Although 85% of the professions available in 2030 do not even exist yet, the importance of training is becoming increasingly obvious. This observation, combined with the pandemic and the need for remote learning solutions in companies and universities, is creating a new method of learning: the virtual classroom. But how do you design and run a virtual class? How do you interact with your participants and keep them motivated? Glowbl offers a few key tips for an effective virtual class.
Who can benefit from the virtual classroom solution?
The virtual classroom solution enables teachers to train their students remotely, in real time. It creates the same conditions as the face-to-face classroom, virtually. Although they are physically distanced, at home in front of a computer or tablet, students are surrounded by their classmates and teacher, who are all logged on to the same online platform at the same time. Several virtual classroom tools enable participants to interact: the chat function, surveys, video conferencing, screen sharing, etc.
The virtual classroom can meet several different goals, such as learning support, knowledge transfer and skills consolidation. This digital solution is therefore suitable for different target audiences, such as:
- education (schools and universities), for a variety of classes;
- companies, for in-house online training or to discuss products and services with customers;
- training organisations, for remote sessions available to a wide range of students located in different regions;
- coaches, for genuine group dynamics even at a distance.
Good to know
Simultaneous participation, a feature of the virtual classroom, is completely different from asynchronous or delayed participation. During a simultaneous session, students follow a live class, all at the same time, which fosters interaction. An asynchronous session, on the other hand, enables participants to follow the class when they wish, in their own time, with no simultaneous exchange with the other students or the teacher. It also enables students to get a grip on the theory before the actual class.
Further reading: What is blended learning?
What are the best practices associated with running a virtual class?
Running a virtual class does not just involve a good understanding of technical and technological tools. Like for any training session, good preparation is vital and when it is run remotely, you need to make even more effort to keep your students’ attention. Here are a few tips to help you design and run your virtual class.
Fix a time
It is vital to fix a time with your students well in advance and send them the login link. Ideally, you should also send them a reminder the day before and a few minutes before the start of the class.
Suggest to your students that they log in 10-15 minutes before the start of the virtual class, so you can solve any connection issues and answer any technical questions straightaway (how to mute/unmute the microphone, how to use the chat function, etc.). You can also use the few minutes beforehand to set any virtual class rules: when and how your students can intervene, what type of conversations can be had via chat, what time does the virtual class start and finish, etc.
Prepare the scenario
Just like in a face-to-face class, improvisation and adaptation play a part in virtual classes. However, it is advisable to prepare your session scenario beforehand, to ensure you give a certain amount of structure to the class. For example, your scenario may include the following elements:
- welcome and introduction of participants;
- technical checks to ensure the class runs smoothly;
- explanation of the agenda and objectives for the sessions;
- nature of the different activities planned;
A few questions to help you build your own scenario:
- What is the aim of the training session (correcting exercises, learning a new concept, answering students’ questions, etc.)?
- How many participants are there?
- How much time do I need altogether, and for each section?
- What virtual classroom tools am I going to use?
- In what way will students be able to participate?
- How will I assess them?
Choose the right format
It is vital to take care when choosing your format to design an effective virtual class. Firstly, the length must be suitable, to ensure you keep your students’ attention. In as far as is possible, get straight to the point to avoid sessions that last hours too long. It is very important to take regular breaks.
Plan different activities to give a rhythm to your session, by alternating between lecture-style sections, student participation, and practical exercises. In a virtual class, the focus should be more on practical exercises and interaction.
Rethink your content
To keep your students’ attention remotely during a virtual class, you need to rethink your content and teaching material. Keep it varied, short and meticulously pre-prepared. To achieve this, use virtual class tools to show pictures, videos and sounds, or to conduct surveys.
Your role as teacher is vital to ensure the quality of your virtual class. Indeed, you are not only the teacher but also a guide, a leader, a stage director, a screenwriter, an orator, and a coach. These different roles are even more important when working remotely, to make up for the lack of physical presence. Your students must see you playing an active and present role. It is important to prioritise spontaneity and energy, and to monitor the commitment of your group.
Plan time in sub-groups
Periods in sub-groups are an important part of your remote training sessions. They bring your students closer in a fun way and recreate the atmosphere of a real classroom. By putting skills into practice or through brainstorming sessions, for example, sub-groups provide the opportunity for co-creation. They are a valuable tool for engagement, interaction and active learning.
With Glowbl’s virtual classroom solution, you can create sub-groups simply by swiping bubbles. To take notes together, use a shared “whiteboard”. The tool’s interface enables you to create sub-groups in the same space, without needing to move into a parallel field.
How can you engage your students to motivate them?
Your primary goal as teacher of a virtual class is to keep the motivation and attention of your students. How to go about it Here are a few key tips:
- Learning through play: fun teaching, by adding games to your training sessions, can grab your students’ attention more easily.
- Assessing your students correctly: organise gradually more difficult tests. These assessment phases help students realise how they are progressing and remain motivated. As a teacher, assessments are useful for identifying areas of difficulty and directing your teaching.
- Encouraging collective intelligence through non-directive teaching: your role as a teacher focuses primarily on facilitating and moderating discussions. This type of session, which aims to encourage dialogue, fosters students’ proactivity.
- Creating cooperative work spaces in sub-groups: introduce participative learning situations during which students find solutions together.
- Mixing different methods of participation: from time to time, you can mix simultaneous virtual classes with asynchronous participation, to respect each student’s speed of learning and boost autonomy.
Further reading: How do you create an interactive online training course?