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3 levels, 9 characteristics.

Learning, Performing, Results: hierarchy of success

10 reasons why you need Producer support in Virtual Classrooms

A Producer in a Virtual Classroom works in collaboration with the facilitator, and ideally is an experienced online facilitator themselves.

Having a producer will increase the cost of the event, but must be viewed not only as an insurance policy for when things go wrong, but also as an extra pair of hands (and an extra voice!) to make things smoother and more professional. As the evidence shows we can’t really multi-task – so let the Producer focus on technology and process, and the facilitator focus on the participants and learning.

Man with headset in front of computer speaking to someone virtually

Take Away

Here are 10 responsibilities for a Producer to ensure that participants learn, and the facilitator facilitates.

1. Set up the virtual classroom environment to provide a seamless, flowing experience in readiness for the event
2. Welcome and perform a technology check with each participant as they arrive
3. Orientate participants in virtual classroom functions and features at the start where required
4. Manage and support participants who encounter either technical problems or need support with the virtual environment during the event. A support checklist is a great help for this
5. Prepare and manage polls, and monitor interactions. This frees up the facilitator to focus on the content, participant responses, and the learning process
6. Prepare and manage breakout activities: creating group lists, assigning roles, putting in/out of rooms, performing audio checks
7. Provide participants with a second voice and a richer dynamic to the event. The Producer can provide audio whenever there’s a poll, a move into breakouts, a need for instructions, a nudge for further chat input, and so on. The options are endless
8. Prompt the facilitator if any participant questions and issues aren’t acknowledged
9. Step in if the facilitator has a problem
10. Ensure that the show goes on! Technology glitches that would otherwise lead to cancellation can be avoided by a Producer who quickly gets on the case. Having a Plan B for most things – including having a second ‘mirror’ classroom prepared – are great insurance policies

Additional top tip: provide time for 1 and 2 above by sending out invitations with a start time 15 minutes before the learning starts so that any initial technical glitches can be resolved.

10 ways to use Virtual Classrooms

If you view Virtual Classrooms along a learning spectrum, from short and sharp to deep and involved, from structured and designed to free flowing and organic then there really is a lot they can do!

Here are 10 ideas for how you could use a Virtual Classroom.

  1. Briefings/ Orientations with Q&As
  2. Primer sessions to introduce concepts
  3. In-house knowledge exchanges
  4. Demonstrate and practice with a new system
  5. Deliver skills booster follow-ups
  6. Hands-on practice sessions
  7. As a cross-cultural exchange space
  8. Action learning groups
  9. A collaboration space for anything – with inbuilt videoconferencing
  10. Oh yes… and for delivering a ‘virtual classroom’ too!

If you want to find out more then take a look at how we design virtual classrooms.

Question participants effectively to ensure complete understanding

Questioning participants on new concepts in a classroom setting – not simply sharing or discussing experiences – is often unproductive. The core reasons for this?

The majority of questions tend to be fact based
Few, if any, questions check for participant understanding of key concepts
Insufficient thinking time provided by the facilitator for participants to think and reflect, as well as peer pressure or cultural norms that lead to many participants failing to engage

Several hands holding up letters to aks the question 'why'?

Diagnosing understanding

A hinge question is a question based on the critical concepts in a workshop or virtual classroom that need to be understood before moving on to explore and apply. Every – yes, every – participant must respond to the question individually, and you must be able to collect and interpret the responses from everyone.

In a workshop this can easily be done with mini-whiteboards or ‘clicker’ technology; in a virtual classroom polls and private chat work.

The hinge question should not simply test the ‘what’, but must also test the ‘why’ so that it checks either participants’ understanding, problem solving, or out-of-the box thinking rather than simply recall ability.

Harvard Professor Eric Mazur in his university lectures introduced what he called ConcepTests. ConcepTests (spelling intentional) are conceptual multiple-choice questions.

Each question focuses on a single concept. The key is that to get to the right answer participants must think about and apply the concept. It’s crucial to have great multiple-choice ‘distractors’ (incorrect answers) that capture the usual errors or misconceptions, and then to explore why participants made the wrong choice – so that their correct understanding of a given concept deepens.

Take Away

Ensure questions are used around concepts and ideas that evoke and have time allotted for thoughtful reflection, where all participants are engaged to think and express ideas.

Ensure hinge questions are asked that test all participants on their understanding of given subject matter
Allow participants time to respond to questions – a minute (in silence) for thinking before answering
Ask all participants either to write down an answer – or private chat the facilitator in a virtual classroom. Then read out a selected few and discuss
Provide choice between different possible answers with ConcepTests. Provide multi-choice polls ask participants to vote on the options. Then discuss the results
Use peer learning: switch from individual/ pairs/ groups for participants to share their thinking/ understanding. This works equally well face-to-face or virtually

8 common mistakes to avoid in implementing a virtual classroom

The word incorrect being correct to the word correct by crossing the first two letters out

Here’s a top 8 list of common mistakes many make in implementing a virtual classroom.

  1. Not introducing participants to each other at the start
  2. Failing to provide virtual ground rules
  3. Not defining participants’ roles and responsibilities
  4. Forgetting to provide technical support details up-front
  5. Failing to prepare participants for the environment
  6. Having the facilitator go it alone
  7. No technical ‘Plan B’
  8. Thinking we’re all the same in a Global Virtual Classroom!

Would you like some insights and ideas on how to overcome these mistakes? Then check out the latest LIMBIC Learning article Pitfalls to Avoid in Deploying Virtual Classrooms.