Create engaging and dynamic virtual classes!

By Sophie Lanoix

In these times of home confinement and mandatory telework, it’s the perfect time to think about converting your classroom-based training to virtual classrooms. However, ensure that when you do, you use a minimum of pedagogical design, so that it doesn’t waste everyone’s time and money.

If you take only one thing away from this article :
Get your learners involved as much as possible!

In these times of home confinement and mandatory telework, it’s the perfect time to think about converting your classroom-based training to virtual classrooms. However, ensure that when you do, you use a minimum of pedagogical design, so that it doesn’t waste everyone’s time and money.

If you are having difficulty converting your learning activities, go back to the pedagogical INTENT of the activity. In a team building course, the objective of your activities is not to make learners good at building a tower out of popsicle sticks. What other online activity could bring participants to work as a team?

The virtual classroom is a flexible training methodology that offers several advantages for both your organization and your learners:

  • Reduced travel time and costs
  • Delivery to geographically dispersed participants
  • Breakdown of training into shorter periods of time
    • for an easier integration into working hours
    • for greater retention through spacing of exposure to the content
  • Just-in-time training, when learners need it

Virtual Classroom or Webinar?

A virtual classroom is the equivalent of a face-to-face class, while a webinar is the equivalent of a conference. Be careful not to convert your participatory classes into passive webinars!

On the other hand, if you have never converted classroom training to online training, you will face several challenges:

  • Lack of knowledge of delivery tools
  • Poor instructional design
  • Distraction of participants
  • Difficulty for participants to access the training (loss of password, blocked invitation emails, etc.)

In this blog, you will find a few tips to make your virtual classroom more dynamic and efficient, as well as a few elements to reflect upon while selecting your technology.

The biggest challenge of conversion arise when organizations and trainers mistakenly believe that all you have to do is talk to the computer to create virtual training. When converting classroom training to online training, a complete redesign is required.

Avoid long speeches

In a classroom course you can afford—although it is not always recommended—to give a lecture for 45 minutes or even 1 hour. In virtual classrooms, this should be avoided at all costs! Your participants will fall asleep on their keyboards, check their social networks on their phones or play games on their second screen.

See why active learning methods are preferable in this article

Involve your learners!

In a virtual classroom, you need to involve your learners as often as possible to keep their attention and interest. How often will you ask me? It depends, of course, on your topic. Try to have your participants interact at least once every 10 minutes. How? Here are a few examples:

Online questions

Ask questions that people have to answer using the presentation software, their phone or computer. For example, Zoom’s built-in questions or Mentimeter, Poll Everywhere,, Kahoot, etc.

Surveys and chat questions

Ask questions that participants answer in the chat. Important! Give them time to answer and review their answers! Otherwise, interest and participation will diminish very quickly.

Whiteboard and interactive slides

Set up activities where participants can write or annotate slides of your presentation or whiteboards in your presentation software.

Small group work or discussion

Most classroom activities can be adapted to the virtual classroom. Good virtual classroom software allow you to divide the group into subgroups for discussion and small group work, just like in a classroom.

Change your rhythm!

We often hear that our attention span is now only a few minutes… yet we are very capable of paying attention to a movie or TV show for one or several hours! According to studies, there is no fixed maximum attention span. The most important factor in attention span is the interest generate by the trainer.

The difference between an interesting training and training where our attention drops off after a few minutes is often in the rhythm. In a classroom training, you move in front of the group and bring a certain dynamism by your presence alone. In a virtual classroom, this dynamism is much less present. How can you compensate for this? Try one of the following tricks:

Use diagrams and avoid death by PowerPoint

Honestly, what do you do when you see someone presenting a slide with lines and lines of text? If you stop listening and read the text, you’re like the vast majority of people, especially if there’s movement on the screen.

The human brain is made so that you can listen or read, but you can’t do both at the same time. Therefore, if you put sentences on the screen, stop talking to give people time to read your text.

Ideally, instead, use graphic diagrams with a minimum of words and elements or a diagram with key words that illustrate the relationship between the concepts of your topic. Visual elements will help your learners understand what you are explaining and retain your content.

I will talk about cognitive load and overload in another article.

Change slides more often

  • Follow the tip: one slide = one idea
  • Instead of having an entire diagram during an explanation, make each part appear as you discuss it
  • Show visual examples of what you are discussing

Create a dialogue, just like in a talk show!

