With Covid-19 entering our lives as an uninvited guest, we have had to make a lot of changes in our day-to-day activities. Right from traveling, working, and even social interactions, it has affected us deeply and has completely changed the way we usually function. It has also changed the way we attend classes. There is no way for us to gather in groups and listen to lectures in a classroom, at least for the next few months in most countries that have been badly hit by the pandemic.
Earlier, being physically present was a must, but that is not the case anymore. This is a new world where online classes are going to be the norm, especially during this uncertain time of COVID. You can bask in knowledge from any part of the world.
Tips for Conducting Virtual Classroom Training
One of the biggest advantages of virtual classrooms is that it connects teachers with students across the globe. But it does come with its own set of problems. Teaching in a virtual classroom is a dream for many teachers because even if the external conditions do not suit, they can always get on a video conferencing app and teach. With most of the students having a laptop and thanks to the availability of low-cost Internet, it isn’t difficult for them to be a part of the virtual classroom too.
Here are tips on how to conduct virtual classroom training with the utmost efficiency:
1. Let technology not be a hassle
For the teacher, the only thing that they should care about is if the students are able to understand the topics that are being discussed. Unfortunately, technology comes in the way and can be a huge burden if the teachers are not technically savvy. Students will not be comfortable if there are a lot of technical glitches that occur during the course of the classes.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of reliance on technology. Sometimes, technology can fail by itself and at other times, the person handling the software might not be equipped to do so. Before you start the class, please ensure that everything is in order. Do a test run with someone who you trust. Go through all the options that are available on the video conferencing tool.
If your tool malfunctions often, then you should either use a different tool or ask an expert if you are handling it the right way. Students won’t like it if you are not giving them the right platform.
2. Add visual elements
If texts are going to be the only source of content that you will be using in your class, then it will be extremely difficult to keep the interest in the class going. Do remember that the attention span of students isn’t that great. You cannot show them chunks of text one after the other hoping that they will consume it with full dedication and listen with rapt attention. People love visuals. It could be presented in the form of infographics, videos, pictures, etc.
Visuals break the monotony that is associated with texts. It enhances the appeal of the content. For someone who is a visual learner, it is a great source of learning. Use a whiteboard if you want to. Mind Maps are another popular way for teachers to impart education. Once the class gets over, teachers can send these mind maps to the students.
For those who are not aware, a mind map is a tool to visually organize information, and you can link items to a general concept.
3. Establish ground rules
Classroom etiquette needs to be followed even if it is a virtual class. You need to convey the ground rules for the students even before you start the classes. Students should log in with their names and the teacher will allow entry for each of them one by one so that there are no anonymous logins. Students are to be kept on mute unless they are asked to participate by the teacher.
If students want to ask a question, they should not interrupt the teacher, instead, they could use the wave button or post their question on the chat. Let them know that their video should be turned on so that you can monitor their activities.
When a test or quiz is to be conducted, the students will be told about it in advance so that they are well prepared for it. The teacher will stick to the time duration of the class unless otherwise, it is absolutely necessary.
4. Have an agenda
Before the teacher starts the class, every participant or student should be clear on what is going to be discussed in the class. The students can be asked to go through the topics in advance so that it is easier for them to understand when the teacher broaches on the subject.
The agenda of the class should be sent to the students in advance over email. You can even ask any of the students to prepare a topic. It will build the confidence of the students when they are able to prepare and deliver a short lecture in the class. It is less intimidating to talk virtually than if one were to do it in front of an entire class.
As you progress through the class, show the progression based on the agenda that was shown to them in the beginning. Conduct polls in the virtual class too, students should be asked to respond to them. Once the teacher has discussed the topics mentioned in the agenda, they can go through them once again so that everyone is familiarized with it.
5. Make it interactive
If the classes are going to be a one-person show, sooner or later, you will have students falling asleep or getting distracted by even the slightest disturbance. Remember, there are more distractions when a student is learning from home. The teacher should empathize with the student because homes are not usually the best environment to attend online classes. So they should cut some slack if they find the students are not able to perform as well as they would have wanted.
The only way you can keep them active is to interact with them. Ask questions throughout the session. Make sure your classes are in such a way that they don’t feel intimidated when you ask questions. Your student is learning, and you need to be the right guide for them by understanding how they feel and what they are going through. Say the names of the students during the class to keep their attention.
6. Share relevant examples
The duty of the teacher is to impart knowledge to the students. It should be done in such a way that the student remembers the content for a long time. If you are going to only talk about things that are mentioned in the book, then you will be able to impart only theoretical knowledge.
If you want to offer quality education for your students, then you need to entertain them with stories of what happened. Let’s say you are talking about B2B marketing to B-school students, you can talk about some of the most famous marketing techniques employed.
You could give an example of how Intel became a household name with its brilliant ad campaign. People bought computers for its software, specifications, or because a particular model is the most popular one. Who would have thought that you could make a brand out of a tiny chip which is inside the computer? That’s not just clever marketing, it changed the face of the computer industry. Add more examples to it. Now, the student will want to know what the concepts are.
7. Use the platform tools
To make the video conferencing tool more empowering, most of them have features that provide for more interaction and a better experience. Trainers can use these tools to keep the students engaged. Here are a few of the tools that are available.
- Tests– You can use this feature to conduct tests for the participants.
- Screen sharing– To facilitate deeper learning, you could share your screen which has more information that you want to show, for the students.
- Chat– Encourage participation of the students where they can answer questions using this feature.
- Poll– Conduct polls where you can ask for their opinion by giving them a number of choices.
