Virtual Facilitator Training Part 2: Know the Interface Inside and Out

While piloting the first live virtual class I’d ever designed, I suddenly saw a yellow stripe appear on the screen. It shocked me and I had no idea how it happened. After the session I asked the facilitator about it. That was the day I learned about the Highlight feature in Microsoft Live Meeting. That was also the day I realized I couldn’t possibly design for this platform without knowing it inside and out.

It’s also a great idea for facilitators to understand the functionality of the program. Think about what great facilitators do. They don’t just read the script in the facilitator guide. They add their own special take to what they teach, adjusting approaches for different audiences or based on their own understanding and expertise. They sometimes even introduce new, up-to-date content. Facilitators need a clear understanding of the platform to successfully teach from the guide and augment the content.

Following are some of the basic features many platforms include and some ways to use them in the virtual classroom:

  • Live Chat–This is a great way to capture questions and comments from the participants. They can also use this medium to connect with one another, share resources and links, and answer questions posed by the facilitator.
  • Annotation Tools–Often including a text tool, drawing tools, and set icons like check marks, Xs, and arrows. These can be used for answering open-ended questions, demonstrating differences in processes, or a quick yes/no or agree/disagree response using checks and Xs. Facilitators can ask participants to use the text tool to label a diagram as a way to check for understanding.
  • Status Boxes–Colors can be used to indicate status. You don’t have to stick to the default, you can create your own responses. For example, if participants are watching a video as part of the class, the facilitator can ask them to display as red while they are watching, then switch back to green when they are done and ready to continue. This can also be used for virtual scavenger hunts.
  • Polls–Polls are easy to set up and provide a great way for the facilitator and participants to learn about each other. Facilitators can use them to get demographic information such as experience level, industry, interest, etc. They can also be used to discover how the content will be used and  in what environment. Remember pop quizzes? Facilitators can use them to check for understanding too. They are usually easy enough to build that they can be spontaneously created when needed.
  • Handouts–Provide resources via handouts that can be downloaded and printed. I really like condensing the relevant models and information to a 1-2 page Participant Placemat.

What are your favorite tools in the platform you use? How do you make them work for you as a facilitator?

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