To make a virtual classroom more interesting, why not adopt the talk show format? Rather than having a single person present for hours, work in teams of interviewer and specialist. When working with a team of trainers, you can even alternate the roles of interviewer and specialist instead of taking turns speaking without interacting. You will keep the interest and attention of the participants much longer, especially if you show complicity between the two people on the screen.

Work as a Team to Manage Technology and Chat

Whatever your level of comfort with technology, but especially if you are just starting out, work as a team to deliver training. At the very least, have one person responsible for monitoring the chat and who:

  • Answers technical questions and problems, such as technical, audio or connection issues.
  • monitors participants’ questions during your lecture periods and summarize or highlight those that you have not answered

Choose the right technology

Finally, you will not be able to broadcast a virtual classroom without technological means. There are tons of blogs that specialize in comparing tools for virtual classrooms and webinars. The goal here is not to list all possible equipment in all configurations—it would take too long, change too quickly and that’s not the purpose of this blog—but rather to discuss the minimum you need to launch your first virtual classroom.

Physical delivery configurations vary greatly, from the permanent dedicated room to the compact mobile kit, to the emergency kit for giving a virtual class only once. Of course, equipment prices vary enormously too. However, it is possible to find a microphone and a camera that are perfectly acceptable for less than $100 each. Here are a few things to help you choose the technology that’s right for you.

Broadcasting Software

The most important technological element for a virtual classroom is the broadcasting software. A good virtual classroom software contains at least the following elements:

  • A chat room: a space where participants can discuss in writing, ask trainer some questions or answer questions from the trainer
  • reaction tools: icons allowing participants to raise their hands, applaud, like a comment or indicate that they are absent for 5 minutes. These tools allow participants to focus on what you are saying rather than writing comments at length.
  • Annotation tools: functions that allow your participants to comment, write, highlight, circle items on your slides, if you give them permission, of course.
  • Breakout rooms: a feature that allows you to divide the group into smaller groups that can talk to each other without the rest of the group hearing them, which is essential for teamwork during the course.
  • A whiteboard: function allowing the trainer or learners to draw by hand, make a diagram or write, as in a real classroom. If your delivery software does not have a whiteboard, you can add a blank slide to your presentation. You will then need to plan when to use it or navigate through your presentation during delivery.

You can also compare the options for recording sessions, connection security, maximum number of participants, etc. depending on your needs.


Your participants must be able to hear you! A microphone built into your computer or camera is usually not the best option. When choosing your microphone, think about your needs in terms of the following features:

  • Tabletop or boom: Tabletop microphones are easier to use.
  • Type of connection: microphones that plug into a USB port are easier to use and often more compact.
  • Directionality: Does the micro pick up all ambient sounds or only those coming from one direction? If two people are presenting, the microphone must be able to pick up both voices, especially if you are facing each other.


The camera is the other crucial piece of equipment for creating quality virtual classrooms. You need to get a high-quality camera. When choosing your camera, consider the following features:

  • Resolution: Ideally, the camera should have a 1080-pixel sensor. Even if your camera has a 4D resolution, you will need to adjust it to 1080p to limit the negative effects on bandwidth.
  • Focus type: Look for cameras that offer autofocus.
  • Light sensitivity: Choose a camera that works well in a variety of lighting environments. Otherwise, if possible, choose natural light or buy accent lighting.

In conclusion…

Studies have shown that the most effective training methodology is neither classroom training nor synchronous or asynchronous online training, but a combination of several methodologies in a hybrid training path.

However, whether it is a single training event or part of a blended learning path, your virtual classroom must be designed according to your learning objectives and you must take into account the particularities of this means of delivery in the organization of the course.

Enjoy your distance learning!

Don’t forget anything!

Download the Engaging Virtual Classroom Checklist

Learn Better! Tips to get the most out of your training

Lightbulb surrounded by content icons

By Sophie Lanoix

We are all learners. Sometimes voluntary, sometimes forced. In both cases, attending training takes up valuable time in our busy schedules. Why not make the most of it then?

Download my learning log

As a participant, we generally have little or no influence on the design of the training. What we have influence on is our motivation to learn and our attention during the training. We can also use some concrete tips to increase retention and transfer what we’ve learned in training to the workplace.

