In the live online learning environment, instructional teams often struggle to truly connect with learners. We don't have the benefit of greeting our online learners with a smile as they enter our virtual space. So how do we create an inviting, warm, inclusive learning environment? From experience, it really comes down to our tone of voice and our words.
As virtual facilitators and producers, we have to be cognizant of our tone and our words. Our words are often the only part of us that our learners experience. When preparing for a session, ask yourself, “How empathetic and open am I to really hearing what participants have to say?” “Do my learners tune out because my tone of voice seems disinterested or unyielding?” If you answered “yes” to either question, make a conscious effort to inject warmth and authenticity into your voice. It’s a small step that makes a big difference.
Human connection begins in the warm-up. Because we can’t welcome everyone into the room with a smile, it’s especially important to greet learners as they come in, to set an inviting tone for the session. Learners who feel welcome tend share more willingly and participate more completely in the course material. Being greeted by a real person also gives learners a sense that there is a real person on the other end of the screen and provides a sense of connection that learners, facilitators, and producers have come to really appreciate and value.
InSync producers follow the best practice of joining a virtual learning session 30 minutes ahead of schedule to setup breakout rooms, polls, and customize participant settings. These things help focus the instructional team, and help them to become reacquainted with the session’s content. It also ensures that we are in the room before the learners arrive. As a producer, learners do not see any of the prep work that goes into making a session, but they do hear the team greet them during the warm-up time, and appreciate that they aren’t alone in cyber space.
Greeting learners does more than create a welcoming space. It allows the producer to unobtrusively check that their sound works, and that they can hear everyone else, as well. It also lets the learners know that they have an advocate during the session who they can rely on for help with tech problems without disturbing the rest of the class by asking the facilitator for help.
Creating an environment where learners feel comfortable asking for help encourages more active participation and engaged learning. Fundamentally, warm-up events like quick polls or whiteboard activities fill two important roles: allowing the instructional team time to connect with learners, and empowering learners to refresh their familiarity with the virtual learning space and tools.
Producing a virtual session has unique challenges and you need to be adaptable to change, but personally greeting learners will always be part of an InSync learning event.
We look forward to “seeing” you online soon!