A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who attended this week’s session: “Design is Everything: 5 Techniques for Designing an Interactive Virtual Class.” If you are looking for the handout or any checklists that I mentioned, look under the “Resources” tab on the home page of my site. And if you are looking for more information about my book, Virtual Training Basics, click here.
There were a few common questions that I didn’t have time to answer during the session. Here they are in more detail. If you don’t see your question answered, feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to share information and resources!
Q: What’s the recommended length of time for a synchronous virtual training class?
A: Virtual training classes tend to be shorter than their in-person classroom counterparts. A typical virtual session is 60-120 minutes in length. If you have more content than that length of time allows, consider chunking the content into smaller parts. It would be better to have three 90-minute virtual classes than to have a 4.5 hour continuous session. However, if you need to have a lengthy virtual class, be sure to take regular breaks throughout!
Q: Can you recommend some resources for asynchronous online training?
A: First, let’s define what we mean by synchronous and asynchronous, just to be sure we’re all on the same page. Asynchronous training means that the participants learn and interact on their own time, such as taking a self-paced e-learning course or answering a question on a threaded discussion board. Synchronous training means that the participants are together as they learn. I usually refer to synchronous as “live online training” or “virtual training”.
It’s actually common to combine synchronous and asynchronous methods to create a blended learning curriculum. During this week’s webcast, I shared a visual graphic of a blended curriculum that included three synchronous sessions and several asynchronous assignments. Together those components made up one complete curriculum.
As for resources on asynchronous design? My current favorite recommended read is a book by Julie Dirksen called “Design for How People Learn.” While it’s not a book on how to code e-learning modules, it’s a great read on how to design learning experiences.
Q: What’s the benefit of designing a virtual session for a facilitator plus a producer? (And a similar question asked by many: “what’s a producer?”)
A: A producer is someone who works behind-the-scenes during a virtual class to ensure it runs smoothly. The producer usually handles all technical aspects of a virtual session, such as helping participants with technology questions or troubleshooting any issues that arise. The producer may also help with activities, such as opening poll questions or keeping track of time.
There are several benefits to having both a facilitator and a producer in every virtual session. First, when you have two facilitators, they share responsibilities for the virtual class. One person can drive the technology while the other facilitates the activities. Second, if there are any technical problems during the virtual class, one person can troubleshoot and assist participants while the other person continues facilitating. In addition, having two voices can increase participant engagement by creating a more interesting discussion. Finally, for those who are new to virtual delivery, having a “co-pilot” can help you get more comfortable in the virtual classroom.
Q: Should I provide handouts to participants in a virtual training class? Should I send them the slides?
A: Handouts = YES! Slides = NO! Here’s why… The purpose of a handout is to keep your participants from needing to write down every key idea or point made during the training class. Handouts (also called participant guides or workbooks) include the main training content, exercises, activity instructions, and reference material. It allows participants to take appropriate notes, just like they would in a face-to-face class. On the other hand, the slides are part of your facilitator materials. Just like you don’t hand over your facilitator guide to participants in a face-to-face class, you shouldn’t send over your facilitator slides in a virtual class. If your handout is done well, that should be all that’s needed. Use your platform’s file share feature to share the handout with participants.
Also – speaking of slides – many of you asked me for my photo/clip art sources! I usually use istockphoto.com and/or the photos that come bundled with Microsoft PowerPoint.
Q: I’m just getting started – where can I find more resources on designing virtual classes?
A: I recently released a white paper called “3 Simple Steps to Move Training Online” which shares a process for converting classes to the live online environment. I also co-authored an ASTD InfoLine on this topic, “Designing for the Virtual Classroom.” It’s available here. In addition, there is a course on synchronous design offered through InSync Training.
Finally, if you would like consulting assistance on designing virtual classes, or converting your classroom courses, please contact me for more information (chuggett at gmail dot com).
Thanks everyone! I hope you enjoyed the session, and look forward to next week’s Part 2: Facilitating in the Live Online Classroom: 5 Techniques to Master Delivery!