Children are not the only ones who have to learn things by heart! As an adult, we also sometimes need to be able to remember something quickly in order to apply it without the need for a checklist. Examples:

  • Pilot, firefighter, police officer: emergency procedures
  • Air traffic controller: airport and airway data
  • Physician and nurse: medical procedures
  • Sales representative: characteristics of a new product
  • Exams: for university, for a position, to enter a professional order, to obtain certification

What You Can Do BEFORE Training

Tip 1: Believe in Your ABILITY to Learn

Do you think you are able to learn, improve and change? If so, you have a growth mindset. If, on the contrary, you believe that you are good or not in a field and that there is no point in even trying to learn and improve, you have a fixed mindset. If you tend to have a fixed mindset, remember that your skills are the result of your neural connections and that they change continuously, regardless of your age and natural abilities.

If you approach training believing that you can learn and improve, you increase your chances of retaining the content of the training. You will also be better able to imagine yourself doing the task or exercising the skill, which increases your chances of applying what you learn during the training. Most importantly, you activate your error correction mechanisms, which will help you improve your learning and performance. We always learn from our mistakes… or at least we should!

Tip 2: Know WHY You Are Participating in Training

When do you familiarize yourself with the learning objectives of a training course? Before you register or when the training begins? If you want to maximize retention and transfer, you should know WHY you are attending training well before you arrive in class or start the online course.

By being aware of how training can help you in your daily work, you will be better able to project yourself into the future completing the task. Most importantly, by making concrete links between the content and your work, you will increase the perceived value of the training for you. These two very important elements increase the likelihood that you will put what you learn in training into action in the workplace.

Your participation in training should be part of your learning or skill development plan. What is the link between this training and the others in which you have or will participate? How will this training contribute to your personal or career development?

Finally, you must also ensure that you have the prerequisites for training in order to properly integrate new knowledge and skills. Do you have any doubts about the usefulness of training for you? Discuss this with your supervisor, colleagues or former participants.

Tip 3: Plan PRACTICE Opportunities

You may be able to imagine doing a new task or exercising a new skill, but until you actually do it, you do not have acquired that skill. How many times have you enthusiastically participated in training and never put anything into practice? This is a monumental waste of your time, the trainer’s time and money for the organization. From the moment you register for training, you should immediately identify opportunities to apply what you will learn. Discuss this with your supervisor and colleagues to clarify expectations.

This conversation is also the ideal time to negotiate a longer time to complete the task to properly integrate new knowledge or practices and discuss your right to make mistakes. If your supervisor does not want you to practise your new skill, why is he or she paying for the training? The opportunity to practise will not come for another year? Consider postponing your participation to a more appropriate time. It is unlikely that you will remember the content in a year’s time, if you have never practised it before.

What You Can Do DURING Training

Tip 4: Be ATTENTIVE and Reduce Distractions

You have just paid a lot of money to attend a conference in your field. The speakers are very interesting, but as in all conferences, they follow one another in a long series of lectures. When you focus on the content of a lecture and follow the presenter’s explanations, the areas that are activated in your brain are the same as if you were doing the action yourself. Your learning already begins (I have already touched on this aspect from the designer’s point of view in this article).

Moreover, if you are constantly distracted by your emails and all kinds of notifications on your phone or computer, you absorb less knowledge than when you pay full attention. One study even showed that just having your smartphone in your field of vision reduces the cognitive ability to learn. Simply storing your phone in a bag or leaving it in another room increases retention and this difference is even more pronounced for people considered dependent on their phone.

Tip 5:
SLOW Down!

Whether at a conference, in a classroom course or in an online course, you are sometimes placed in a situation of passive learning. But you can still become active learners!

To listen more actively to a presenter, interrupt the flow of information and participate actively. Whenever possible, ask questions, re-explain or rephrase the content that has just been explained.

To be more active when reading a text or an online course, interrupt your reading to reflect on the content. Ask yourself questions about what you have just read and make connections with other concepts, knowledge and experiences. Try to anticipate what comes next, explain what you have just read and above all try to remember what you have just read. You can also search for the definition of a word. If you have difficulty stopping naturally, plan your pauses, for example at the end of a chapter, section or every 30 minutes.

What You Can Do AFTER Training

Tip 6: Make Efforts to REMEMBER Contents

Ask around you: how do people study to retain content? Most often, people reread their notes, sometimes highlighting important passages. According to studies—and experience!—this is an inefficient learning strategy! If you want to spend less time studying AND remember more content, try the following strategies:

  • Try to remember content WITHOUT reading it first. You can use cue cards or applications such as,, goconqr, etc. (there is a very long list of such applications).
  • Explain the content. Prepare a list of questions that start with Why? and How? about content and try to answer them. Don’t forget to check if you have the right explanation! It would be silly to learn well wrong information…
  • Create a diagram of the content. By drawing a diagram that connects the concepts you are studying, you will need to think more deeply about them and the knowledge will be more ingrained.

