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Seb Anthony

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5 ways to bringnvirtual classroom events to life


Many organisations are keen to maximise the impact of their L&D budgets and seem increasingly willing to explore different ways of interacting with the learner.  This is all good stuff in my mind, allowing providers to use a wider range of interventions in delivering effective learning. 

One such approach that we are finding an increased appetite for is virtual classroom technology. Typically for us, part of the 20% solution (70:20:10 model).  For the uninitiated virtual classroom a realtime live training session held over the Internet for participants that can take part using their laptops and PCs while remaining geographically dispersed.  As part of a blended learning solution virtual classroom makes complete sense, providing an effective way of getting a cohort together to further the learning experience. 
As with any style of learning intervention it can be delivered effectively or badly, so here are our guiding principles to make sure a valuable learning experience is secured:
1.  Select content that fits. 
There are two obvious things to consider here; the need to keep the session duration short and the need to select topics that will lend themselves to the approach.  With an open mind you can find ways of using a virtual classroom for all kinds of topics, you just need to be creative in working out compelling ways of structuring and delivering it.  The bigger challenge however is to select enough content to deliver value, whilst being concise enough to fit within a short timescale.  We like working within a 45 minute session. 
2.  Make it really difficult to drop out. 
The design of your virtual classroom session is critical.  We all know how it can be very tempting to drop out of a conference call, start looking at emails or maybe divert our attention to work on something else while the call takes place.  The temptation is no different when attending a virtual classroom.  There is though a viable solution to this, it is to develop the session so that it is highly interactive.  We need to design content that relies on the participation of all the attendees and therefore becomes almost impossible to drop out of.  At least to drop-out without being noticed.  Aim for very high levels of participant interaction, we think at least one interaction every 2 to 3 minutes throughout the entire session. 
3.  Maximise the cam, minimise the ppt.
Virtual classroom is no place for death by PowerPoint, as it will result in death of the virtual classroom!  Instead maximise the human element by making a lot of use of the trainers cam.  In our experience if your cam quality is good it’s very credible to use a trainer and flip-chart approach, at least for some of the session.  
4.  Attendee numbers. 
Perhaps this goes without saying, but a smaller class size works better for virtual classrooms.  We would rather run two groups of 6, than one of 12 simply because the trainer will be more able to manage all the interactions / questions.  
5.  Always record it.
Most virtual classroom environments allow you to record the event.  If your’s doesn’t then dump it ;-)  It is so useful to review the session afterwards so that the trainer can assess and learn how to improve next time.  But even more importantly participants can revisit the session at a later date, and those that missed the live event (for whatever reason) can catch up later at their convenience. 
Virtual classroom is a great tool if it’s applied appropriately, it can add significant value, just keep it as part of the overall blended learning mix.  If you’ve never experienced one, then seek them out, or even get in touch with us at iManage, perhaps we could run a company demo for you?  If you apply the simple guidance above you will be well on your way to effectively increasing the intervention options you offer your learners.  

2 Responses

  1. Regarding Death by PowerPoint

    I applaud the wise words of a respected professional on how to keep an audience engaged in a virtual classroom session. However, I cannot agree with the idea of the trainer standing by a flip chart with a webcam trained on him or her. This simply tries to transfer the rubric of stand-and-deliver lecturing to a live online setting where it definitely does not belong. I see this as a prime example of trainers “clutching at their gods”, to quote TS Eliot. I urge trainers to master management of the white board and breakout rooms instead. These are the tools through which it is the performance of learners that counts and not the performance of trainers. We must stop blaming the tools (whiteboards, PowerPoint etc.) for the lack of the users’ imagination, restraint or creativity; a slide can be a very powerful stimulus, and lead to intense collaboration and activity.

  2. Not going to argue with that 🙂

    Hi Phil.

    Couldn’t agree more with the idea of mastering the technology.  We have found that the best sessions are those that utilise the tool to it’s fullest.  Breakouts, whiteboards, polls, Q&A, all that stuff should be used and used well. 

    Happy to take the comment on the chin re flipcharts, but we’ve found that it can work well.  Not as a last vestage of the (non virtual) classroom but as away of keeping the energy up and mixing the media used.  When we do it, we maximise our cam window in the virtual classroom, and it works really well. 

    Love to hear about others best practice for VC…




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