Maximize Learning in the Virtual Classroom Using These 12 Training Methods
by Avantix Learning Team | April 10, 2020
Training methods that are used in a virtual classroom need to support learning objectives but should also be engaging, appropriate for the type of training and the virtual space, viable and cost-effective. We've compiled a list of the most popular training techniques that can be used in the virtual classroom environment but can also be used in a live classroom. You can combine one or more of these methods to increase learner engagement and retention.
It's important to note that virtual classroom training is not the same as eLearning but could include eLearning modules. In this article, we are defining a virtual classroom as an interactive space with a live instructor or facilitator and students who log in from a remote location. Because there is a live instructor and students will be interacting with the instructor and other students, a virtual class is limited in size.
The most popular training methods for virtual classrooms are:
- Lecture with visuals
- Group discussions and breakout sessions
- Recorded videos and readings
- Case studies
- Mentoring or coaching
Recommended article: How to Be a Productive Remote Worker (10 Tips for Working from Home)
1. Lecture with visuals
In a virtual classroom, the most common training method is a lecture with an instructor delivering a presentation with slides (using PowerPoint or other presentation software). The slide deck is used to visually reinforce the concepts and increase learner engagement. It's worth spending the time to create well-designed slides with images. It's also important for instructors to rehearse their presentations to ensure timing is appropriate and to get comfortable running a slide show in their virtual classroom. Presenters should also avoid reading the slides during a virtual lecture. In order to increase engagement, students should be encouraged to ask questions via audio or chat during or after the presentation.
Some presenters may use some type of whiteboard or drawing tool during their lecture, demonstrate the use of a piece of equipment or software, or simply lecture using a web cam or video camera. If the presentation is simply a lecture with the instructor using a video camera, the visual element is the instructor.
Prior to a virtual classroom course, instructors should practice with the technology to avoid technical issues.
Instructors can combine a lecture or presentation with other techniques such as polling, brainstorming, breakout groups, videos or quizzes in a virtual classroom environment.
Webinars are also instructor-led but are often one-way communication and can include a large number of attendees. An instructor will deliver a presentation in a webinar which may be recorded and replayed multiple times. This method can offer significant savings, both in terms of cost and time. Some webinars may be interactive where the instructor answers questions during or after the presentation via chat or audio. The key with webinars is to keep them short (45 minutes to 1 hour works well). Keep in mind that students can be easily distracted if they are simply watching a webinar and may be sending texts or emails or dealing with children or pets if they are working from home.
Polling is a popular tool in virtual classrooms. It can help increase engagement, show knowledge gaps, determine future topics, help find students who are struggling and allow students who may not participate in discussions to provide feedback. Polls can also be used for assessments. Many virtual classroom tools offer polling but there are also third party polling tools available as well. Like many other tools, instructors should take the time to get comfortable with the polling tools prior to using them in a virtual course. Polling may not be an option if there is a limited amount of time.
4. Group discussions and breakout sessions
Group discussions, either as audio, video with audio, chats or online forums, are common in virtual classrooms. These may include discussions on a specific topic or Q&A (question and answer) periods. Breakout sessions can be used in a virtual classroom to break students into smaller groups where they can discuss a topic or concept. Instructors will need to learn how to use breakout rooms in their virtual space and how to end the session and ask students to return to the full classroom to report on their results. Breakout sessions can be a great way to increase the engagement and energy of the students.
Brainstorming sessions can work well when the goal is to have participants create a list of viable solutions or suggestions that can be used to address a work issue or in the creation of a new process, product or service. Instructors can use breakout rooms in a virtual space or a virtual whiteboard during a brainstorming session. Like breakouts, brainstorming sessions can be a great way to increase the engagement and energy of the students. Virtual whiteboards may be saved and sent to the students after the session.
6. Recorded Videos and Readings
Recorded videos can be used in a virtual classroom course as another way to increase engagement and reinforce concepts. Ideally, videos used in a virtual classroom should be short and interspersed throughout the course. Since video requires bandwidth, it may be problematic to use in a virtual classroom environment if bandwidth is an issue. The alternative is to provide students with links to videos that they can watch on their own and then discuss in the virtual classroom environment. It's also common to provide links to articles as well. Students can discuss both video and article content in the virtual space.
7. Case Studies
Case studies are actual or hypothetical scenarios that depict real-life situations. Instructors can assign case studies in a virtual classroom and have students work on them individually or in groups. Students are asked to analyse the case and to come up with solutions for the scenario. The case study approach works well when you want to develop analytical and problem-solving skills. The case studies may be completed off-line and the students could then discuss their results in the virtual classroom.
Role-playing activities can be used in virtual classroom where the students assume a role and interact with other students or with the facilitator or a subject matter expert. Role-plays can be performed using audio only or video with audio. A role-play may involve a scenario where the participants try to solve an issue or learn skills to deal with a common problem. Role-playing can work well for interactions with customers or clients. Video may not be ideal for this method if bandwidth is an issue.
Games are often used to make learning fun and engaging and to facilitate learning. Gamification can include both competition and achievement. Games may include rewards or simply involve competition between students or groups of students. Inexpensive games could be a PowerPoint deck with a Jeopardy style game or a Wheel of Fortune game. Serious games are more complex and expensive (like video games for pilots learning to fly, students learning a language or medical professionals learning a skill). Instructors should practice delivering a game in the virtual classroom environment before using a game with students.
Quizzes are a popular training method in both live and virtual classrooms. Like polling, quizzes can help increase engagement, show knowledge gaps, help find students who are struggling and be used for assessments. Instructors or curriculum developers may use eLearning software or third party tools to create quizzes. Since other software is normally used to create quizzes (although they can be created in PowerPoint or other presentation software as well), quizzes usually take more time as the instructors or developers must learn the software and create the quizzes.
11. Mentoring or Coaching
Mentoring or coaching can be used in the virtual classroom and normally involves a one-to-one interaction using audio or video with audio. The student is paired with a mentor or coach who will meet at designated times to discuss an assigned topic or to simply be available for a discussion. Coaching or mentoring can work well for employees taking leadership training who are paired with an experienced manager.
ELearning modules can be included as part of a virtual classroom course. Since eLearning modules are developed using eLearning software, they can be expensive and time-consuming to create. Some eLearning modules can be purchased directly from a vendor and simply included in a virtual classroom course.
Well-designed eLearning modules allow learners to interact (click buttons, answer questions, and so on). Learners are able to learn at their own pace at a convenient time and redo lessons if required. These modules are normally integrated into an LMS (Learning Management System) where student activity can be tracked for completion and compliance, assessed and certified.
To include eLearning modules effectively in a virtual classroom course, there should normally be a follow-up discussion or activity in the virtual classroom related to the topics covered in an eLearning module.
In a virtual classroom, the training methods you select depend on many factors including the type of training, time, cost, technology, resources and learner needs. Each approach has pros and cons and you can combine several training methods to create the most effective virtual classroom courses for your learners. Ultimately, the goal is to create the best learning experience for the students.
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