Tip 7: SPACE Your Learning Periods

When you try to learn something, do you study for long hours a few times or do you plan shorter, more frequent learning periods? If you feel that it is more effective to study for a long time and less often, you are not alone… but you are wrong.

Studies clearly show that you retain much more with learning periods spaced over time than with learning periods grouped in the same day. If grouped learning seems more effective, it is because after a few hours or minutes, the knowledge is fresh in the memory, and therefore easier to remember. However, the exercises done under these conditions no longer consolidate the knowledge in your memory. On the other hand, if you resume your study the next day or a few days later, you need to reactivate the knowledge in the brain, which is more difficult, and you feel you are learning less well. Don’t get fooled! It is in these moments that you consolidate knowledge and learn it for the longer term. In the very words of one of my participants: learning hurts the brain!

Tip 8: Seek Honest FEEDBACK—Even If It Hurts!

Who really likes to receive feedback… be honest! Getting our mistakes and areas for improvement pointed out is hard on the ego and on the feeling of self-efficacy. However, it is an essential and truly effective mechanism for learning.

There are two types of feedback: positive feedback, which confirms that we have done an action correctly or given a good answer, and negative feedback, which confirms that we have made a mistake. Both types of feedback are important for learning and have different and complementary effects in the brain. Positive feedback releases dopamine and gives us a sense of well-being, which increases our motivation to learn and continue. Negative feedback triggers error correction mechanisms that, among other things, helps us focus our attention to our error to modify our knowledge or abilities.

There is no point in asking for feedback if you do not intend to change your actions. With feedback, therefore, comes automatically a personal reflection on our practices, paradigms and ways of doing things. Others can give us feedback, but they can’t change us! A real motivation to learn and improve is therefore necessary to receive feedback. People who are persistent and more successful are the ones who, by trying to improve, trigger the chemical reactions associated with positive feedback by correcting their mistakes.

So, Do You Know How to Learn?

Today’s working world is uncertain, volatile and constantly changing. The pace of these changes is only increasing, and we must all be able to adapt continuously to new work processes and technologies. Learning to learn has become an essential competence to lead a successful career with a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment at work.

The few tips outlined in this article are certainly not the only ones you can implement to promote retention and transfer of your learning. You can also, for example, take care of your health, walk every day, drink water, stay away from the screens for a while, meditate, cultivate your curiosity, be in a state of mind that encourages you to accept new ways of doing things, etc.

After reading this article, let me know: What tips did you already know? Do you know how to make the most of your time in training? What tips do you want to start using? Do you have any other tips to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Bradley, M. M., Costa, V. D., Ferrari, V., Codispoti, M., Fitzsimmons, J. R., & Lang, P. J. (2015). Imaging distributed and massed repetitions of natural scenes: spontaneous retrieval and maintenance. Human Brain Mapping, 36(4), 1381-1392. doi:10.1002/hbm.22708

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58. doi:10.1177/1529100612453266

Masson, S. 17 septembre 2019. « Principe 2 : Activation répétée ». Cours Neuroéducation et didactique générale. Montréal : Université de Montréal. Montréal : UQAM.

Masson, S. 12 novembre 2019. « Principe 7 : État d’esprit ». Cours Neuroéducation et didactique générale. Montréal : Université de Montréal. Montréal : UQAM.

Monchi, O., Petrides, M., Petre, V., Worsley, K., & Dagher, A. (2001). Wisconsin Card Sorting Revisited: Distinct Neural Circuits Participating in Different Stages of the Task Identified by Event-Related Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The Journal of Neuroscience, 21(19), 7733-7741.

Moser, J. S., Schroder, H. S., Heeter, C., Moran, T. P., & Lee, Y. H. (2011). Mind your errors: Evidence for a neural mechanism linking growth mind-set to adaptive posterror adjustments. Psychological Science, 22(12), 1484-1489.

Roussel, J. (2011). Gérer la formation, viser le transfert. Montréal: Guérin, éditeur ltée.

Ward, A. F., Duke, K., Gneezy, A., & Bos, M. W. (2017). Brain drain: the mere presence of one’s own smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2(2), 140-154. doi:10.1086/691462

Wilkinson, L., Tai, Y. F., Lin, C. S., Lagnado, D. A., Brooks, D. J., Piccini, P., & Jahanshahi, M. (2014). Probabilistic classification learning with corrective feedback is associated with in vivo striatal dopamine release in the ventral striatum, while learning without feedback is not. Human Brain Mapping, 35(10), 5106-5115. doi:10.1002/hbm.22536

Quizzes before or after training: what promotes retention better?

