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 whiteboards.

  • 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, virtual role

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

Presentation Sharing Facilitator uploadsslides into the classroom. Participantsview the slides as the facilitator

clicks through and discusses the content.

Chat Participants and facilitators chat publicly or privately with others in the classroom.
Polls Facilitator posts a poll, views tallied or individual responses, then shares with all participants.


Instant Feedback

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





Facilitator displays

a software application or website that is open on the facilitators computer,

such as a page on an internal intranet or an Excel


Producer The virtual

classroom technology expert who partners with the facilitator to deliver virtual

classroom training.

VoIP Voice over Internet

Protocol. Instead of using a phone, transmitting voice through the


Whiteboard Facilitator or

participants write notes or draw on a digital whiteboard, visible to all




Private meeting

sub-rooms that the facilitator creates for small group work. Participants can

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 effectively. To

learn more, go to the ASTD Store.