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Five Critical Steps to Creating a Successful Virtual Classroom Experience

By Verity Creedy

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced workplaces around the world to pivot, leading to empty offices as employees work from home. It’s the only way to avoid business disruptions.

When it comes to keeping up with training and development, the key is to ensure a successful virtual classroom experience. There are two important areas for L&D focus on:

  • Balance the short-term with the long-term: Don’t just cancel or put everything on hold. Thatwon’t help achieve strategic goals. Once this crisis passes, companies won’t get to slowly ramp back up. Leadership must be capable of pivoting back to normal without missing a beat.
  • Leaders still must lead: During a crisis, leaders must be at the top of their games, and those leading virtual teams for the first time may need new skills.

Technology is keeping the learning flowing despite canceled or suspended classroom and in-person training. Many are using the best technology-enabled substitute for classroom training: virtual classroom trainings.

DDI research shows virtual classroom training can be just as effective at changing behavior when in-person training isn’t an option. But virtual classroom results aren’t automatic just because you uploaded slides into your chosen platform. Many factors go into creating a successful virtual classroom experience.

To use virtual classroom training, leaders must focus on five aspects:

1. Suitability
Virtual classroom can effectively deliver training, but it isn’t always the right way. If the training provides a large amount of complex information, a written form may be more effective.

Ask yourself:

  • Do we have a good reason for using virtual classroom?
  • Would an email or short document work instead?
  • What outcomes are we looking to achieve?

2. Interactivity
The best thing about the virtual classroom is how it allows participants—regardless of physical location—to interact. Most virtual meeting platforms offer audio and video conferencing and chat capabilities. DDI’s virtual classroom includes onscreen annotation tools, polling questions, and virtual breakout rooms that accommodate group discussion, brainstorming, and skill practice.

If you don’t need so much digital interactivity, then you may be better off with a webcast.

3. Variety
While virtual classroom delivery can be immersive, a virtual classroom won’t take the place of all the elements that define good training design. Pre-work, self-assessments, journals, aids, follow-up activities, and other materials can increase the course’s impact.

4. Minimal Technical Glitches
While the content and delivery design are paramount for a successful virtual classroom experience, the technology matters a great deal. This means properly using your virtual classroom and technology while avoiding preventable technical mishaps.

Based on experience, DDI suggests a producer for every course to drive the platform and support learners’technical needs. It lets the facilitator focus on learning.

5. A Skilled Facilitator
Virtual courses can be just as effective physical courses. While the learning can be the same for participants, a virtual classroom course presents different challenges for facilitators. Technology is part of it, as well as the absence of real-time feedback. Body language and facial cues that help facilitators track participant engagement and understanding are harder to detect or, if video isn’t being used, absent entirely.

Good facilitators understand the importance of practice. Virtual classroom facilitators must ensure an effective delivery and make the most of interactive features, making practice and regular feedback even more important.

Effective virtual classroom sessions are possible but with more planning, you will receive better behavior change returns.

For more on creating a successful virtual classroom, visit DDI’s blog.

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