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Virtual Classroom Success

November 1, 2011

Virtual classroom training requires a different approach from live instructor-led classroom training. While there are many similarities between live and virtual classroom training, there are differences in content, length, design and delivery.

In my discussions with trainers, it is not unusual to merge live and virtual learners together; I recommend you not teach a live session concurrent with a virtual session. Here’s why. The types of activities you use in a live classroom don’t translate well over the wire, and the types of activities you use in a virtual classroom don’t work in a live environment. Either way, someone’s going to feel disconnected and get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

While video conferencing improves communication between the two groups, it’s best to have all students in a class participating in the same manner. It’s easier on you, and it’s easier for your users.

Here are basic guidelines that will guarantee your success with the virtual classroom:

Know Your Learners

Getting to know your remote learners can be a challenge from a distance, but you need to know about your learners to teach them what they need. Unless your presentation has something that your learners want, they are not going to take an interest in it. Therefore, analyze your learners and their learning requirements before you prepare your presentation. Do a little pre-session survey/polling of participants for topics they would like to discuss to ensure they get personal value from the session.

Organize the Content to be Delivered

The fact that you are giving an online presentation does not reduce prep time. Once you know your learners’ needs, choose your content accordingly. Include relevant information that helps them build skills. Organize it well. Get your plan ready for each phase of your presentation, including the amount of content and the activities to be conducted. Include a variety of examples and activities for clarity and to maintain interest. Rehearse your presentation as many times as you need to get a strong hold on the content and delivery tools.

Give a Brief Orientation

The success of a virtual classroom depends on learners’ active participation. They cannot participate if they do not know how and when to use a particular tool or a mode of communication to optimal effect. So, introduce these tools to them and ensure that your learners know how to use the various audio and video devices, message boards, emoticons, etc.

Script Application Activities

Practice exercises and job-specific activities to help the learner internalize and transfer knowledge to job applications.

Engage Your Learners Often

This will help keep them mentally alert. You need them to be active participants not silent observers. Use simple relevant real-life examples to gain their attention.

Extend the Learning

Assign pre-learning and extension activities that will allow a learner to take his or her learning to the next level. When outlining the course, examine what’s best taught with an instructor, and assign other materials such as eLearning, work groups and the workbook or independent exercises between sessions.

Provide Ongoing Feedback

Give learners specific review and assessment activities to allow the instructor to monitor how each is doing and provide feedback or remediation.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz Wilson permalink
    November 1, 2011 4:38 pm

    I got a lot out of the Virtual Classroom webinar last week. Thanks. In the past I have been combining Virtual and Instructor Led and I don’t believe my virtual people we’re getting enough out of the classes. Separate classes sounds like the answer. I us SoundPath which is very limiting. It provides me with more of a Webinar tool then a Virtural classroom. I noticed that you use go to meeting. Would you recommend go to meeting or any other product for the best virtual classroom?

  2. November 3, 2011 3:30 pm

    Thanks Liz! There are several popular online meeting providers…GoToMeeting, WebEx, LiveMeeting, and Adobe Connect are the usual suspects. There are also some lesser-known vendors out there, but the price tag usually reflects the features. Which one is the best for you is something only you can answer based on your budget and what types of interactions you want to incorporate into your sessions. For instance, not all providers have emoticons or the capability to do break out sessions. Most have polling, hand-raising, chat and share-control features. Some have the ability to include class handouts, which is a feature I particularly like, but you may already have an LMS that does that for you. In the GoToMeeting product line, they also have GoToWebinar and GoToTraining. Like their names, each is designed for a certain purpose…and yes, each has a different cost reflecting the additional functionality that comes with that product. But similar to your experience with SoundPath, using a webinar or meeting product for classroom training will probably not meet your needs in the end.

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