The ‘new normal’ has seen all of us adjust to working online amazingly quickly. The adaptability and resilience of those of us who deliver sessions and those of us that participate in them is one of the positive things we’ll be able to take from the lockdown. Most of us have taken to this naturally, whilst others may have found the transition from teaching on-campus to online challenging, It’s worth looking at the techniques and tools we have used during this time and how we’ve moved our sessions from the classroom to online and been able to keep going. Mostly this is a trainer looking at transferring stand alone classroom sessions to online delivery, for teaching/lecturing there are other challenges to delivering a curriculum that will need a range of other tools to support a whole course of study, but hopefully, much of this will still be useful.
Choose your tool
There are lots of video conferencing tools that all do pretty much the same thing. You will have heard of Skype, Google Meet. Webex, a lot of organisations are using Microsoft Teams and for personal use Zoom has been pretty prominent. Preference in these will be down to personal choice but it is worth considering that your University account will give you easy access to Google Meet and Webex which have additional features to help deliver a session (these will be covered later in the article). Webex may at first seem a more complicated platform than some of the others, but the Webex Training platform allows you to set up your session in advance, import a presentation and use integrated tools like a whiteboard and polls – it may be more difficult initially – but it is worth getting to grips with.
Design your session
Take some time to redesign your classroom session around the online tool and the online delivery techniques you feel comfortable with. Delivering online has a very different feel to being in the classroom, so ‘chunk’ the lesson plan, divide it into deliverable chunks. Take the opportunity to have another look at the learning objectives and make them more ‘efficient.’ For online delivery it may be more effective to take out the ‘nice to haves’ that work better for the classroom. If converting an all day session, this could work better as three 90 minute online sessions, consider also flipping the classroom by providing pre or post course activities/materials.
Lots of interaction
One thing to battle against when delivering online is participant drift and multi-tasking. It is really easy to be distracted, quickly check Facebook or look at emails while you’re supposed to be on a course, so consider the following:
Share Screen – All the conferencing tools will allow you to share the screen so you can demo or present. Many other tools may be integrated such as a presentation, whiteboard, polls or quizzes.
Lots of slides – Most presentation skills courses will tell you that less is more, online the opposite is true. Keep the session moving by changing the screen quickly and often. There doesn’t need to be loads of information on each slide, just something key, but keep them moving quickly. Forty plus slides for an one hour online session wouldn’t be unreasonable. This would obviously be different if you are delivering application training, but the principle of keeping things moving still applies.
Online chat – Video conferencing tools will generally have a chat feature, use this and get participants to ask you questions through it. It is a great way to keep participants engaged by regularly stopping to check this and dealing with anything that has been raised.
Polls/questions/quizzes – Use these throughout the session to encourage interaction. The advantage of Webex Training is that these tools are inbuilt, there is a ‘show of hands’ option and a quiz can be set up in advance of the session. There are many online quiz or audience response tools that could be utlised, things like Nearpod, Mentimeter, Vevox. Kahoot etc.
Online whiteboard – This is a great way to encourage participation in a quick activity by getting participants to write on a whiteboard that you can all see, then discuss the comments made. Again there are many of these available, but a whiteboard feature is integrated with Webex Training. With Google Meet you can use the Jamboard app, even schedule a meeting from this.
Depending on whether you have a small session with a few participants, or a large session with hundreds of people, you’ll want to consider your delivery options.
Meet/invite – For a session that requires full interaction from your participants send them a joining link or meeting invitation. This can be generated from your chosen video conferencing tool.
Live streaming – If you are potentially delivering a more traditional lecture format online, this could go out to hundreds of people. Provide a live stream link and it will be possible to view the session without ‘participating.’
Record the session – Webex and Google Meet make it possible to record sessions as do most of the other tools. Links to the recording can be published or made available on an LMS if appropriate.
Mute – Having everyone’s microphone on at the same time might cause issues, especially with a large number of participants. Get everyone to mute their mic and just unmute it when they want to ask a question or get involved. In Webex Training the trainer controls the microphones, so by default everyone can be turned off and the trainer can turn a participant’s mic on when appropriate.
Webcam – As a trainer you don’t always need the webcam to be on. If you want to focus on a demo, presentation, quiz etc. it would be better to have your camera off. It could be turned on again for a question and answer session.
Having adapted quickly and moved what we currently deliver from the classroom to online, if we now have a new normal, then we need to consider if what we did in the classroom is actually applicable to online. This article shows there are immediate adjustments that need to be made, but longer term is duplicating a classroom session online the best way to deliver online learning? Maybe authoring tools, videos and other forms of digital creation are needed?
Check out Myport for the Webex and Google Meet articles. LinkedIn Learning has a course on the Webex Training tool, there are also useful learning paths on working and teaching remotely, as well as on the different areas of digital capability.
Credit Image: Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash