This is the third installment in a four-part series that explores actionable approaches facilitators can use to improve learner engagement through purposeful facilitation using InSync's InQuire Engagement Framework® .
We often frame corporate training as a compulsory process: complete these requirements and move on to the next task. It's a reinforcement of a "Push" learning culture that is content-centric, and not a personal experience.
Effective learning involves an emotional component. Employees want to do well on the job. They hope to have the skills required to meet their goals. They stress about balancing their professional responsibilities while upskilling. The training function has an obligation to recognize these emotions, and facilitators can improve virtual training experiences by addressing them in their delivery approach.
It's important to realize that the learning experience is changed by how learners feel about the experience. Facilitators should strive to enable individuals to feel good about the experience, and even nurture a sense of community.
Charles Dye’s research shows that emotional engagement serves as the third influential component of learner engagement, along with addressing environmental and intellectual factors. Charles clarifies:
"Experienced facilitators focus on activities that might exemplify this aspect of learner engagement, including positive collaboration with peers (McDonald & MacKay, 1998; Calvani, et al., 2010), articulation of shared experience and social modeling (Bandura, 1986), scaffolded development/demonstration of skill/expertise with a facilitator (Vygotsky, 1986), and the sense of self-worth that comes from participation in a learning experience (Cooper, 2010)."
Seven Facilitation Techniques That Nurture Emotional Engagement in the Virtual Classroom
Facilitators can nurture emotional engagement by:
- Inspiring confidence in the virtual classroom experience. When a facilitator is fluent in the use of the tools, the virtual classroom fades into the background and learners start to ignore the technology. This makes them feel as if they are in a ‘real’ learning environment, encouraging them to engage more fully in the training experience.
- Demonstrating that all contributions and interactions are valued. When learners’ contributions are acknowledged and reinforced, they realize that they are not anonymous and that their participation in the learning environment matters. This helps them feel confident and so they tend to contribute even more. This is especially important in the virtual classroom, where learners rarely see the facilitator or their peers.
- Nurturing an environment in which learners feel safe about offering opinions and asking questions. When learners feel intellectually ‘safe’, they may feel more inclined to contribute to conversations and to ask questions. Training should offer a safe space for making mistakes and questioning for understanding. Facilitators can contribute to the learners’ belief that their contributions have value, even if they miss the mark.
- Creating an environment where individuals enjoy learning. When learners are enjoying themselves, they feel better about being part of the experience. Spark interest! Spread joy! Even technical training can include an element of fun. Advanced facilitators can inject passion into their delivery and into the environment itself to create a more exciting event.
- Encouraging learners by providing positive, personalized feedback on contributions and progress. When learners recognize that individual contributions are noticed, they feel valued. They will potentially contribute more, enhancing the experience for everyone. Facilitators should provide positive reinforcement throughout the process. It can be as simple as saying, “Thank you, Sally, for sharing. Your point aligns with the content we will discuss after our break.”
- Bolstering emotional engagement by reinforcing why the content is important. When learners recognize and internalize why certain content is important, they feel good about participating and are more open to learning. The importance of content produces a positive emotional response because the learner feels that if the content is important, the fact that they’re in the classroom learning it means they are important as well – in this sense, training assumes the role of reward and recognition for the learner.
- Encouraging a community among learners. When relationships start to build between learners, there is an increased likelihood that they will work cooperatively within the learning experience to make it more effective for themselves. Learners “get outside of their own head” and start thinking about “we the learners” within the learning experience – they will build on each other’s contributions, develop and articulate positive contributions, and seek to adapt the materials to both themselves and the entire class.
Whether you are using Zoom, MS Teams, Webex, Adobe Connect, or any other virtual classroom platform, you can't rely on the technology to engage your learners.
InSync's InQuire Engagement Framework®, developed by InSync’s Dr. Charles Dye, is based on an operationalized situated cognition model and neuroscience, and optimizes learner trajectory by considering the learner, the learning environment, and the learner-environment interaction through measurable and well-defined measures of effect. Access the original research here: https://opencommons.uconn.edu/dissertations/2403/