Making the Move: Transitioning Face-To-Face Courses to the Virtual Classroom

April 23, 2014 12:10 by Dana Peters

Repurposing, redesigning, transitioning, transforming, or converting. No matter what label you give it, moving a face-to-face classroom course to the virtual classroom is more complicated than it initially appears.

At first glance, it seems quite simple. The learning objectives are defined, the course has already been developed, the PowerPoint is ready to go, and the facilitators could deliver the session in their sleep. Transfer all this over to the virtual classroom in a few days and we are ready to go, right?

Wrong.

In order to design and deliver an engaging virtual instructor-led training (VILT) learning experience, many elements need to be taken into account.

Let's explore a few.

Back to the Beginning

Take a look at the face-to-face course with a fresh set of eyes. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the face-to-face course currently in place will allow you the opportunity to make improvements and leverage what is working well when you design your VILT course. Consider doing the following:

  • Walk through the learning objectives with the stakeholder, the subject matter expert, and the face-to-face classroom trainer to update learning goals.
  • Review the results from the course as it stands now. Is the current training meeting these goals?
  • Gather feedback from recent course participants. Ask questions like: What concept, process or idea were you able to apply back on the job? What did you like most about the training and why? What was the least relevant item covered in the course?
  • Simply ask all parties involved how this course could be better.

Taking the time to review, evaluate, and redefine the course objectives prior to transitioning a course to the virtual classroom sets the stage for success.

Delivering a class in the virtual classroom is a whole new ballgame.

Facilitating learning in a virtual classroom requires a different set of skills on the part of the trainer. There are several common delivery mistakes we see trainers make as they move from working the traditional face-to-face classroom environment to the virtual classroom. Why not learn from those mistakes and avoid some of the following pitfalls:

  • Lecturing. Listening to someone talk for an hour in the face-to-face classroom doesn't work so why would the virtual classroom be any different?
  • Trying to do it all. Managing all the tools and technology while trying to deliver content, facilitate collaboration, share experiences, and connect with your learners is often too much for one person to handle. Especially when the VILT landscape is a new working environment for you. Consider enlisting the support of a producer (aka host or moderator). This second pair of helpful hands will allow you to focus on facilitating learning, not resolving technical issues.
  • Reading from a script. This lulls participants to sleep or drives them to multitasking. A script is a good tool to help you get comfortable with the material and work seamlessly with your producer, but you will lose your participants very quickly if you read from it during your session.
  • Eliminating the exercises and activities. All too often the hands-on learning gets lost in the transition from the face-to-face classroom to the virtual classroom. Think about how you could use the virtual classroom tools to create collaborative exercises to meet your learning objectives.
  • Not using your annotation tools to focus attention. Sometimes facilitators get so caught up in the point they are trying to make verbally that they forget to use the pointer, highlighter, and drawing tools to help focus participants' attention on what is being discussed.
  • Being too controlling. Be flexible with how your participants are interacting and encourage activity that promotes sharing and involvement in the learning. Consider allowing participants to chat with each other at any time and encourage this communication. Also, avoid asking participants to hold their questions until the end of the session.

Make the Most of Your Time

Time is a precious commodity in the virtual classroom. It is important to make sure that the time that you have in class is used to drive home the key learning points and make the learning relevant to your participants. To do this, keep the following in mind:

  • Assign pre-course work. If some of your exercises will require participants to bring ideas and thoughts to the table, give them the opportunity to do this thinking and exploration independently before they come to class. Pre-course work is also an excellent way to assign reading and to allow participants to become familiar with basic information on the learning topic.
  • Break things down into small chunks. These shorter bite-sized pieces will keep your session moving and help maintain attention from your participants.
  • Every slide, question, activity, game, and discussion should serve a purpose that works toward the learning objectives.

We have outlined just a few of the elements to consider when transitioning face-to-face classes to VILT. What else would you add?

 

 

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