We chatted with veteran producer Brigit Michael and got her take on why she considers the virtual classroom to be a stage, herself a stage hand. Her unique perspective can help you hone your modern learning skills as you facilitate, produce, implement, and manage virtual learning events within your blends.
I consider my role as a producer is kind of like a stage hand for a play. Some directors want the stage hands to be recognized and take a bow at the end, and some want them to fade entirely into the background, with a variety of possibilities in between.
Both approaches have their merits, as some sessions require less production assistance and some facilitators prefer to run a solo show. The facilitator and the material really dictate how much involvement the producer has; just like in a real play. The purpose of a virtual producer and a stage hand is to quietly make sure everything backstage is running on track so that the audience can enjoy the experience.
Like a good stage hand, I keep the session on task and running smoothly, and help participants as needed with technical issues such as sound or video. I coordinate add-ons to a session like breakout rooms or polls in the same way that stage hands transition between acts.
If it’s appropriate, I add my own personal touch to a session based on my facilitator’s preferences. I might add relevant comments in the chat to clarify or add to a point made by the facilitator, or change the wording on a poll to be more relevant to the current discussion. I watch and listen to each session carefully in order for it to run as efficiently as possible.
Much like the support team for a well-orchestrated play, virtual classroom producers provide support and innovation to improve the performance of the main cast. I strive to make my facilitator “look good,” and to direct learner attention through subtle tricks.
One of my favorite tricks is to ask questions through chat about the material. Learners who are actively participating and are asked to think critically about the material, tend to have better learning outcomes. Because the facilitator is teaching the material, he or she may not have the time or resources to participate actively in the chat feature. This is often where the producer can step in to assist learners. A producer can also private message a participant who has been quiet and see if they require technical assistance or ask if they need a portion of the session clarified.
Of course, some virtual classroom happenings are beyond my control. Tech challenges, learners running late, sessions taught in different languages – all of these elements create a dynamic and complicated learning experience. It’s always exciting to figure out how best to overcome these challenges without the participants noticing that there is a problem.
I am proud to say that 99% of the time learners do not know about any challenges happening in the background. In the 1% of instances in which learners notice an issue, we’re able to solve the problems quickly, with professionalism and a human touch.
To read about a time where everything went wrong for InSync producer Kathy Piazza follow the Getting InSync blog and see how quick thinking, a sense of humor, and a cool head helped her through a tricky production session.