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Ideas on Virtual Learning

What are other people doing with virtual learning?

This is a question we are getting asked a lot right now, so we thought we’d share a few experiences and tips that have come up across our clients.

Some of the L&D teams we work with are highly experienced in curating content and providing links via their Learning Management System (LMS) for people at home to view when convenient. Others are looking at the idea of virtual learning for the first time and so are playing with different technology options and ways of approaching this to see what works for them.

The consistent trend of course is that the situation is new and everyone is experimenting to see how they can help people. Here are the trends we’re seeing in what’s working so far.

Breaking content into shorter sessions

When your two-year-old makes clear that you cannot sit still for a 90-minute webinar, short and sharp is even more valuable than before. Get on Zoom for 45 minutes, have 15 minutes of that in randomly assigned breakout rooms to ensure people are engaging with the content, and then leave people to get back to homeschooling, washing, the day job or some opportunity for a break.

Offering more than one time slot

Again given the children at home challenge, even when something is booked in the diary, some people cannot make it. Either by recording the session or running two or three live options, the chances are you can hit more of your audience.

Running one-day workshops

Whilst most companies are going with the little and often approach, a few are finding that this leads to a high dropout rate. What used to be a one-day workshop has been converted into four one-hour webinars, one per week. That’s great for making it manageable with the kids at home, but by week 3, it’s likely you’ll hit a clash with a management conference call or a tantrum at home.

So a few L&Ders have gone with the option of sticking with a one-day workshop, starting at 9.30am, with a ten minute break after an hour and a one hour break after the second hour. So it’s really only four hours of interactive webinar time, but the group is all together for the day.

We find on this one that it’s about trial and error, knowing you will never find a solution that suits all, but going with what suits most can at least means you can keep running. Then see what options there are to pick up the others.

Splitting out the teaching and the Q&A or discussion

Sometimes people need more time to reflect on what they have heard, in order to think of how this applies to them and what questions they want to ask. On a face-to-face workshop we can give time for that, but if we’ve shortened to a 45-minute webinar, there may not be time for reflectors to get there. So a few companies have split out these aspects.

On Tuesday there is a 30-minute Webex session, delivering some top tips and suggestions on how these could be used. Then for the next two days, delegates are encouraged to send in their questions and comments on the sessions, via email or on a slack channel. On Thursday, the questions are answered in a recorded session, and for those able to attend live, breakout rooms are set up for people to discuss how they could use the tips in their work.

Mirroring flipchart activities

One of the core basics of learning is that we remember and apply concepts better when we are thinking for ourselves, than when we are taught. This is why the classic flipchart activity in a workshop is so powerful: delegates coming up with their thoughts on a topic rather than the facilitator giving them answers.

Recreating this can be a challenge online, but it can be done well. In one business we simply use the breakout rooms in Zoom or Webex to have people in groups answering a question or coming with ideas, which then one spokesperson shares back with the whole group.

Another client uses blackboard collaborate, having seen this used successfully for teachers. A brilliant feature this enables is the post-it activities, so in a breakout group, each person’s contributions are on a different colour post-it and rich discussion follows.

In these strange times, it’s great to share experiences and learn from each other, as everyone is facing new and unusual circumstances. What’s great is how everyone is coming together to do what we can.