How To Use Proven Virtual Learning Activities To Boost Your Training
March 26, 2021
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Virtual learning sessions using a platform like Zoom, WebEx, or Adobe Connect, have become commonplace. They are often the first step organizations take to provide online learning. And it is easy to set-up a virtual classroom to start your online training. But how many Zoom sessions have we all been in that are deathly boring? We’ve all been there. Most of the time it’s due to a well-intentioned instructor not being well trained in online instructional techniques. Yet, knowing a few tricks about virtual learning activities can change all that. Knowing what activities to use when, and where, can boost the virtual learning experience. And improve your training outcomes. Learn how you can make your online classroom ratings soar.
What Is Virtual Learning?
Virtual learning is a training experience delivered through an electronic medium. Often online and accessed via a phone, tablet, or laptop. It can be self-paced (asynchronous) or as live online teaching (synchronous).
Examples of virtual learning include
Email ‘drip’ courses
Below we are going to concentrate on synchronous virtual learning. That is live learning via a virtual classroom using a platform like Zoom, WebEx, or Adobe Connect.
Greater flexibility and convenience for the learner
Reaching a geographically disbursed audience in a short space of time
Low costs of delivery
Cost savings for the learner
Improved results over traditional training
Access to the latest, up to date, content
Quicker completion of courses
Standardized consistent content and information
Improved retention over traditional learning
Offering a personalized experience
Improved data tracking
“An IBM study reported that for every $1 a company invests in the benefits of eLearning, it gains $30 worth of productivity”
The Quality Of Your Virtual Learning
With the recent urgent rush to online learning, there has been a huge increase in virtuallearning classroom courses. But has this led to creating a quality learning experience? In some cases it has. But most people aren’t experts in instructional design. And some that are, don’t have a lot of experience with creating virtual learning. So there have been many cases where the learning experience has been less than optimal. Some would say deathly boring.
Fortunately, with a few proven tips, you can add virtual learning activities to your training design. These will greatly enhance the virtual learning experience. For every hour of online instruction, aim for 4 – 6 activities to break up the pace. It’s best to minimize lecturing or presenting slides in the session. And use the virtual learning classroom as a time to apply, get feedback, and practice. Rather than passively listen.
Below we breakdown virtual learning activities. Starting with simple, through to more advanced activities. Use them and watch your lesson ratings start to soar.
Simple Virtual Learning Activities You Can Adopt
These virtual learning activities are easy to set-up, simple to operate, and commonly used. Many participants will have had some exposure to them. Novice instructors can start with these.
Screen sharing is a virtual learning activity that is best used for
For example, to show how to use a software application. Or to highlight a feature in the software. Allowing the audience to see what you are doing on your screen.
Tips for screen sharing in your virtual learning
Screen sharing however can be a “bandwidth hog”. So, close all other open applications and any browser tabs that you can.
Keep your presenting to a minimum. And if a participant is presenting, make sure they know how to find the share feature button
When screen sharing you can “screen” everything visible. Or only screen share a specific application. Be careful you don’t share your screen and then forget. Otherwise, when you go to open something else, you might end up oversharing!
Status indicators are great for providing quick visual feedback. They can help you gauge the pace of the learning and keep the conversation flowing. And make sure the learners are paying attention!
For example, one of the most effective virtual learning status indicators is the “raise hand” indicator. This can be used when you have a group conversation and want to give everyone a chance to speak in turn.
Tips for using status indicators in your virtual learning
A good practice when using the raise hand feature is to acknowledge the speaking order: “I see Ben has his hand up, so we’ll hear from Ben, then Harjit”. This communicates to the participants that you are acknowledging their request to speak. And so, they know when it’s their turn which helps prevent them from interrupting. Also, as they know when it’s their turn this prevents lengthy silences between questions.
Don’t forget to remind participants to put their hand down when they’ve finished.
Public chat is often best used for
Providing input on what has been presented
Allowing the audience to submit questions in real-time
Providing feedback to the audience when someone else is presenting
Collecting information from many people simultaneously
Lightning rounds which are a way to provide very short and top of mind feedback
Knowledge checks which are a way to quickly assess an audience’s comprehension of the topic. For example, the instructor can present options on the screen. The audience is then asked to enter the corresponding number for the correct answer
Confirming people are paying attention
Tips for using public chat in your virtual learning
It’s best to leave the chat tool on because it provides an open channel for the audience to take part. This helps increase their engagement in the learning
Be specific with how you want people to use the chat so they don’t get distracted
When you are no longer directing activities in the chat channel, you can leave the chat open. But work with a producer to manage the chat channel and questions that might come in
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Audio and/or video are often best used as virtual learning activities for
Playing games, for example as an icebreaker
Receiving and giving feedback
Role-playing scenarios (but only if group trust is high)
“Giving the floor” to someone else who has something important to contribute
Tips for using conversations in your virtual learning
In a smaller group, ask participants to keep the video feed on and mute themselves. This allows for ongoing non-verbal communication and connection. Providing the audience the ability to switch both audio and video on/off is recommended.
