Moving learning live online requires a reframing of perspective about the value of virtual classroom experiences and the responsibility of facilitators in this environment. While delivery and corporate learning culture absolutely impact the success of virtual training, we cannot overlook the importance of instructional design.
Virtual learning experiences include layers – each element building on and enabled by the one before it. Instructional design provides the foundation on which the entire experience grows and thrives. Without the stability of thoughtful design, the rest of the virtual training program exists precariously and in danger of collapse.
How can you set your organization up for success with virtual learning? Think through key considerations and dissect your content.
When faced with the task of creating their first virtual classroom lesson, instructional designers often get distracted by the technology. That’s understandable! The learning environment will deeply impact instructional design.
But the virtual classroom technology is just one of many considerations to keep in mind during the instructional design process. Resident expert Karen Vieth encourages designers to pay attention to all of the following:
- Technology functionality and tools available
- Interactivity and collaboration
- Practice and application
It may come as a surprise, but these considerations mirror the ones required when designing face-to-face classroom lessons. Outside of the technology, it’s a similar process. Still struggling to wrap your head around the idea? Think back to face-to-face training: you have to consider how to use in-room computers or projectors to share the presentation. In the virtual classroom, you’ll simply have to figure out if a screen share or file share would be appropriate in the same scenario.
As Karen likes to remind new virtual classroom instructional designers, “Your first step is understanding what you would do face-to-face and then understanding the tools and technology to support that activity in the virtual classroom.”
Dissect Your Content
Most virtual classroom programs and events come from existing training sessions. Organizations change learning environments out of necessity (like the current pandemic), innovation, and adaptation. Often, they want to preserve the content and value of programs that have historically served them well.
In these situations, take a look at your face-to-face material. Review your outline, your speaker notes – get a highlighter and identify the interaction and engagement already built in. If you think about your classes and how they’re designed, you’d likely highlight quite a bit!
Next, identify what is vital versus what’s expendable. Ask, “What is the need-to-know information for the time we’re online with learners and what is the nice-to-know? Create a T-chart – need-to-know on the left and nice-to-know on the right.
Need-to-know is what goes into the virtual classroom – the connection, the collaboration, the ability as a facilitator to bridge that knowledge and bring it into application with others.
Where does that leave the nice-to-know information? Curate that information! Whether it’s online or offline, it’s the attachments, pre- and post-course work, handouts, infographics, or self-paced activities. Anything that’s more of a resource is your nice-to-know. It’s information that’s great to have to continue that learning after the class. Some learners are all-in. They’ll read and watch it all. Others will get enough out of the virtual session.
Picture this scenario: As you’re reviewing your face-to-face content (your 40-hours, your 8-hours, whatever length it may be) - your boss comes into your meeting and says ‘move it all online’. Instead of panicking, go get your highlighter, identify your interactions and engagements, figure out your T-chart and decide what needs to be in your virtual session and what is nice-to-know.
Then, organize your nice to know and decide what needs to happen before, during, and after the session.
Dissection accelerates and eases instructional design into a manageable process!