How to Move Classroom Instruction Online – Advice from the Pros

By Nick Eriksen

Right now, there is some bad news: face-to-face classroom training is not happening. We’ve seen well-respected training vendors go from being booked solid to 100% cancelations. The great news is that traditional classroom training can be moved online without a big effort and learners can benefit from the unique aspects of the online learning experience.

None of us knows when this crisis will end so it makes good sense for you, and your learners, to move as quickly as possible to online web conferencing. Especially now, when so many are working from home and have time to devote to training.

Plus, it is likely that the future of learning is not a traditional classroom. Taking the first step towards the future will yield long-term benefits.

 Here is how to move your classroom instruction online quickly, and comprehensively.

Start your digital transformation here

Think about the goals of your courses and how they help learners. Begin to envision how a 2-day course will become a series of web conferences of 2 – 3 hours each (3 hours includes a break) over 2 – 3 weeks.

These smaller, more intense sessions will focus attention. If we can encourage engagement in-between sessions, there will be fewer instructional hours.

Learn from our experience that the opportunities for engagement and motivation are many, and that practical retention gets a lot better. Ideas follow in this blog.

Also consider the differences. A web conference, unlike a classroom, should have no more that 5 – 10 attendees. More than that and the online collaborative becomes less effective. Learner interaction and the resulting sense of community can also be achieved online with the ideas in this blog.

Of course, there is informational training that does not require a lot of interaction, and for these, larger groups are OK.

Most of all, embrace that things are changing. Take advantage of all that online training can offer. You can do this and your learners will flourish.

Don’t wait to reconnect with your learners

Reach out to them today! They are in a similar state of upheaval. Let them know that you are in transformation and let them know when your training will begin anew. Tell them what will happen with cancelled classes – how these will soon be online. Stay in-touch – communicate regularly.

Choose the right web conferencing tools

There are a host of popular web conferencing tools – such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx, Adobe Connect, and more. Considerations, such as the following, will drive your selection:

  • Company preferences. Do you need this to easily mesh with your other technology?
  • Learner preferences – which technology and user interface would they be most comfortable with? Which tools are they using already?
  • Facilitation requirements, such as moderator controls, screen sharing, recording, chat, special interaction types etc.
  • Administrative requirements – notifications, scheduling, communications, attendance marking, Single Sign On (SSO) and user provisioning etc.

Rethink content and the learner experience

This section contains our expert, and hard-won advice regarding how to reconfigure content and enhance the online learning experience to meet, or exceed the classroom:

  • Convert existing content
  • Embrace the new medium
  • Maximize “the time in-between” sessions
  • Encourage interactivity during the sessions

Convert existing content

Training must move from a day-long or multi-day-long session to 1 to 3-hour web conferences. Each session must be more modular and free-standing, with a beginning, middle and an end that leads to the next session. Your current presentation is likely 80 – 90% what you need.

As you chunk down and sequence your content, involve your subject matter experts. Make each session logical and engaging, and think about the concept of time-to-value. Allow learners to interact in shorter time spans and more often. It’s important that learners can quickly put to use the information and skills you teach.

There is one very important benefit that moving to web conferencing brings – the ability to continuously improve. While all your learners are everywhere in the world, the online experience of close-up faces, the smaller groups, the interaction in-session and in-between, opens the door to us learning more about the learners and the impact we are having or not. We have the time to continuously improve, session to session, if we want to seize the moment.

Embrace the new medium

Instructors have to embrace and adapt to this new medium so that it becomes an extension of their behaviour. With practice, the camera becomes their friend. 

They should incorporate the web tools: instead of a whiteboard, there is screen sharing and drawing tools; selective muting gets rid of background noise. Fundamentally, the tools you know from the classroom are also available online. They just look different – but they are there.

Maximize “’the time in-between” sessions

There is plenty of time in-between sessions to provide value, encourage collaboration and deepen the learning experience. Ideas include:

  • Quizzes, exercises and surveys to both help learners process and internalize the information and to highlight learning gaps.
  • Pre and post-session reading and practice
  • Group feedback sessions (might be the whole group or smaller subsets for greater interaction).

Encourage interactivity during the sessions 

  • Ask a lot of questions of the learners, keep them involved and on their toes (and away from their email)
  • Make extensive use of screen sharing, both yours, for illustration, and learners’, to troubleshoot and encourage others to provide feedback. Don’t look “over the shoulder” – let everyone join into the learning experience. You will find that it makes a lot of sense, also to the silent learner who might have the same question.
  • Assign hands-on exercises during the sessions where small groups can collaborate and then present to the larger group.

 

Do you need a Digital Learning Platform (DLP)?

A DLP is not required to pivot to web conferencing and while you should consider its benefits, it should not be seen as an impediment to moving online poste-haste.

A DLP can bring a lot to the party if it is agnostic to the other tools you choose, such as web conferencing. Initially, it offers integrated and automated services for registration across technologies, tracking and administration, which can be a tremendous boon. Manual processes can get old fast, especially if you convert all your courses. 

Additionally, a modern digital learning platform can bring:

  • Integrated course authoring which is easy for subject matter experts to build their own courses
  • Tools to facilitate the “in-between” engagement and blended learning
  • Automated workflows which can be replicated
  • Metrics, reporting, and individual learner tracking
  • Advanced eCommerce, and options for bundling and packaging various types of content
  • Advanced security
  • Gamification, collaboration, and social learning.

We can help

We understand the concentration and effort it takes to move classroom instruction online and do it in record time. We’re happy to help you effect this transformation, and we have some ideas on both required and optional technology that we believe will be helpful.

About the Author

Nick Eriksen is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of Eurekos Systems. Since the mid 1990’s he has developed and improved online experiences and solutions in a wide range of industries and business areas for both the public and private sectors.