All too often, virtual and live, online classes are just…well…drab. No doubt, it’s a challenge to facilitate learning in an engaging way in any environment, but it seems doubly hard online. The participants are rarely as responsive as when meeting face-to-face, and sometimes it seems like they don’t even care! Not to mention, virtual learning almost always seems fraught with technical problems. It’s like we don’t know how to make it work online, let alone how to create intended learning happen.
I’ve been training online for years, and there are still days when I lead certain experiences that are just not what I want them to be—what I know they really can be. Here are three of my personal proven strategies for ensuring my virtual classroom experiences are fab, not drab!
Teach the Participants to Be in the Virtual EnvironmentWhen did we learn to learn in a classroom? When did we learn how to locate the building, room, seat? How did we learn about the really important things like donuts and the breakroom? When did we then learn how to act during that whole learning process—how to be respectful and participatory? We started learning this at a very young age, and we practiced it the entire time we were growing up.
When did we learn to learn online? We didn’t. We were just sent a link.
Part of our job is to teach our learners how to be in the virtual classroom. How to use the chat function to introduce themselves each other. How to use the webcam to say hello. How to type a response on the whiteboard. How to raise their hands. You can establish how the environment by using the platforms tools and functions to introduce your program and kickoff the experience.
Learn the Tech to Lose the TechTechnology by itself is not engaging. What we do with it is. To be successful with the first strategy (teach learners the environment), you must know the platform inside, outside, backwards, forwards, and upside down. Then, guess what? You need to get over it.
Unless the virtual program is about how to use WebEx, no one is there to learn the platform. They came to learn about the topic of the day. To really be able to focus on your content, you need to make the platform disappear. The only way to do that is to know it so well that you no longer think about it.
Make Virtual Activities for Learners—and About ThemA well-known adage from management guru Dale Carnegie is that “people support a world they help to create.” This applies to learning, too. It’s time for L&D professionals to let participants help create, shape, and form their learning experience. Allowing your learners to help design activities for virtual classroom sessions will transform the entire experience. It shifts the focus to action, and it highlights what participants will actually do with the content being shared.
Bottom line: There is no time to waste on poor learning experiences. Participants are ready for more activity and they want their virtual classrooms to be less drab. We need to implement these guidelines—adding a touch of our own personality and creativity in the mix—to spark the participants into action.
Want to learn more? See you at the ATD Core4 Conference. You'll get a fresh—and fab—perspective on using virtual classroom methods to engage your audience in ways you never thought possible, regardless of which platform you use.