Untitled design (14)

9 Tips for Effective VILT Pre-Work

The most exciting moments in a virtual workshop happen when everyone’s engaged, sharing ideas, and working together. Pre-work can help you get to those moments, by making sure learners come prepared, ready to participate and ask questions. When done well, pre-work enhances virtual training by:

  • providing a common foundation and context for collaborative work;
  • giving learners time to absorb and reflect on the information in advance, at their own pace, on their own time;
  • preparing learners to use the tools and technology; and
  • giving you — and the learners — a chance to get to know each other before the live training, so you can use the time more effectively.

Of course, we know from experience that pre-work is only valuable when everyone actually does it. So how do you create pre-work that’s effective and motivating to your learners? Here are nine tips to get you started:


1. Select your pre-work carefully 

The first challenge is to decide what to assign before the workshop. Consider any new information that participants can review on their own — but make sure it’s essential to the workshop’s goals. Then, look at activities they could complete on their own, such as research, reflection, brainstorming, or reviewing case studies. For more help on this process, check out this flow-chart on deciding what to keep in the workshop and what to move to pre-work.


2. Show why pre-work matters

When you send pre-work, clearly connect the assignment to the workshop experience. Explain how activities will build on what they learn or do beforehand. And let them know they’ll be collaborating with others, so they’ll want to come prepared. At the same time, emphasize how pre-work connects to their actual job performance. Above all, make sure the pre-work truly is critical to the workshop and improving job performance — if it’s not, rethink the assignment!


3. Be clear about expectations

Set the tone that everyone will be expected to participate in the workshop. And for this to happen, pre-work is essential. Also be very clear about the assignment, with simple steps for what to do and links to any materials they’ll need. It helps to have a concrete deliverable – such a post, an upload, or an email — along with a specific deadline for submitting.


4. Make it engaging

Think beyond the typical reading assignments. Consider blogs, videos, games, or a pre-recorded presentation. Then ask learners to engage with the content: have them complete personal reflections or worksheets, so they come to the workshop ready to share and collaborate. Create assignments that connect with typical on-the-job situations, such as solving a realistic case study or doing account planning with one of their own accounts. Pre-work can also build excitement about the workshop: Present a problem where the answer is revealed in the workshop.  And for scalable instruction for a large group of learners, consider developing interactive e-learning that provides practice and assessment. 


5. Keep it brief

Make sure the assignment is focused only on what learners need to know for the workshop. And keep the assignment realistic and manageable. A single assignment is short and typically something that can be done in a single block of time, but this may vary depending on the scope of the training. Then give learners an estimate of how much time it will take, so they can plan.  

6. Give learners enough time

Even though pre-work shouldn’t take too much time, never send an assignment at the last minute. Give learners enough time to complete the work and reflect on the content before the workshop. Send assignments a few days before the live training, or longer if it involves collaboration or research.


7. Build community

Rather than spend valuable workshop time on long introductions, let the group get to know each other in advance. If you’re on a shared platform, ask participants to post a short introduction, answering one question related to the workshop goal. For a longer-term workshop – or one where participants know each other well — assign a collaborative exercise to small groups or partners. If possible, use the virtual workshop tools in your assignment so they can test and practice with the technology in advance.


8. Get to know your audience 

Before the workshop, send a quick poll or questionnaire to find out what’s most relevant, interesting, or challenging to your learners. Or assign a self-assessment to identify areas where learners need most help. This will help you focus activities that are most relevant to your learners — and assure them that training will be tailored to their needs.


9. Provide incentives

Finally, remember a little competition never hurts. Announce a special reward to the first participants who complete the assignment. Or let them know the virtual workshop will kick off with a competition that requires the pre-work. You could also make the pre-work a game, where the winner is revealed at the workshop. And if completion of prework is absolutely necessary for people to be able to participate in the session, consider requiring a certain score on a quiz or pre-work assignment as the “ticket” to the workshop.


About the Author


Joy Brewster leads the instructional approach and development of learning solutions across multiple platforms, including e-learning, videos, and live workshops. Her instructional design experience ranges from global health videos to product launch training. 

Untitled design (11)

Additional Resources

Training Conversion Process_v11

Live-to-VILT Conversion Roadmap

How to Select What Content to Include in VILT

How to Select Content to Include -- Or Exclude -- In VILT