Person wrting a test

By Sophie Lanoix

In workplace training, learners are generally tested less than in schools. First, training is rarely used to certify learners and move them from one level to another. Workplace training is mainly used to equip people to do their jobs better and, in this sense, the real test after training is the person’s performance in their work context.

In workplace training, learners are generally tested less than in schools. First, training is rarely used to certify learners and move them from one level to another. Workplace training is mainly used to equip people to do their jobs better and, in this sense, the real test after training is the person’s performance in their work context.

In classroom training, quizzes are rarely taken at the end of the day. In online training, on the other hand, there is a tendency to almost systematically quiz after training. Is it necessary to do so? How do quizzes affect retention? This article answers this question.

The Article

Title: Does pre-testing promote better retention than post-testing?

Authors: Alice Latimier, Arnaud Riegert, Hugo Peyre, Son Thierry Ly, Roberto Casati and Franck Ramus

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

The Experiment

The research team divided the participants into three groups that were equivalent in terms of demographics and prior knowledge of the subject. They assigned a different study method to each group, then tested retention with an exam seven days after the training day. Participants could not review the content between the training day and the final test day. The researchers then compared the results of the three groups to the final test to draw conclusions.

The subject studied was DNA and the content was presented in the form of seven online reading capsules. The final test focused on the content of the reading, with some questions on content that had not been tested in the seven quizzes.

Experiment Methodology

The Findings

  1. Quizzes, whether taken before or after reading an online course, increase content retention.
  2. Quizzes taken after reading the online course increase retention more than quizzes taken before reading the online course
  3. Quizzes taken after reading the online course increase the retention of materials related to the content, but not tested.

Why is this of interest to us, workplace training designers?

Let’s start by asking ourselves why we have quizzes in courses. Generally, there are no consequences for learners who do not achieve the pass mark. At most, they are asked to retake training. So why have a quiz at all? Simply to increase retention.

During a quiz, whether done before or after the training, learners must activate their neurons to remember the content or make links between different elements stored in their memory. The more you try to remember something, the easier it becomes to remember. The primary reason why quizzes help retention is simply that they are an active method of learning. And all learning activities that require learners to remember a content increase retention, whether it is a quiz question, a case study, an association, a sequencing question, etc.

Then, let’s ask ourselves why have quizzes before training if quizzes after training are more effective for retention? First, pre-training quizzes also increase retention. The simple fact of trying to generate an answer, even if that answer is wrong, reinforces the path between the question and the correct answer and promotes deep processing of information.

However, we must be careful! While post-training quizzes increase retention of untested content during training, pre-training quizzes have the opposite effect. During learning, learners tend to focus on tested content and pay less attention to untested content before training, reducing the retention of untested content.

What should I change in my professional practice?

When designing training, all learning activities must have a purpose. Quizzes before and after the training are no exception. If we decide to add a quiz to training, we must know why we are doing it and how it will serve learning.

Here are some key actions I take away from this article:

  • Add quizzes to classroom training. Not to make a learner pass or fail, but as an active learning activity that forces the learner to recall the content and consolidate the learning.
  • Add quizzes to online courses to consolidate learning. These quizzes can be at the end of the training, but also within the training modules, at the end of each section, for example.
  • Add a pre-training quiz to focus the learner’s attention on specific elements of the training, especially if it has been difficult to reduce the less essential elements of information.
  • Ensure that quizzes cover the essential content of the training, especially if they are done before the training.

In short, we must continue to ensure that our training programs are as active as possible and include a wide variety of activities, including quizzes where necessary.

Reference and link to the article

Latimier, A., Riegert, A., Peyre, H., Ly, S., Casati, R., & Ramus, F. (2019). Does pre-testing promote better retention than post-testing?. Npj Science Of Learning, 4(1).

Using Active Approaches to Support Learning

Neurons Blue

Using Active Approaches to Support Learning

Sophie Lanoix

By Sophie Lanoix

The lecture has had a hard life in recent years. As training specialists know, “active” learning methods are much more effective than “passive” methods. The lecture, seen as a passive learning activity, has therefore almost become a pariah amongst workplace training methods and to suggest using it sometimes amounts to blasphemy.

