Recently, we explored the theory behind how facilitators can quantify and qualify learner engagement in the virtual classroom. A theoretical foundation provides a jumping off point for practical application.
Our team relies on a number of tried-and-true facilitation methods to connect with live online learners more deeply and more meaningfully. For virtual facilitators, effectively “reading their audience” ensures learning actually happens.
These three techniques allow you, the facilitator, to move beyond basic presentation skills and towards more effective instruction that encourages learners to synthesize ideas and apply what they’ve learned in the protective classroom environment.
Advanced virtual classroom facilitators frequently use a technique called soft calling to create two-way learner engagement. Facilitators pay attention to hand raises, poll participation, and whiteboard contributions to determine how often learners interact with the presented material.
Short chat blurbs, verbal observations, and whiteboard comments can provide facilitators with critical information for expanding and continuing the conversation. As a facilitator, you can pull in things learners have stated, and build upon it by saying something like, “Wow! That’s so interesting that Jane has used this leadership recommendation at a previous role. Let’s discuss the value of this style.”
This is a soft call. And it demonstrates that facilitators aren’t just pushing slides. They’re truly paying attention to learners.
Soft calls can increase the quantity of learner interaction in almost any session. It helps hold participant attention and encourages emotional investment.
Soft calls offer a starting point for additional advanced facilitation techniques. In our experience, soft calls leader to springboarding – a method instructors leverage when the results of soft calls lead into the next conversation.
For example, after soliciting red Xs and green checks from the class, a facilitator may say, “Jane, you indicated that you’ve encountered this situation back on the job. Can you please come off mute and share how that felt?” Jane’s answer would then springboard into additional conversation when the facilitator asks, “Mark, if you ran into the same problem Jane experienced, how would you handle it?”
Beyond engaging just a few participants, advanced facilitators can also ask for contributions from the whole group by asking everyone to put their insights on the whiteboard.
Springboarding encourages the learning to go off script, encourages collaboration and contribution, and makes the content feel truly meaningful for adult learners.
Connecting the Dots
When facilitators connect the dots, they create connections between learner experiences and the designed content.
After generating off-script conversation through springboarding, an advanced facilitator will comment, “Mark’s reaction to the model situation is interesting. It reinforces the core concept we discussed about 15 minutes ago before the breakout room activity.” After revisiting and reiterating the session material in question, the facilitator may ask if anyone’s opinion of the material or example situation changed at all.
Advantageously, these three advanced facilitation tips build upon one another – soft calls set the stage for emotional engagement, springboarding builds insightful collaboration, and connecting the dots circles back to the critical information learners need for day-to-day success. Combining foundational theory with these actionable techniques allows you to connect with your audience at a deeper level.