I attended the very engaging webinar: 3 Tips for Creative Massive Participant Engagement in Virtual Training featuring International Speaker and co-author of Speak for a Living, Sardek Love. I left with some amazing new ways to make sure the virtual experiences I create are unforgettable.
That is what we are going for, right? Creating learning experiences that will have lasting impact and are memorable. The move from in-person learning to a virtual space does take some planning, yet will fall into place a bit more easily if we remember that at the core of every virtual experience is how much we can engage the participant throughout the experience.
Would you like to sit through an hour-long lecture of a talking head on a screen? No? Then why do we think we can just talk at people during a webinar and believe that they will be thrilled by what we said and remember it always.
The three tips that Sardek shared were very simple, don’t include too much content, don’t underestimate the amount of core knowledge your participants already have, and don’t forget to include the hands-on component. Your learners need to have time to practice what you’re teaching them, so they will be able to more effectively apply it in the real-world.
Content: Find new ways to explore the content you are going to cover. Only include what is absolutely critical, i.e. what must the learner be able to know how to do immediately following the training. Everything else can be included in a job aid, procedure, a video, an article, etc. All of which can be reviewed outside of the live training event. Essentially, you want to include asynchronous content as resources along with your synchronous learning event.
Foundational Knowledge: One of the core components of Malcom Knowles Adult Learning theory of Andragogy, is the importance of tapping into the knowledge or your adult learners. Adults love to share their knowledge! Checkout this article 3 Adult Learning Theories every E-Learning Designer Must Know by Karla Gutierrez for more background on this topic.
Practice, Practice, Practice! This is important. Passively learning about something does not help the learner to actually complete the task. It will provide knowledge about what they need to know, yet the real impact comes from attempting the task on their own, in the safe environment, ideally several times. Plan time away from the webinar to have the students practice, and then bring them back for a debrief on the experience and/or to provide more training reinforcement.
Ok, so know we what to how to structure our virtual learning, next we need to plan for to engage the learners throughout the experience. First, Mr. Love suggested scheduling your virtual learning events for 2 hours or less. If you must go longer, take breaks often. He suggested at least a ten-minute break within a 2-hour span. In my experience, providing a 5-minute break each hour, has been very successful.
He also shared that we should engage our learners in some way every 4 to 5 minutes. I had heard that it was every 90 seconds, so this does help provide a bit of a breather. At most, every 8 minutes, the learners should be asked to do “something,” rather than just passively listening.
How do we engage our learners? Through questions! And ask questions often. This can be accomplished by asking full group questions via chat, polling questions, breakout session activities or discussions in duos, triads, or quads, or, depending on your group size, you can set up games through a variety of tools such as Mentimeter, Quizlet, or Kahoot, just to name a few.
Lastly, Sardek stressed that the debrief is the most important part of a learning event. If you hold a discussion or do an activity and skip the debrief, you miss a very important component of the learning: The connection between the what, why, and how. Learners may miss out on the a-ha moment if the activity is not capped with debrief discussion. Check out this article for examples of debrief questions: The 15 Most Insightful Reflective Questions for Debriefing Learning.
Be creative and have fun with your classes! Your students will appreciate the effort you put in and you will be well on your way to designing memorable virtual learning experiences.
Article by Kim Stahl, Senior Business Line Trainer, ATD Buffalo Niagara Past-President and Adult Education Masters Student. July 3, 2020.