But why are active methods so much favoured? And are we really right? And to begin with, what is the difference between active and passive learning methodologies?

When Is a Learning Activity Active or Passive?

I often hear subject matter experts refer to an online course as “interactive” because it contains several videos and images that learners must click on to read additional information. As you have guessed it, this is not the right definition of “interactivity” in training.

In learning, when we say that a method is “active,” it means that the learner is focused on the learning content and that he or she must produce something with that content. Let’s illustrate this concept with an example.

Consider the case where a learner has to click on an element in an online course. This action can be “active” or “passive” depending on the context in which the learner must make the gesture of clicking on the element.

Question Slide

“Active” Learning Activity

The learner clicks on one of four elements as an answer to a question.

This is an “active” action, because the learner must think about the question, analyze the four elements and consciously choose one of them as an answer. His brain is then engaged in learning, as he must use knowledge stored in his memory to answer the question. In this case, they must produce a response choice.

“Passive” Learning Activity

The learner clicks on an image to bring up the next text box to read.

Here, the learner does not have to select anything related to the content. Clicking on the image to bring up the next text box is equivalent to clicking on “next” to bring up the next page of the course. The learner has nothing to produce with the content.

The same logic applies to classroom training. When the learner sits and listens to a lecture or watches a video, they are considered passive their learning. When answering questions, trying to solve a problem or analyze a situation, they are considered active in their learning, as they must activate their brain and use their knowledge to make connections between concepts.

Why Does the Brain Have to Be Active to Learn?

First, why do you offer training in your organization? Generally, because you want people to change their behaviour or adopt new ones. For example, if you provide leadership training, it is to make managers change the way they manage and be more effective and efficient. If you provide training on the use of a forklift truck, it is because you want employees to adopt safe behaviours when using the forklift.

To answer the question, “Why does the brain have to be active to learn? ,” you have to look at what’s happening in the brain while a person is learning. A person’s behaviour depends on their neural connections. To change behaviour, we must therefore create new neural or even create new neurons. This is the very definition of learning in neuroscience.

When a person learns a new skill or behaviour, neurons are activated and they connect together. If these neurons activate and connect together often enough, a path is created between the neurons, like a path in the forest. When the path is well traced, the skill or behaviour is well anchored, and the person is able to reproduce it. The more the trail is used, the deeper it is traced, the easier it is to follow. So, the more often you perform a gesture, the better and easier it is to remember.

Hebb’s Rule: Cells that fire together, wire together

Some examples of active learning activities

In an asynchronous online course

  • Associating an image with a word or concept
  • Answering a multiple-choice question, whether the options are presented with words or images
  • Putting process steps in order
  • Dragging and dropping a word or image into the right area
  • Identifying errors or good elements in an image
  • Etc.

In a physical or virtual classroom

  • Explaining a concept to a colleague
  • Answering questions
  • Writing a case study
  • Explaining the consequences of an action
  • Analyzing the possible options for solving a scenario
  • Making the gestures of the psychomotor skill to be acquired (driving the forklift, using medical imaging equipment, handling an instrument, etc.)
  • Practising a communication skill in a role-playing game
  • Etc.

So, Should You Throw Away Passive Methods?

That being said, we also learn when we read a text or listen to a masterful presentation, even if we consider them passive learning activities. Studies have shown that when an action is observed, the same neurons are activated in the brain as when the action is performed. So, if a learner is attentive and able to mentally follow the actions that the trainer explains during the lecture, learning begins in their brain. However, behaviour or knowledge will not be well anchored and active learning methods will be needed to consolidate them.

Passive methods such as lectures, video playback or reading are still useful. They are preferred when the task is completely new to the learner, or when the risk of error is very high. They will be used to lay the foundation knowledge that learners can then use to practise the skill with more active learning methods. In addition, lectures allow trainers to explain nuances more effectively than a text, to model behaviours and values and to stimulate learners’ motivation.


I admit it: I am one of those people who make life difficult for lectures and passive learning methods. However, I also recognize their value in certain circumstances. I still remain a strong supporter of active methods, especially considering that learners who enter our workplace training generally have prior knowledge related to the subject of the training. It is much easier to acquire new knowledge and skills when you are able to connect them to things you already know. 

We have created a simple and easy to use
Learning Method Variety Grid
to help designers determine how passive or active their online, classroom or virtual courses are.

Download the grid

Do you have any questions, comments or reactions? Feel free to share them with us in the forum below. Are you hesitating? You can write to us in private.

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