Summer 2021
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CTDO Magazine

No Virtual Classroom Tool Left Behind

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Using the full range of system features enhances learners’ interactions and experience.

Today’s virtual classroom platforms offer a stunning array of tools and options. But are trainers and facilitators using those features?

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For the Virtual Classrooms: Leveraging Technology for Impact research report, the Association for Talent Development surveyed 434 talent development professionals and asked whether their organizations’ virtual classroom platforms offered any of 15 different features.

Only two were unavailable on more than half of virtual classroom tools: real-time closed-captioning and built-in tutorials about using the platform. What’s more, at least three-quarters of organizations have virtual classroom platforms that offer these capabilities:

  • Chat
  • Screensharing
  • Hand-raising prompts
  • Session recording
  • Classroom management functionality
  • Live polls and quizzes
  • Breakout rooms
  • Virtual whiteboards
  • Video and multimedia streaming

However, for some, the breadth of virtual classroom platform features available represented lost opportunities. On average, 13 percent of respondents who had a given platform feature did not frequently take advantage of it in their virtual classroom training.

High-performing organizations—those doing well across several key business areas and with talent development functions that make strong contributions to organizational performance—tend to use the available features at a much higher rate. They are also much more likely to use a few specific features, including screensharing, polls and quizzes, and breakout rooms.

Darryl Wyles, a facilitator for ATD Education, points out that leveraging virtual classroom platform features leads to more meaningful virtual classroom training, because those tools support interactions that may otherwise be impossible in a virtual environment.

“Today’s virtual classroom features mimic what we see in the traditional classroom setting,” he said in an interview for the report. “We can take advantage of them to establish a connection with our audience and provide a more engaging class, and they also give learners the ability to connect with each other.”

Wyles advises talent development leaders to create shared accountability for leveraging virtual classroom platform features among their trainers and instructional designers. In his experience, it’s important “to incorporate the features into learning design to prompt the facilitator to use them,” but facilitators also need to practice using those features until they build comfort with them.

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“I encourage facilitators and designers to participate in a pilot test of any virtual classroom course, but facilitators should also go back and listen to recordings of those sessions,” explained Wyles. “There’s so much information you can glean from a recording that enables you to sharpen your skills with your platform and its tools.”

Most Used Virtual Classroom Platform Features
Chat, 93%
Screensharing, 90%
Hand-raising prompts, 82%
Session recording, 77%
Classroom management functionality, 74%
Live polls and quizzes, 73%
Breakout rooms, 72%
Source: Virtual Classrooms: Leveraging Technology for Impact, Association for Talent Development, 2021
Source: Virtual Classrooms: Leveraging Technology for Impact, Association for Talent Development, 2021

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Alex Moore is a research analyst for the Association for Talent Development. Alex returned to ATD in 2019 after spending a year living and working in Chile. Prior to moving abroad, Alex was a writer/editor for ATD working on TD magazine, a research coordinator at ATD, and a customer care advocate at ATD. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 with a B.A. in English.

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