March 4, 2015

My first virtual classroom

Posted by IN

If you teach or you’re responsible for training, perhaps you’ve already thought about taking the leap into the virtual world. We have tried to answer some questions you might ask yourself.

Will content need to be modified?
Most of the content will be maintained, but it will probably be necessary to reorganize it to adapt it to the faster pace of a virtual classroom. Take advantage of this exercise to update your content and to redefine your goals.

Classroom management: what has changed?
You will quickly notice the absence of visual feedback. To ensure you are well understood and to avoid finding yourself in front of a sleepy class without your knowledge, regularly measure understanding by asking spontaneous and open questions to specific participants. Set out times to answer questions and increase the opportunities for learners to intervene.

As in a traditional classroom, agree upon rules for speaking turns, breaks and participation.

Which media should be used?
Luckily for you (and your class!), you are not condemned to PowerPoint presentations. Enjoy the many possibilities offered by the virtual mode to directly demonstrate how a software works or even a Website, collaborate on a whiteboard, run a quick survey, show short videos, involve a remote speaker, etc. Ask your supplier about the possibilities offered by your virtual classroom’s software to make the most of it.

Will this mode restrain interactions between learners?
Virtual learners are sometimes intimidated by the online classroom environment. Take a moment at the beginning of a new course for presentations, if possible with cameras, in order to strengthen the group spirit. In the case of a recurrent course, allow learners to discuss the previous session, or start with a brief discussion. Do not neglect interventions from the chat zone and make sure to take a moment to answer the questions that appear in it. Increasing the opportunities for students to take control will help create a class that resembles them.

How can attention be maintained?
Remember that learners are usually alone at their screen, a click away from their favorite social networks, in an environment that does not necessarily favour concentration.

Therefore, remember to vary your presentation strategies every five minutes to break the monotony, either by showing a graphic or an image, or by asking a relevant question that helps with the sharing of expertise.

How can technical problems be avoided?
You dread having to interrupt your class to help a student struggling with a defective headset? Allow time before the start of the session to deal with the technical details, or dedicate a specific resource for this purpose. Familiarize yourself with the tool in its context by organizing test classes with colleagues.

Switching to a virtual classroom is something that needs preparation in order for the experience to be as positive for the trainer as for the learners.

Reference:
Moore, Cathy. (2004) Tips for webinars or virtual training.