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Best Practices for Virtual Classroom Training

Best Practices for Virtual Classroom Training
Virtual classroom training can be rewarding and productive, often providing at least an equal, if not better, experience than one that can be gained in a physical classroom. There is no doubt that the technology available can bring the same level of interactivity that is enjoyed in the standard classroom, along with added benefits such as breakaway sessions, instant feedback and the convenience of attending class from any location. The following best practices may be employed to ensure the best virtual classroom training environment.

  1. No hiding in cyberspace. In a physical classroom, the best instructors attempt to engage all students in the discussion, and involve them in relevant activities. The same can be done in a virtual classroom training environment. Without proper engagement, it would be easy for a student to hide in cyberspace, merely observing but not participating. This defeats the purpose of today’s advanced collaborative technologies that are available in every virtual classroom training environment. Engage students at random, selecting them to provide feedback or complete an exercise. Encourage groups to break away and meet after the session is over. Use instant polling technology to allow everyone to voice an opinion, and then report the results.
  2. Understand your students. This is important for any type of classroom, but even more so for a virtual classroom training session, where the instructor may never see the students face-to-face. First, make sure all students understand and have met any prerequisites for the course, and assess their level of knowledge. Beyond that, attempt to gain understanding and knowledge of students by using some of the same techniques you would use in a standard classroom. Encourage participation and discussion, encourage students to connect with the instructor separately via chat during regular office hours, and attempt to bring each student into the online discussion.
  3. Fine-tune your online delivery. A good instructor can adapt to any classroom situation, but virtual classroom training does differ from the physical one in many ways. A compelling and animated instructor may be at a loss while online, having lost the element of the physical presentation. This may be regained to some degree with a video feed, but some methods of teaching just do not translate well to the online venue. Lengthy stories, long pauses, and overly relying on visual props work best in the physical classroom. An online delivery, on the other hand, moves faster and should be more succinct and to the point, and those stories and visual elements may best be delivered via email for later consumption.
  4. Make the most of collaborative technology. Virtual classroom training technology incorporates modern collaborative tools, and these can greatly enhance the classroom experience. Students fall asleep in every lecture hall on every college campus in existence; keeping them interested online is even harder. A straightforward lecture online is sure to lose their interest. The best virtual classroom is a two-way experience. Use the collaborative technology at hand to encourage participation. Students can ask questions, and click on an icon for the virtual equivalent of raising their hands.
  5. Keep it interesting. As with the traditional classroom, a good instructor will keep the presentation varied, often introducing new elements. Your presentation shouldn’t be a minimalist affair with a simple talking head and text-based Powerpoints. Encourage discussion, and bring in other multimedia to add to the overall experience.