We’ve all attended good online meetings and bad online meetings. What qualities make for a good online meeting? Here is a short list of suggestions on how to run a successful online session.
Use a slide to let people know they’re in the right place
Acknowledge that people have arrived
Open up a “question of the day”. Nothing difficult; just something to engage and focus people while they’re waiting for the “show” to begin
Mute all participants. Yes, we want attendees to ask questions and make comments. No, we don’t want to hear papers rustling or conversations with co-workers who stop by to visit
Explain how to unmute
Orient participants to the interface and tools
To quote the Rolling Stones: “We all need someone we can lean on.” Arrange for someone to work with participants who are having trouble with audio, to read questions from the chat box, to start and stop the recording, etc.
And…in case you haven’t seen the video that depicts common online webinar frustrations as portrayed in an in-person meeting, you can watch the 4 minute video below. Very funny and too true.
Did you know that you can view our tutorials and recordings at any time that’s convenient for you? If you have a few extra minutes, check out one of our self-paced tutorials or recorded webinars to learn something new or brush up on one of your most-used resources. Here are a few you might take a look at:
Are you adding virtual classes to your teaching repertoire? When starting to teach online, you might miss some of the face-to-face interaction that you’ve previously enjoyed with your students. Building rapport in the online classroom doesn’t have to be all that different than traditional instruction. Here a few things you can do to create a friendly environment online, even if you might not be able to share your warm smile with your class participants.
Welcome students as they enter the room, by name if possible.
Conduct a brief warm-up activity. The warm-up can familiarize students with the conferencing software, draw on pre-course readings, or help participants get to know each other.
Show enthusiasm and excitement for the class using your voice or feedback icons.
I recently picked up a free e-book from Shift eLearning, called Engage the Unengaged: How to Create More Engaging eLearning Courses. You can download your own copy, too, if you’d like. I’ll share a few of their ideas in blog posts this week and next week. The focus of the e-book is on eLearning, but there are lessons here for the face-to-face classroom as well.
What is engagement? Shift eLearning uses “the level of participation and intrinsic motivation student displays in a learning environment” as their definition. It includes both behaviors (such as attention or effort) and attitudes (motivation or interest). An engaged learner is active and collaborative, seeks out help, and exerts his or her best effort in response to a challenge. Disengaged learners may do only the minimum work, delay completion of tasks, avoid challenges and may not participate. I’m sure you’ve met both in your classes.
There are a few things you can do to increase engagement, and even convert the disengaged to engaged. Here are a few strategies to try:
1. Acknowledge the prior knowledge of your students, and show them how the class will build on it.
2. Tell them what’s in it for them right away – don’t assume that they’ll know why the class is important. Why does this information matter and how is it relevant to their work or life?
3. Build in some immediate rewards. I don’t mean candy (though that works for some audiences). Can you reward them with affirmation or encouragement? Can you demonstrate to them how they are already doing something better or faster or more easily as a result of the class? Again, don’t just assume they’ll notice – point it out.
4. Take time for reflection. We’re often tempted to use every possible minute for dispensing information, but allowing time for reflective processing can help students to better retain the content. Ask students to stop, think, and apply what they have just learned or take a minute to consider how what they heard relates to their work.
5. Use good design and quality images. While this probably can’t sustain engagement, it may help to initiate it. In next week’s post, we’ll look at a few principles of attractive design.
It sounds counter-intuitive, “Don’t Make Learners Think!”, but that is what Karla Gutierrez of Shift!’s eLearning blog wrote. It isn’t what you might be thinking though. Karla’s statement “don’t make learners think” refers to navigating through an online course. Learners shouldn’t have to spend their time figuring out how to get from one section to the next.
Here are the 7 principles of the Don’t Make Them Think approach to design and a short comment about each principle.
1)Use Visual Cues: Think breadcrumbs. Create a trail so people can easily get where they want to go.
2) Make It Too Obvious: Use standard conventions for icons and buttons.
3) Minimize Your Design: Use white space to give learners room to find what they are looking for. In other words, don’t crowd the page.
4)Reduce Cognitive Load: Cut out unnecessary words. Edit, edit, edit.
5) Be Consistent: Need I say more?
6)Follow Real World Conventions: Use the vocabulary/jargon of the group you are training. When in Rome…
7) Usable Navigation: When a user gets to the end of a section, they shouldn’t have to guess where to go next and how to get there.
I think that many of their tips can be applied to both online and face-to-face environments. Below are a few of my take-aways, but the full post is linked above if you’d like to click over to it.
Their first principle is: people like people. They suggest that in designing e-learning, you should incorporate images or videos of people to make the lesson more engaging. I think whenever possible, we should go further and try to provide opportunities for people to interact with each other. When I think about the last class or conference I attended, one of my favorites aspects is talking with others about new techniques or ways to solve problems. You might add discussion or polls to your classes to take advantage of this principle.
Secondly, people like stories. This is probably not a surprise if you reflect on presenters you’ve seen – it always seems more memorable if they’ve used a story to illustrate an important idea. Can you create a realistic scenario or recall a story to make the message stick in your classes? Maybe you have a story about a time research changed a diagnosis or treatment decision? Consider adding stories like these to your classes to make the content of the class easier to understand or recall.
Shift also states that people like both organization and surprises. At first, this might seem a bit contradictory. The overall course should have a clear and logical flow, but an occasional surprise can be fun and really help information to stick. Like a plot twist in a great novel, a surprise can re-engage the learner and show a novel way to look at the information, especially if it’s something they may have encountered previously. Thinking about something you often teach, how can you incorporate something unexpected?
Last month I attended an online training from The Bob Pike Group, called No More Boring Technical Training. In just an hour, the instructor led an interactive session with several ideas for enlivening training that could be highly technical. Here are few examples of techniques you could try.
If you’re using scenario-based training, make the scenarios realistic and offer multiple choices of scenarios. Presenting the learner with a choice, gives them control and leads to better engagement.
If what you’re teaching is abstract or complex, use metaphors, analogies, or images to aid in your explanation.
Use a find-and-fix. Show students an example in which something (or several things) is incorrect. Ask them to identify the problems and suggest solutions.
In computer-based training, try guided exploration. If they can’t break it, what neat shortcuts or functions can they find? (For an example, type “tilt” or “do a barrel roll” into the Google search box).
Have you tried any of these techniques? Which one would best fit in to the classes you are currently teaching?