As we’ve talked about many times on this blog, when done correctly, virtual learning can have a huge impact. However, to make an impact, a lot of work needs to go into making sure that the learning environment is the best it can be.
Here are my seven rules, based on years of experience designing virtual programs.
Rule Number 1: Engage people immediately and on purpose.
Typically we ask people to join our virtual classes ten or fifteen minutes early to ensure that we can start on time and also to overcome any technological obstacles that might arise. You don’t want to punish the punctual student by then having them sit around doing nothing for those few minutes before the class officially starts; so give them something purposeful to do. For example:
- Ask them to answer a discussion question based on their pre-work
- Give them a fun interaction, such as a word jumble or a video or pictorial montage and ask them to guess what the warm up has to do with today’s class.
- Ask people to declare one surprising thing about themselves that their work colleagues would not know about them.
Rule Number 2: There is no such thing as a five minute break-out.
Break-out rooms are fabulously well received in the online classroom; they allow individuals to get together in smaller groups and really make personal connections with one another as well as the content. If you choose to use the break-out technology in your virtual learning platform, use it to its best advantage. In other words, don’t have people go to a break-out room for an activity that can be done in a large group with the exact same success rate.
Rule Number 3: Have a script.
Very often a script is avoided because companies are afraid that the facilitator will then sound as though they are simply reading and if they are simply reading – why didn’t they just send the text of the class in an email so that the individual could read it themselves? The purpose of a script is to ensure that the class is tightly timed; so that the same content is taught from delivery to delivery and so that any facilitator can teach the same quality class. However it is imperative that the facilitator is so familiar with the script that they are not reading from it; they are instead using it as a point of reference, and are interacting more with their screen and their learners than they are with their scripted facilitator guide.
Rule Number 4: Use a producer.
A producer ensures that anything that might go wrong during the delivery of a live, online class is handled by an individual solely dedicated to trouble shooting. Technology is not perfect. Connections will be lost, individuals will drop off of the audio, break-out rooms may not initiate, and slides may suddenly seize up. If a facilitator has to take their attention away from the delivery of a class and engaging participants in purposeful discussion in order to find the conference-call number and issue it again to one individual who has somehow lost their audio, it turns the entire attention of the class away from the learning.
Rule Number 5: Use a variety of tools, but use them purposefully.
Virtual classroom technologies allow for many interactive devices: polls, chat, whiteboard annotation, break-out rooms, etc. But having a variety of tools does not mean you should use all of them. Use only the tools that are necessary to “move the class forward.” You wouldn’t want to conduct an activity in a break-out room that could be done more simply by using the chat feature.. Ensure you understand how your tools work and how they can be used to further the progress of the class. Don’t use a tool simply because you can.
Rule Number 6: Talk less.
Hearing the same voice, the same intonation, the same pace, contributes to auditory overload and participants eventually stop paying attention. A better strategy is to use a variety of voices, perhaps by calling on participants to read or share their stories, or ask the producer to give the instructions for the next activity. The facilitator’s role is to ask questions that get the learners to contribute – not to lecture or provide his or her own perspectives and stories. Rather than saying, “Let me tell you about a story I had with customer service on my recent flight,” you would want to say, “Who has a story they can share about a recent customer service disappointment they’ve experienced?” The more the facilitator lectures, the more the learners will question why they bothered to show up to a live class.
Rule Number 7: Use less slides.
One of the ways to ensure that the facilitator speaks less and the participants contribute more is to have fewer slides in the presentation. Typically a good online class will only include 10 to 15 slides. This limited number of slides ensures that there is engagement and interaction at each slide rather than simply a lecture. For instance, a slide with five bullet points means that a facilitator can spend 5 or 10 or 15 minutes lecturing and expounding on each of those bullet points; but a slide with a two column grid – pros and cons, before and after, features and benefits, ensure that the participants are contributing that content – there is no content until the learners add it to the slide. Therefore, there is physical engagement via the learner’s using their keyboards to write on the screen, there’s verbal interaction through the facilitator summarizing the learner’s contributions or asking for further explanation of those contributions, and there is auditory engagement by hearing a variety of different voices, not just the facilitator.
By following these 7 Simple Rules for Virtual Learning Success your virtual, instructor-led training will develop a reputation as effective and engaging. What rules would you add to this list? Share in the comments or in our LinkedIn Group.