- Raise Hand– Students can use this feature to ask something specific based on what is being taught currently. It can also be a signal for agreement.
- Document sharing– By allowing for documents to be shared, there is more transfer of knowledge to the students.
Most of the teachers are aware of these features and keep using them at regular intervals. If you are new to the world of virtual classrooms, then please make yourself familiar with these tools. It is great for encouraging participation and assists the teaching.
8. Make use of your voice
No matter what content you have, if your delivery is poor, then you will end up staring at a screen full of uninterested students. As a teacher, it is your responsibility to make sure your audience is connected to your cause. Your voice should be engaging enough to do that.
Trainers should concentrate on their tone, volume, and pitch. If there is a problem with any of this, don’t imagine that you will have students listening to you with their full attention. Keep improving your delivery style. Practice in front of a mirror and in front of your laptop’s screen to see how it looks. Record your teachings in front of your computer and see how it sounds.
Is it engaging?
Will the students be able to understand everything?
Are you talking at the right speed?
Are you using a lot of filler words?
Do not worry if it does not sound well initially, but you can always keep improving.
9. Ask for feedback
The only way to keep improving is to ask for feedback. The students who are listening to you are the best people to put forward this question. There would be no one else who would be better equipped to offer you feedback than your students themselves.
While they may not be comfortable sharing their feedback openly, you can also offer them the choice to answer the feedback anonymously. You can use a survey tool like SurveySparrow where you can also conduct anonymous surveys. The student will be more comfortable knowing that their honest feedback will not affect them in any way. There is an imbalanced power equation between the students and the teachers, which is why it is better to offer the option of anonymous surveys.
In the feedback, include questions not only about the way you deliver your lectures but also about the teaching methodology used. Ask them what are the areas where you can improve. They could also add any other feedback on any topic, either on the subject or about the teacher.
10. Unexpected challenges can happen
Be sure that you will face unplanned hindrances like losing electricity. There is not much you can do if you are not connected to the Internet. There will be disturbances in the background that can completely derail the process of teaching. Be empathetic with yourself and with your students.
Handle these issues gracefully. Keep yourself calm, do not panic, and find the fastest solution to return to the class. Always think of unexpected challenges that can crop up and identify how you can solve them so when the event occurs, you will be better prepared and handle it with ease.
If an important activity cannot happen due to some issues, do not be rigid. Please find a different time to do it. Always keep a backup for your plans. Let the participants know if you have hit a roadblock, do not keep them in the dark. They might be able to come up with brilliant ideas too. Take a short break if you think that will help.
When there is more than one teacher who handles the class, you can pass on the opportunity to the other teacher to continue with the class while you deal with your emergency. That way, the participants will be engaged while you can see what went wrong. If it is not possible to continue with the class, then inform the students about the same and find a different time to regroup.
11. Form groups
If the tool allows this feature, then you can split the class into different groups. In this way, each group can be asked to work on something specific. You could give them a few days to complete the task after which they will be asked to present it in the class. The other students from different groups who will be presenting later should ask them questions. This type of peer-based learning can be extremely engaging and will help the students learn a lot from each other.
Here is how you can make it engaging:
- Ask the group members to form a group on a different platform such as Whatsapp or Telegram for easy interaction.
- Assist the group members if they have any questions
- The maximum number of people in a group should be four.
- Share the exercises that each of the groups have on a shared Google sheet. This will ensure that everyone gets to know what the others are preparing and are better prepared to ask them questions.
- The group that asks the most relevant questions to their peers will be awarded.
- The group with the best presentation should also be awarded.
12. Ask them Questions
Let’s say if you ask an average of 10 questions in the traditional classroom setting, make sure you ask double the number of questions in the virtual classroom setting. It is difficult for students to participate and engage fully. So if you need to increase their attention span, you need to keep asking questions. No, we are not talking about asking questions that will intimidate them. Here are some of the types of questions that you can ask:
“Were you able to understand the topic X?”
“What do you think about the way this was handled by company A?”
“Can you tell me some of the other uses for the same tool?”
“Who do you think are the competitors of this company?”
“Was it morally right on their part to sue their competitor for doing this?”
Questions like this will not elicit fear and the ones who are actively listening will be more than enthused to answer. Those who are not active will slowly participate more since you are making it interactive for the students.
13. Offer more handouts and resources
Yes, you cannot pass handouts, instead, you can send files using the video conferencing tool for additional learning. Whatever is taught in the class alone is not enough, students need to prepare more on their own by referring to other books. Let them know of some of the resources that are the best for a particular topic. Encourage peer learning and create a mechanism where everyone shares the notes they prepare for each other.
14. Setup post-training success
If the classroom training is going to be a one-time thing, then you need to keep the interest of the students alive. There should be a process on how you are going to facilitate further study. You also need to provide support for the class. Send the transcripts of all the teachings so far so that they can get familiarized with it.
Provide a link of the recording to every participant so that they can go back and relive the experience. It will help them understand the concepts if they hadn’t for the first time.
Virtual classroom training is a completely different ballgame than teaching in a physical class. It has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The teacher needs to create an environment where students can get the best learning even though the conditions might not be as conducive for learning. If the teaching materials have been prepared in advance with the well-being of students in mind, it is not that difficult to crack this.
Find out the goals of the students who will be a part of the class. What are the topics that they will want to know? How can you offer it in the best way possible? What are the interesting pieces of information that you could add to spruce up your content? As long as you give the best possible content with impeccable delivery, you can always increase your retention rate as well as impart knowledge to your participants. That’s the ultimate goal as a teacher, right?