5 Reasons Facilitators Keep Virtual Training Class Size Small

Posted by Jennifer Hofmann on Nov 24, 2014 11:41:00 AM
Jennifer Hofmann

Leadership_hands_with_ropeI recently posted a blog concerning the optimal class size for virtual training.  

I wanted to share more than my personal opinion, so I asked members of our  Facebook Virtual Classroom Community of Practice what they thought. 

The question - "Why should virtual classroom training sessions (real TRAINING) be kept to the same size as traditionally delivered classes. Any thoughts? Tips? Why or why not?"

Interestingly, we all agreed - bigger is NOT better in the virtual classroom and, if anything, virtual class sizes should be even smaller than traditional classrooms in order to facilitate collaboration, interaction, breakout room activities and engagement.

Here are the top five reasons we came up with:

1. The larger the number of learners, the more the level of collaboration and interactivity decreases.

"A major point from my experiences is that the larger the number of participants, the level of interactivity and collaboration diminishes...i.e.: harder to do break out rooms or whiteboard when you have 30+...sure you can still do polls and chat...but level of engagement is different."

"It would be difficult for everyone to find a spot to write on whiteboard activities."

2. The larger the class size, the harder it is for the facilitator to give learners the attention they need.

"With many more participants, it would be hard for the virtual facilitator to give full attention to all participants in chat discussions."

3. The larger the number of participants, the more difficult it is to manage breakout room activities and learner success during those activities.

"It would also be challenging for the logistics of ensuring success in breakout room activities. Granted, you could have more producers or “helpers” to manage this, but it would be optimal if they had the subject matter expertise."

4. It would be difficult to maintain engagement when so many participants mean you can't involve everyone in activities.

"Part of the engagement of a smaller number of participants (15-20) in both the VILT and the traditional classroom for participants is knowing that they may be called on. This aspect makes participants pay attention. It's more critical in VILT because if there are so many participants that the facilitator can't keep track of them all...they can become invisible and it will be tempting for participants to multi-task and check email."

5. Too many learners impact the facilitator's ability to manage those learners effectively.

"We found that as the size of the class increased the instructors ability to effectively monitor these breakout sessions was diminished. That being said I think that even lecture only class maximums should be the same as brick and mortar training. Why would we expect an instructor to be able to manage more students in a virtual environment (if it's real training)?"

As we've mentioned previously, size does matter ... in the virtual classroom ... and more learners at one time, especially virtually, is not an effective way for those learners to actually learn. If we want our learners to be able to apply what they've learned in a meaningful way and be able to evaluate that learning, a large class size is not the way to go. If you wouldn't do it in the "real classroom," you shouldn't do it in the virtual classroom either.

Interested in learning more about facilitating in the virtual classroom? To read more about our Virtual Classroom Facilitator Certificate course and learn how you can earn your Virtual Classroom Facilitator Badge, just click on the graphic below.

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Topics: Facilitation, Virtual Classroom - Facilitation, Virtual Classroom - Best Practices