As a teacher, educator or trainer, you learn to read a room for feedback so minute by minute you can adapt and customise every session for your audience. You naturally formatively assess understanding, progress, and engagement of participants by reading expressions and body language, as well as verbal and written responses.
Throw a global pandemic into the mix and it can be tough to achieve the same learning outcomes remotely, unless we adapt our approach.
I have led a variety of sessions recently that would ordinarily have been face to face workshops or training programmes. Here are a few reflections:
Know your audience
This is always important, whether the session is remote or face to face but arguably it’s even more important in the remote world when you don’t have the chance to chat before the session, or pick up on the general vibe in the room during the break. Consider asking participants to answer some quick-fire questions in advance to get to know them a little and also get to know their expectations.
This is a big one. Active listening is all the more challenging when you only have verbal feedback to go on. Encourage everyone to have their cameras on so you still have the opportunity to read facial expressions and body language. It really helps with the overall engagement, for everyone. Flag that cameras should be on ahead of the session.
Keep sessions bitesize
While a half day or full day workshop may have worked face to face, it’s too much over video call. People need a break from the screen, and it is harder to concentrate for longer periods. Consider condensing content where possible, and break what may have been a full day workshop into four 60–90-minute sessions spaced out over a few days or weeks, with email dialogue in between to maintain engagement. Perhaps set tasks between sessions so the learning and reflections continue.
I think we can all relate to the feeling of being ‘Zoomed Out’ (other online video platforms are available!). To make sure your sessions are full of energy, avoid providing long input; provide just enough to get participants active and working together in breakouts on a task or participating in a larger discussion.
Learning is not passive; we learn through doing. Plan activities and tasks as you would face to face, just adapt materials and instructions for the remote environment. Learning is a social activity, so all the more reason for interactive tasks so participants can learn from each other. Regroup from breakouts regularly to share learnings, just as you would face to face.
Try out new features
There are such a range of excellent platforms available to us now to create fantastic learning experiences. Embrace the features. Use breakout rooms, white boards and polls. They are there for the taking and can support your rich learning experiences. Different platforms suit different requirements, so do your research and don’t be restricted to using just one platform.
Allow some breathing space
Add in some buffer time for people logging in, especially if they are using a new platform. People will often have another call right after, or right before your session, so it is good practice to allow a little breathing space in your schedule. Everyone will appreciate it.
How have you adapted your learning sessions for the remote environment?