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Virtual Classroom Best Practices: Making the Classroom Fun Without Technology Getting in the Way

With just a little more preparation, L&D professionals can deliver a much better classroom experience to their learners.  Spending time doing some groundwork can make training more engaging, without technology getting in the way. In this post, we’ll explore some ways that trainers can prepare for a course, regardless of the learning platform they use, or the course delivery technology framework. 

GETTING SIDETRACKED

Technology has made delivering employee training so much easier today. In addition to helping with managing learner data, HR managers and training teams leverage technology to improve employee retention and enhance workplace efficiency. However, at times, excessive focus on technology may derail employee training objectives, and make learning less fun and engaging.

Whether it’s sales training, employee onboarding, or mandated compliance training, L&D professionals have a range of technologies they can readily deploy in their training efforts. From Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Content Management Systems (CMS) to Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), Assistive Technologies, and Cloud-based learning platforms – there’s technology available for every learning scenario, need, and application.

While technology certainly plays a pivotal role in making training more accessible, and in enhancing workplace efficiency, it can sometimes sidetrack trainers from one core mission, which is to make training more engaging and fun and to improve training results. Instead, many trainers end up focusing on Chat Boxes, Messaging, Screen Shares, Breakout Groups, Whiteboards, and Video backgrounds.

Because of the plethora of features and functionality that these technologies bring to the learning environment, they sometimes distract (likely, inadvertently) trainers from delivering a truly optimal virtual classroom experience to their learners. In some instances, there’s more time spent managing learning technologies than on the learning experience itself.

PRE-PLANNING FOR ENGAGEMENT

The good news is that, even though they sometimes tend to get in the way of delivering an engaging training experience, technologies are great at empowering trainers and learners alike. But there’s even better news: With a little bit of extra pre-planning, trainers can overcome the “sidetracking” challenge alluded to earlier.

Regardless of what training platform you use to host your virtual classroom, or whether it’s an employee onboarding course or a data privacy session you’re conducting; some additional preparation can help mitigate the “distracting” elements of your technology.

  1. Monitoring & Facilitation: Having a single trainer act as moderator, facilitator, tech support specialist, and the referee can severely undermine learner engagement in an eLearning session. Regardless of what LMS you use, planning for one facilitator and one monitor, if possible, to manage the technology and audience, allows the facilitator to more closely focus on enabling each session. You could also have a rotating volunteer role (from among your learners) monitor chat sessions and filter questions/comments to cut down on moderation and facilitation time. Either of these approaches can create better learner engagement and vastly improve training results.
  2. Tackling the Tools of the Trade: Technology can often stump even the most technologically savvy amongst us. One way to ensure it (IT) doesn’t get in the way of a good learning experience, is to tackle the obvious challenges head-on. Create handy FAQs (How do I mute/unmute? How do I share my screen? How do I chat in ‘private’? What do I do to…? How can I…?) that you share in advance of the course. Then, periodically review those items with your audience to ensure that technological challenges aren’t impeding their learning.
  3. Study Buddies: Pair students based on common profile features – same time zones, general geographic location, similar professional backgrounds, same employer – and have them cooperate/coordinate off-line virtual learning sessions. This eliminates the potential for learning platform challenges from impeding or stifling peer learning.
  4. Something for Everyone: Do a participant analysis prior to a course, and ensure you understand what makes each attendee “tick”. This learning technology-agnostic assessment can help you tailor assignments, quizzes and Use Cases/examples so everyone can relate to course content.
  5. Note Taking Simplified: Typically, trainers offer end-of-session notes after each session. Doing it slightly differently can yield better results. Prepare session-end Coles Notes of your lectures/sessions, and share them well in advance of each session. This makes it less stressful for learners to take notes simultaneously while also trying to comprehend new concepts. Instead, it makes it easier for learners to focus more on the content presented.
  6. Questions Answered: Have learners share questions about upcoming lessons, on a moderated platform, several sessions prior to each class. Collate/group questions together, and address them as a single unit, which will cut down on Q&A time. Since peer learning is one of the best forms of learning, you may also encourage learning peers to take a stab at addressing the questions.

With just a bit of pre-planning, trainers and L&D teams can easily implement these technology-independent strategies in any virtual classroom setting. Because these techniques work, regardless of what learning platform or technology you use, they’re guaranteed to stimulate learner engagement, make learning less stressful and more fun, and improve training results.

SUMMING IT UP

eLearning experiences not only impact workplace culture but, when such experiences are particularly less fulfilling and engaging, they can also have a deleterious effect on workplace efficiency and job performance. Many training advocates believe technology is the only solution to improving workplace efficiency and enhancing employee retention rates. While technology certainly plays a major role in learning experiences, it’s not a panacea for delivering fulfilling and fun learning experiences.

Tweaking some technical features, and customizing other learning platform functionality can certainly provide a more personalized virtual classroom environment. However, there’s only so much that such tweaks can accomplish. After a while, eLearning technology can deliver diminishing marginal rates of learning efficiency.  But trainers do have another technology-independent alternative that ensures tech doesn’t get in the way of making employee training fun and engaging.

Whether it’s employee onboarding, recertification, and compliance or highly technical (but boring!) courses, with a bit of advanced strategizing and preparation, L&D professionals can make them more fun and engaging by altering their training delivery approaches. Simple non-technological “tweaks”, like designating facilitator/moderator roles, or changing how you manage “end of session” reviews and discussions, can go a long way to making the virtual classroom fun and engaging, and to improve training results.