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Virtual training and manners?

THEORETICAL question here... In an actual physical classroom, the instructor can see the faces of the students, and gauge whether they are lost or need help, or just need to leave the room for a bio-break. I think a virtual instructor should do actual check-ins with the students - whether by saying 'Raise your hand if you finished the assignment' or asking for feedback. Actually, I think it's even more important for the virtual instructor to do this, because they do not have the visual cues that they would get if they were face to face.

Am I wrong?
What has your virtual classroom experience been like?

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12 Comments

  • May 03 at 04:31 PM

    No recent virtual classroom experiences for me, but I agree with you that creating an engaging and interactive training format is important. Otherwise it could be like a group conference call with crickets chirping whenever you ask for feedback, or if anyone has questions. Much falls on the shoulders of the instructor to keep a live and dynamic atmosphere, but the students need to also have a clear understanding on their engagement levels and expectations too. The media/tooling plays a big role in this too - not the differences in operational ability between SAP Connect and Skype. Raise hand options/polling or engaging pre-staged questions all help augment the leader's ability to not only create the dynamic atmosphere, but also ensure people are engaged with proof points :)

  • May 04 at 03:19 PM

    I've not done any virtual classroom training. I have given webinars, and I have to say that they are much harder than face-to-face seminars. The lack of connection with the audience makes it really hard to tell whether they are understanding or not, whether I am too fast or too slow, etc. I would expect a virtual instructor's experience to be similar, and so yes, regular check-ins makes a lot of sense to me.

    My daughter is currently doing an degree with the Open University here in the UK, which is all distance learning. She has regular tutorials which work very much as you have suggested. The tutor will set small exercises throughout the session and say, "Raise your hand (virtually, obviously) when you are finished." And he or she will ask questions and pause to give people an opportunity to answer, without making anyone feel compelled to join if if they don't want to. They have a lot of experience working this way, and they do it very well. It does make it feel much more interactive and engaging than just sitting there and listening.

  • May 07 at 10:21 AM

    Hi Susan,

    It depends on the experience of the trainees.

    With seniors you know that they will immediately ring the bell when they encounter something that they don't yet understand, so a virtual classroom is a good way to teach.

    With beginners, or young'uns you have to pull it out of them or you can gauge it from their flummoxed faces as you said, so a physical presence is the preferential way.

    • May 07 at 03:18 PM

      Thank you all for the feedback - it is just what I had hoped to learn.

      Some people I know had taken some virtual training and the instructor did not seem to check in with the students... not to see whether they had 'gotten' the point of an assignment, or had questions. As far as I know, there were no polls to see who had completed this or that.

      I felt a little bit sympathetic to the instructor (like Steve Rumsby , giving webinars can be a little unnerving without that immediate connection with the audience).

      But mostly I felt sympathetic to the attendees - I feel as though they had a rougher time with the training than was necessary, due to a lack of interaction between the instructor and the students.

      Lessons to learn!

      I'll be taking some virtual training this summer. Fun!

      Sue

    • May 07 at 04:55 PM

      It might also depend on the attendee interest. If this is something I actually want to learn then it's one thing but if it's some kind of mandatory boring corporate stuff then usually everyone just wants to get it over and done with ASAP.

  • May 07 at 05:04 PM

    I also haven't done any virtual learning that would require any active involvement. I've only been on both ends of the webinars so far with varying degree of success. :)

    In a webinar, I feel it's a good idea to have a clear agenda that attendees can follow. (E.g. if I'm interested only in some parts then I could take time during other parts for a quick break.) And definitely stop frequently to ask for comments / questions. Don't expect the attendees to hold their thoughts till the end for you.

    Ideally, it'd be nice to have some kind of "teacher's assistant" to keep track of the feedback. It can be challenging for a presenter to do both. The application used and features it offers also play a big role here.

    • May 07 at 06:15 PM

      Let's assume that the instructor is not using some fly-by-night tool, but one which allows you to poll students, ask questions in a 'chat' and also that the students can raise their hands (virtually). In this case, I think it's pretty poor that these bits of functionality are not utilized to make the learning experience more interactive.

      I do like the idea that there would be a teacher's assistant! In theory, instructors can handle a number of IRL interactions, so they should also be able to handle the virtual ones - if they encourage it.

      • May 07 at 06:44 PM

        I agree. Perhaps the teacher needs some training him/herself on how to use the tool? :)

        Another side of the story - not everyone can teach. The proliferation of online education has been a blessing and a curse so far. On one hand, it created many opportunities for learning. On the other, now everyone is a blogger and a presenter but not everyone has a natural talent or specialized training. People go to school for years to learn how to be teachers for a reason!

        • May 11 at 06:29 PM

          The rule "one size fits all" cannot be applied for virtual training.

          Virtual classes as a great deal when we are talking about technical themes that growing directly from experimentation and demonstration. I saw some virtual classes as a really good tool, that brings a high value to learning process when the topic is related to "see and do it yourself".

          For example, to improve the technical concepts or to learn a delta about any topic that you have a good knowledge. But I cannot see virtual learning as a tool to build knowledge from scratch.

          When you have no idea about the topic that you will learn, experience interchange is one fundaments from the learn. And build a knowledge alone is hard -- if it works, depends on the student personality.

          FM.

          • May 14 at 06:22 PM

            I'd say that "one size fits all" can't be applied to any education in general.

    • May 14 at 07:24 AM

      As to "teacher's assistant":

      I don't have experience as a virtual teacher, but when we do webinars, we have learnt to always do them with a co-moderator, for several reasons:

      1. The moderator/presenter can concentrate on the contents and does not need to simultaneously check for questions in the chat or whether someone "has raised the hand", which is difficult simultaneously IMHO.
      2. It helps to make sure video and audio work as expected: We had situations with a single moderator who did not notice that he forgot to share his screen, so attendees could not see anything (and didn't manage to tell that...), or when sound quality was problematic. A co-moderator is also an attendee so hears and sees the same as others and will notice such mistakes.
      3. As a side effect, we usually have some informal talk before the webinar starts, so attendees can check their connection that way and are invited to "talk" themselves (we usually have small groups with personally known attendees).
      4. As feedback is usually rare from attendees, it helps to evaluate whether the presentation seemed successful/interesting or not and the like. Without such feedback, it sometimes feels like talking to a wall...
      • May 14 at 06:31 PM

        All good points, especially # 2 and # 3. It's quite embarrassing to be interrupted 5 minutes in just to find out you forgot to start sharing.

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