Elevating Virtual Learning

Over the past several months, organizations have had to cancel training sessions due to travel bans and country restrictions. While some organizations are pushing their training out several months, many organizations are turning to virtual learning as a way to conduct their sessions. But how can you do this and not lose the quality of the experience?

  • Don’t lift and drop. I’ve already heard horror stories from individuals that were originally attending a 3-day, in-person session who are now attending a 3-day, virtual session. This is a recipe for disaster as you will have people let the training run on their computers while they go and do something more worthwhile. Take the time to break the content into logical chunks and activities, mix modalities, and recognize that people need to take breaks.
  • Don’t rely on the technology to carry your session. There have been a lot of conversations on twitter and learning forums about what is the best technology to use. While yes, technology can help you overcome barriers you might encounter in shifting formats, don’t let technology be your crutch. You still need sound instructional design, support and interactions. Technology will not do that for you.
  • Design for increased reflection. A key component of the learning process is taking the time to think about what you learned, make new connections and discover the areas where gaps in understanding exist. This should be both individual reflections and group discussions as what might make sense in your own head will fall apart when you try to articulate them to others.
  • Practice and practice some more. Knowing what you are going to teach and teaching it virtually are worlds apart. Practicing multiple times will allow you to see what problems exist in your presentation that you didn’t have to worry about when teaching in person.
  • Consider your lighting and background. You may be an amazing presenter, but if you have lighting or a background that is distracting you are going to lose your audience’s focus and therefore, the impact of what you are trying to teach. Spend time going through and getting your lighting right and your background so that the focus is on you.
  • Incorporate checkpoints. In person, you can read the room and get a sense for how well people are responding to what you are teaching. Virtually, you could go an entire session and not know. Add polls, ask questions for people to respond to via chat, raised hand, coming off mute, etc.
  • Develop multiple plans. Technology is great until it doesn’t work and it will inevitably not work for you, for your audience or for both simultaneously. Think about what you can do to prepare for any eventuality that might occur. Do you have the email ready to go with the link to the materials if people can’t access the download? Do you have an alternate way to run breakouts if the functionality isn’t working? What if you can’t get into your own session? Think about the spectrum of situations so that you can be prepared.
  • Use producers. This person should know what you are teaching as well as you do. They have responsibility for keeping you on track, anticipating audience needs, and responding to content questions. They can also serve as your backup should you not be able to get into your own session or to perform tasks that you previously could, but are now unable to do.
  • Have tech support. While your producer knows your content, your tech support should know the tool inside out and be able to take users out of the mainstream conversation to help them resolve the issue that they are having with technology. Trying to do that during your main session will annoy the users who are not having issues, impact your timeline, and require you to sacrifice activities.

These are just a few of the things that you can do to improve your virtual sessions. What are the biggest challenges that you are facing?

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