Author: Denise Meyerson
Director of MCI / a Multi-Award Winning Training Company / Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist
You have agreed that virtual classroom has its place in the range of learning modalities available and you are keen to get started on designing your sessions! Here are some tips and strategies to keep in mind as you move through the journey of creating virtual classrooms that really rock:
1. Take a design thinking approach:
See the session from the perspective of your participant / learner. They are schooled by Youtube and television. They expect constant movement on the screen. They expect some measure of edutainment. It is indeed time-consuming on your side to develop for these short sessions because of the amount of visual input. The danger is that without this level of graphics and on-going movement in the session, your participants are tempted by distractions and will disengage.
2. Accept that Virtual classroom is highly visual:
This means that your learners cannot rely solely on the voice of the facilitator as they will tune out in no time. To engage them and keep them focused on the topic, ensure that your slides are well designed. Yes, Powerpoint is back in vogue so brush up on those skills. Have access to a great bank of images.
3. Avoid scrap learning:
The time frame of a virtual classroom gives you at most 2 hours. There is no time for the fluff. Identify your key outcomes and which messages will give you best ‘bang for buck’. Send out further information or more details via other learning tools to your learners. This could include videos or more reading.
4. Keep participants busy:
Remaining on 3 minutes for one slide can feel like 30 minutes. Participants don’t want to be tortured through slow-moving sessions that would be better delivered through other modalities. They want action and they want participation. Include a workbook where participants take notes so that their hands are constantly busy writing, typing their own notes or typing in to chat. You don’t have any body language to give you feedback that people are starting to press the ‘snooze’ button…
5. Instructional design principles still apply:
Participants want to know why they are in the session – what is the context. They also need sign-posts so that the flow is logical and they know where they are headed. And of course, embed and review and embed again. We still need to beat that forgetting curve!
6. Use the technology:
Most of the virtual classroom platforms have a few useful tools that you can readily use in sessions to drive engagement. My favorite is the interactive whiteboard. It’s great for collaboration and a positive way of engaging the group. The emoticons are also a quick, fun way of encouraging participation. Polls are good and need some preparation beforehand. I am not a huge fan of break-out rooms unless you have time and some very specific topics to discuss with a defined group.
7. Convert in-person activities in to virtual classroom engagers:
Whenever you design activities, consider whether there is a variation that could be used in the virtual classroom. For example: when we start an in-person session, we usually have an ice-breaker or an energiser of some sort. Would the ones that you have developed be appropriate in some way for another learning modality with some modification? If you have used competitions in the past to generate on-going interest, could these be transferred across to the virtual class?
8. Be innovative:
Don’t allow the virtual classroom set-up to constrain you. Who said that you cannot ask people to stand up and do something on their own? As your confidence grows try out different ways of engaging the group. If it doesn’t wok out, you just won’t use it again.