It is important that you don’t let a conversation be dominated by the loudest person in a virtual learning class. One trick is to set norms at the beginning of the session. And if that fails then you can always mute them 😁
Also, its important to be mindful of group trust and inter-cultural communication. For example, if someone doesn’t have English as a first language give them the option to type in the chat, in addition to speaking to ask a question or provide a comment.
Intermediate Virtual Learning Activities You Can Adopt
These activities are a little more involved. They should be used by instructors who have some practice in virtual learning classes. Having a producer can help with the logistics. But instructors should still rehearse to make the session go smoothly.
Polls are a very effective and interactive virtual learning activity to use. They are often best used for
Ice-breakers at the beginning of a session
Quick knowledge checks to understand the groups understanding of topics
Feedback on their experience with the session, or future goals after the session
Fun games to change up the tempo of what you are teaching
Tips for using polls in your virtual learning
Use these near the beginning of your session to help “warm-up” the participants
Keep the options limited to 4 or less if possible.
A good rule of thumb is no more than 2 polls in an hour-long session.
Games and quizzes are good virtual learning activities to increase interactivity in the session. Games and quizzes are often good to use for
Icebreakers at the beginning of a session
Lightening the mood of an intense topic by playing a drawing or guessing game
Increasing the level of interactivity in the session
Role-playing, scenarios, problem-solving activities, and practicing skills
An example could be using an escape room game or playing a classic game such as Pictionary.
Tips for using games and quizzes in your virtual learning
Try a variety of activities such as drawing games, scavenger hunts, story games, or improv games
Keep them simple
Keep them short, typically less than 10 minutes
There are several external tools that you can use to add interactive and fun activities to the virtual learning session, including
File sharing is important for many virtual learning activities. For example, if you are teaching a class on how to redesign something or asking people to complete a case study. File-sharing can be used for
Completing or reviewing assignments
In class applied learning. Such as providing feedback or analysis on the material provided
Completing a task independently
Tips for using file-sharing in your virtual learning
For a group that meets regularly having time to think during the session can be a good thing. Not all virtual classes have to involve the instructor all the time.
Be careful about copyright. Don’t distribute documents that you don’t have permission to distribute.
Advanced Virtual Learning Activities You Can Adopt
These advanced activities should be used by experienced virtual class instructors. And they may need some prior set-up and/or have in-session requirements.
Using A Whiteboard
There are many great activities you can do to enhance the virtual learning experience by using an electronic whiteboard. These are excellent for
Using as a virtual flipchart
Showing how to fill out a section of a document
Helping to sort items into categories
Tips for using a whiteboard in your virtual learning
You can often use the built-in tool in your virtual classroom. Or you can use Google Slides or PowerPoint slides to take notes and share your screen during your session
Another option is to use an external tool like Miro or MURAL. Both allow you to create pre-prepared boards to guide a conversation.
You use it either as an “instructor” only tool or as a group tool where anyone can contribute. If using the group option, ensure that you know how to use, save, and clear any annotations.
Annotation uses a similar toolset to a whiteboard. It is overlayed on what you are displaying. For example, in an anatomy class, you could ask participants to label parts of the body.
Annotations can best be used for
Tips for using annotation in your virtual learning
You can provide some specific guidance to participants by using the arrow tool. Or by typing in your comment.
Make sure to clear the annotations, as they will appear on anything you are projecting.
You’ll also want to turn off the tool when you aren’t using it to prevent participants from distracting the class by playing with it.
If this requires using slides, pages, or images these need to be prepared in advance.
Since the tools are similar to white-boarding, if the group and/or instructor is familiar with that then this is an easy extension of that activity.
Break-out rooms are an excellent way for you to enhance your virtual learning and provide extra interactivity as well. There are many uses for them including
For small group discussions
Reviewing case studies
Splitting people into role-specific subgroups
To practice and prepare debates, competitions, presentations, demonstrations
Pair-and-share activities to elaborate on larger topics or complete a debrief on a topic
Practice role-playing scenarios
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Tips for using breakout rooms in your virtual learning
Have clear written instructions for the group and appoint a “spokesperson” to lead each group.
As it can be intimidating for groups to use, especially at first, make sure that the work is very impactful. Or fun or compelling.
Don’t overdo their use, and typically use them if your group is more than 10-12 in total. If it’s less than that, opt for a group discussion instead.
As a host, you can go to any session you want.
Summary – How To Use Proven Virtual Learning Activities To Boost Your Training
With these tips on virtual learning activities, your virtual classroom sessions are going to be a big hit. No more worrying whether the audience thought it was another boring Zoom session. Stand back and watch your feedback ratings soar.
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