The goal of the virtual classroom, or online training as it is commonly known, is to provide an experience as close to traditional face to face classroom events as possible. We are used to virtual shops when we buy online, we read books from virtual libraries and watch movies in virtual cinema environments and therefore you can certainly learn a new skill in a virtual classroom.
The virtual classroom is not a webinar where communication is generally one-way with possibly a live question and answer session afterwards. Nor is it a pre-recorded video with voice over, or an e-learning simulation that is self-paced. It is a true classroom experience with all the options for syndicate sessions, quizzes, use of the whiteboard etc.
Moving our training to the live, online space brings many benefits to us as learning professionals, to our organisations as well as to our learners.
The two main benefits that seem to drive the adoption of virtual classrooms are reduced travel and overall training costs, but the benefits extend beyond geographical locations and financial issues.
- Reduced time out of the office
- Quicker response rate to training needs
- Accessibility to training for a global audience
- Improved training quality
- Supported learning for remote workers
- Reduced carbon footprint
Virtual learning can incorporate interactive media (from videos to quizzes and tests) that offer instant feedback and reinforcement regarding the student’s understanding of the material and the trainer acts as a facilitator and observer for these sessions. You can easily assess and evaluate the learning and comprehension with fun quizzes throughout the course.
While a virtual classroom session may be shorter than an equivalent ILT (Instructor Led Training) session, overall training time may be equal when you include “before” and “after” activities, eg pre-assignment quiz and post course follow up questionnaire. Choose virtual training for its value in closing a performance gap, not purely to save time.
The additional bonus that most virtual learning tools provide is the ability to record the session, the poll and quiz results and then you are able to distribute them to the participants as a reminder without them having to make copious notes during the course.
Tips, Tricks and Best Practices
Here are a few hints and tips that we cover in our course How to Deliver Training Online which is part of our portfolio of Train The Trainer courses. We have included tips on Preparation, Facilitation and Communication, Content and Questions. For more information book our course.
Prepare polls, quizzes or information that people joining early can watch or complete. You can also use this opportunity to check that sound, volume, visuals and webcam are working correctly. Remember to log in early so that you are there before the early birds – there will always be one!
Set rules regarding communication – for example get agreement from the group that they will allow someone to speak and not interrupt and that they will engage and participate themselves.
Facilitation and Communication
Involve your participants every 3-5 minutes. Use variety. Some participants prefer to chat or use a whiteboard to communicate. Leave these options open and encourage their use. When you do get feedback, acknowledge it just as if it were stated aloud.
If you have been talking for 5 minutes, then you have been talking too much! Involve your participants more.
An online facilitator needs to simultaneously present, engage learners and use the technology platform. You can’t do everything yourself and therefore you need help managing the classroom. It’s not uncommon for an online facilitator to team up with a silent partner (often called the moderator) whose main role is to help manage participation in the virtual classroom such as the chat.
Design your activities to be interactive and engage the participants. You do this in the classroom, but you need to adapt a little for the online environment. Remember to think about what they will see and hear and how you want them to interact.
Keep count of who asks questions. Create a checklist for yourself and remember to use it to track their interactivity. You can then ensure that you get participation from all of your audience.
Ask more questions than you normally would in a face to face classroom environment. Keep them engaged and use the 5 Ws.
For more information please review our video Questioning Techniques on the Resources page (you will need to register to view it – but it is free to register!)