Technology & Training: Karen Hyder on Moving to Virtual Classrooms

At this year’s Learning Solutions Conference & Expo we will be exploring the many ways that technology has and continues to change the world of training. The Technology & Training blog series invites members of The eLearning Guild community to share thoughts about the growing relationships between technology and training. 

Hyder_KarenToday we welcome Karen Hyder, Principal at Kaleidoscope Training and Consulting, as she examines questions trainers ask ask they start to shift from face-to-face to virtual classrooms.

Face-to-face presenters and trainers who are using virtual classroom for the first time ask me the same two questions:

  1. How can I read body language and get feedback from participants if I cannot see them?
  2. How can I manage showing the slides, sharing applications, reading typed Chat messages all at the same time I give my presentation?

My answer is the same for both: You can’t.

When moving your training sessions to a virtual classroom, nearly everything changes. You can’t see your participants’ body language and your can’t do five things at once. Rather than mourn the loss of what you can no longer do, identify and embrace things you can do.

To be successful online, you have to adapt your design and delivery to make use of the resources that you CAN use. In Ruth Clark’s Learning Solutions Magazine article,  Four Steps to Effective Virtual Classroom Training she reports, “The results of this review replicate hundreds of media comparison studies concluding that when the same lesson is delivered in two different media, there are no real differences in learning. The reason? It’s not the media that cause learning. Rather, it’s how the media are used…The trick to successful use of any delivery medium, electronic or traditional, is to exploit the features of that medium in ways that lead to learning!”

If, in a face-to-face classroom I ask participants a question: “Have you ever created a formula in Excel?” I can expect people will nod or raise their physical hand—they know to do that. But when I ask the same question in a webinar, nothing happens.  For all I know, participants are nodding, but I can’t see them.  It’s better to ask, “Click the Raise Hand button if you have ever created a formula in Excel”  and wait to see the little hand icons show up next to names in the Attendees list.  The major issue is the language: it’s not automatic and saying it feels unnatural.  My advice?  Get used to it! Keep asking questions and instructing participants how to respond.  You’ll benefit from an easy-to-use feedback channel you can leverage anytime.  In our all-day session on March 24th How to Adapt Traditional Classroom Design for Virtual Instruction we’ll talk about using polling, chat, webcams, sharing, and breakout groups so that you can make the most of the resources available in a virtual classroom.

Online sessions can feel overwhelming if the presenter or trainer expects to masterfully juggle displaying and advancing  the slides, sharing applications, asking questions, viewing raised hands while reading typed Chat messages. Whoa! Just because you’re doing a live session, doesn’t mean  you need to talk non-stop or that everything needs to happen simultaneously.  Design your session to allow breathing room. Pose questions or prompt for participation regularly.  While you take a break from talking, you can address other tasks. Alternately, ask a producer to support your session. Your producer can focus on the technical issues while you engage learners and deliver a clear verbal message.  We’ll talk more about how to plan a session and how to work with a producer on March 24th.

For more about the session:

How to Adapt Traditional Classroom Design for Virtual Instruction

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