Although the interactive features of a virtual classroom allow for
two-way conversation, it is easy to slip into the presentation mode
and simply talk participants through a set of slides. To avoid this
one-way communication, plan interactions with the audience every
few minutes, using meeting-room features such as polls, chats, and
- Set the tone early in the session for a high level of audience
engagement. Explain the interactive features of the virtual
classroom and begin using them right away. In a virtual classroom,
the first interactions with participants are extremely influential.
Participants will quickly decide whether or not your session is
worth their time or if they should go back to checking their email.
Here are a few simple ways to engage participants right away.
- Greet each person in the chat area as they enter the virtual
meeting room. If participants dont respond in the chat area,
verbalize what you are doing and let them know that they can also
type in the chat area now and throughout the session.
- Display a map of the world and ask participants to use the
whiteboard tools to show where they are from, or where they work.
Comment on the results.
- Post a poll asking how much experience the audience has with
the topic. Mention how many poll responses have come in and how
many you are waiting for so that participants know that everyone is
expected to vote. When everyone has responded, thank them for
responding and comment on the results.
- Ask participants to complete a pre-course survey. Select a few
anonymous findings from the survey, share them on a slide, and ask
people to react. Tell them if you would like them to type in the
chat area, vocalize their reactions, or both.
- Ask participants to download files and attachments that you
have placed in the meeting room. Include instructions on the screen
that describe how to download.
These are just a few ways to encourage interaction as your session
begins. The key, of course, is to sustain the interaction for the
duration of the session. A few ideas for
exercises are: discuss a picture or video, poll before revealing
content, play a
game, send participants on an answer search, whiteboard squares,
play, and request a takeaway goal via chat.
Discuss a picture or video. Display a picture or
video (one- to two-minute videos work best) that illustrates a
concept you are teaching. Ask the audience to call out or type in
chat what they observe in the picture or video.
Poll before revealing content. To get a point to
stick, ask participants to reflect on a concept by creating a poll.
Post the poll first, gather input, then reveal the content. Your
poll could be fact based (What is the number one cause of x?) or
opinion based (Based on your experience, why does x happen?).
Play a game. Plan a game for a section of your
training where you think energy may wane, or for the end of the
session in order to finish on a fun note. Word games are easy to
play online.For example, display a slide with empty boxes that
represent the letters of a
phrase and a clue at the bottom of the screen. Then go down the
participant list and ask each person to guess a letter. Use the
annotation tools to write letters on the screen as people guess.
Answer search. If your participants need to know
how to access information on a website or how to use an
application, post a slide with questions about the website on the
screen, such as a poll question and a question to respond to via
chat. Then ask them to open a new browser and go to the website or
application to search for the answers to the questions. Instruct
participants to return to the virtual classroom when they have
found the answers, and to respond on the screen.
Whiteboard squares. Post a slide with empty
squares or use the drawing tools to draw squares on the whiteboard
and ask each participant to type their name in a square to claim
it. Then ask participants to write the answer to a question in
their square using the drawing tools.
Virtual role play. Without the visual clues and
body language of a face-to-face setting, its difficult to carry out
a traditional role-play exercise in a virtual classroom. However,
scripting the role play provides a starting point. On a slide,
write a script for two to three
characters in which each person speaks twice. Ask for volunteers to
read the script. You may find that participants who are reading the
script will continue the role play on their ownthe script helps to
get them started. Facilitate a discussion around the role play
afterward. For cultures not comfortable with large group role
plays, use breakout rooms for small groups instead.
Takeaway goal via chat. As you conclude
yoursession, ask participants what their number one takeaway goal
is after completing the training. Ask them to type a response in
chat. Tell participants you will email them the goal as a reminder
in three weeks.
Virtual Cassroom Key Terms
Facilitator uploadsslides into the classroom. Participantsview the
slides as the facilitator
clicks through and discusses the content.
Participants and facilitators chat publicly or privately with
others in the classroom.
Facilitator posts a poll, views tallied or individual responses,
then shares with all participants.
The meeting room displays a list of everyone logged into the
meeting. Participants can click on
an icon to raise their hands or to give other instant
a software application or website that is open on the facilitators
such as a page on an internal intranet or an Excel
classroom technology expert who partners with the facilitator to
Voice over Internet
Protocol. Instead of using a phone, transmitting voice through the
participants write notes or draw on a digital whiteboard, visible
sub-rooms that the facilitator creates for small group work.
have private discussions and collaborate on the whiteboard or chat.
This article is adapted from
the Facilitating in the Global Virtual Classroom Infoline
Issue 1111 (November 2011).This Infoline shows the
reason why global learning is important for organizations around
the world. Facilitating in the global virtual classroom is not
simply using the same presentation and materials you would in one
local classroom. Besides global issues such as language and
culture, there is the added challenge of using virtual tools. In
this Infoline, discover how to use the tools and adjust
your skills to include language and cultural awareness,
multitasking, and the ability to use technology to train
learn more, go to the ASTD Store.