Some virtual sessions can run without a hitch. In others, you may experience back-to-back disruptions that range from blaring building fire alarms to mass technical glitches that can cause a group to go offline. Such interruptions can throw off a class's energy—not to mention the schedule. How do you as the facilitator recover?
Disruptions are just that—disruptive. But here's how you can get yourself and your learners back on track.
- Acknowledge the disruption. Regardless of whether it occurred on your or the learners' end or whether it was technical in nature, call it out to recapture their attention. For example, ask them to raise their hand or put a green check in the chat if they have experienced similar situations in the past. You may even use a little humor in acknowledging the disruption. Your goal, however, is to identify it and press on.
- Ease anxiety. Disruptions on the learners' side can be distressing for them. In such situations, ease their anxiety by reassuring them that everything will be OK. Let them know that there are options available for them to get back up to speed once they are resettled. Options can include buddying up with someone after class or viewing the recording later to review parts they may have missed.
- Always have a plan B and plan C. When something unexpected happens, you may need to pivot—quickly. Think through pivot strategies ahead of time. In designing the learning experience, note slides you can skip, and know which activities learners could complete later on their own rather than during the session. In determining which content to retain or omit, ask yourself what will have the most impact on reaching your desired end goal. The key to a successful pivot is to let your original learning objectives be your guide.
Involve learners in your go-forward plan. At the end of the day, your course is designed for the learners. One strategy to recover from a major disruption is to poll the class—for example, ask learners whether they're good to move forward or need a break. Doing so enables you to gauge where they are mentally. Likewise, it is a way to involve them as co-collaborators of their learning experience.