Whether transitioning a face-to-face course to virtual or starting a new virtual program, one of the biggest challenges will be preparing your facilitators for this new environment.
A good designer can make use of the platform to create a rich adult learning experience, but behaviors that make a facilitator successful in a physical classroom don’t always translate to the virtual classroom. The Train-the-Trainer (TTT) session needs to address this change and cultivate successful virtual behaviors. I highly recommend the TTT be virtual and interactive. The goal is to teach the facilitators how to be successful in the virtual environment, so they should be trained in the same environment.
First, a frank discussion about facilitators’ fears needs to happen. They need a chance to address what they imagine they will lose when they move from the physical to virtual classroom. The number one concern I usually hear is loss of body language and eye contact. This is important… and scary. Facilitators need to discuss this discomfort and have all of their concerns addressed.
Then, after the discomfort has been addressed, I like to ask them what they think they could gain by making the move. What is possible virtually that is not possible in a physical classroom? The obvious answers include saving travel dollars, reaching a wider audience, and and lack of jet lag. If they are really honest (and comfortable with the group) they’ll say they can teach in their pajamas! I like to emphasize the following advantages in this conversation:
- Inclusion of remote participants
- Everyone gets a “front row seat” to the content
- Introverts who normally would not speak out in class enjoy the opportunity to use the chat function or annotation tools.
- Those who speak English as a second language also appreciate the the ability to type responses, especially if they have thick accents that are difficult to understand. It’s better than being constantly asked to repeat themselves.
- Participants can respond to a facilitator’s question simultaneously using annotation tools, so many ideas can be shared very quickly. In a physical classroom everyone would have to take turns speaking and it would take several minutes.
I’ll address the following topics in the my next few posts:
- Know the interface inside and out.
- Develop a virtual body language.
- Using polls and activities to meet participant needs.
- Competing with email, Facebook, and Sudoku.