklist for gathering the customer’s information (ie: name, address, insurance, etc.). All you have to do is click the blue bell on the side of the screen and the prompts appear.

If you don’t have a knowledge base, search for ways to make your documents more accessible.

3. Engage new hires with interactive activities

Make your virtual training a hands-on training experience.

I know that you need to include lectures and PowerPoint slides, and that’s fine. Just balance it out with small group discussions and role playing.

Most video conferencing systems have a breakout room function so that you can split the class into smaller groups.

It’s better to have an exercise heavy curriculum than a lecture heavy curriculum.

Encourage class members to chime in either by raising their hands to speak or asking questions/responding in the chat box.

Training schedule outline

Here’s one idea on how to outline your first few days of training:

Day 1:

  • Introduction to the company
  • Get to know you games
  • More about company
  • Overview of systems the learners will use to do their job

Days 2-5:

  • Teach company process or policy
  • Show learners how to use your knowledge base to find answers
  • Do several scenarios where they have to find answers (i.e. scavenger hunt)
    • “A caller needs a copy of their latest invoice, what do you do?”
  • Breakout rooms
    • How would you handle ________ scenario?
    • Role play where one team member is a caller and the other employee is taking the call

Days 6-12:

  • Coach learners and helping them understand big picture
  • More scenarios (gradually get more difficult)
  • Have learners use a sandbox system to practice entering data while following procedures

Days 13-15

  • Have learners shadow experienced employees/reps
  • Ask them to find the procedure while shadowing and follow along

Instead of being the speaker on the stage that is presenting everything, you are making it more interactive.

4. Decrease emphasis on memorization and focus on finding the right answer

When companies require employees to memorize all of their processes and policies, there is more room for error.

The important thing is recognizing that you need to provide your employees with the tools to do their job correctly. That doesn’t necessarily mean memorizing a bunch of rules and regulations.

At ScreenSteps, we’ve developed a training program we call Zero Memorization. Zero Memorization involves cutting out memorizing and instead learning how to search your knowledge base for answers.

Using Zero Memorization, we’ve seen companies decrease the amount of time spent training by up to 90%.

Want your new hires to actually retain your training materials?

When you stop trying to recreate your classroom training online and start focusing on the unique strengths of virtual learning, your employees will find more success.

They will graduate the training course and feel ready to take on their job. They will be competent and confident to answer questions and complete assignments accurately.

Because training is less intimidating, you’ll have fewer new hires quitting during training.

No matter where you are at with your virtual training course right now, you too can change your virtual training curriculum for the better.

ScreenSteps has helped companies, like yours, transfer your files and PDFs to an online searchable knowledge base. A strong knowledge base is the best resource you can provide your employees to set your employees up for success.

We’ve helped companies decrease their training courses down from months to days. One contact center said employees were confident to take involved calls within 15 days of starting the job. It took about 60 days before using Zero Memorization with ScreenSteps’ knowledge base.

Learn more on what a Zero Memorization knowledge base would look like.

What Does a Zero Memorization Knowledge Base Look Like?

About Jonathan DeVore

Customer Success