Traditional training, also known as classroom training, comes with different challenges while facilitating. These include participant engagement, high/low interaction by participants, effective knowledge transfer, and, most importantly, achieving an exciting learning experience. The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that work could go on despite a lockdown, which included classroom training.
The incidence of virtual, i.e., online training/ learning events, has increased over the past six (6) months and necessitated the question, “How do I facilitate a successful virtual class?”.
No one wants to facilitate a ‘Silent Class’ having to ask, ‘can anyone hear me?’ repeatedly or frantically checking your internet connection to see if your network provider has not disappointed again.
Below are a few guidelines on how to achieve an engaging learning session:
1. Clean Camera Lens
The first step is making an excellent first “visual appearance” during introductions. Most people do not usually consider this as an essential factor, but a clear video goes a long way in giving you a receptive welcome in your class. Remember the saying about first impressions? Well, it also works virtually as it does physically.
2. Pick a Co-Facilitator
The co-facilitator should be selected from amongst the learners (look out for the one who is quick to speak at the commencement). This person will serve as a connector to the remainder of the class. He or she will help in giving feedback regarding the audio quality or screen slide sharing.
The person can also function as a trigger for class interactions; once you talk with your co-facilitator, everyone else will want to contribute or participate!
3. Create discussions out of participants contributions
You should acknowledge feedback, contributions, comments, and opinions in class and, if possible, a few minutes spent to deliberate on them. Do not only recognise with just a ‘Thank you’ as others may perceive this as a quick way of shutting down the comment or contribution. Not everyone has the confidence to share their thoughts in a public gathering. Therefore, we must respect and appreciate the effort, no matter how silly it may sound. Throw it open for deliberation and if others do not agree, at least have a healthy debate and end with a good laugh. This act encourages others.
4. Virtual Room Functionalities
There are different virtual rooms used to host training. The commonly used ones are Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Each of these applications has its various functionalities, which help in interactivity and orderliness during the sessions.
An example is the ‘raise the hand function’ found in Teams. Instead of having everyone unmuting their mics to speak at once, sensitise the participants to raise their hands before speaking. This gives you room to moderate the meeting.
There is nothing more disengaging than a facilitator who runs through the slides without pausing to survey the class’ engagement level by way of asking questions or seeking feedback/ understanding. Pause intermittently to ask the co-facilitator if he/she can still see your slides and hear you. Make sure to check if there are any questions or contributions to what has been discussed and encourage everyone to use the chatroom to post comments, questions, etc. This helps to make the session interactive.
6. Sharing Experience using Scenarios
Creating learning around personalised scenarios goes a long way in ensuring understanding and retention. Connect your learning point to personal experiences and use it to drive home the point. The participants may not remember all of the learning points immediately after the class, but they will never forget the lessons shared using scenarios.
7. Fun Class Activities
A common proverb says, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ Learning does not have to be all serious, strict, and work. Introducing activities that stir up funny contributions, healthy arguments, and engagements amidst laughter create a memorable learning experience. These fun class activities can be administered to the whole class or split into groups.
8. Backup Network
This is one of the most important of all and speaks to the popular Boys Scout motto, i.e., ‘Be Prepared.’ Imbibe the same level of preparation you would have if going to take an important exam, by having extra stationaries. If the primary network becomes erratic, you can quickly switch to another, apologise for the glitch, and carry on with the class.
Learning is a process; as you make deliberate efforts to improve participants’ learning experience, you evolve into a better facilitator too!
Chimdinma Kalu Okereke