Reflections on a Virtual Learning Experience


Lately we’ve been getting a lot of demand for our eLearning Design Essentials workshop. This workshop is face to face and covers the ‘need to know’ information about putting together an eLearning module. The problem is the demand for the workshop has been for many different locations around Australia and as much as I would like to clone myself, that option is just not available at present.

The only option then was to host the workshop through a series of webinar sessions. Converting a face to face workshop into a series of online webinars definitely had its challenges. I had designed the course activities for face to face group sessions so I really had to think about how I could still get an interactive experience for the group.

Once these online workshops had been delivered I took some time to reflect on the whole experience and if I had provided the same learning experience that attendees would have in a face to face session.

A few things I learned:

  1. Time management: like any training session timing is always important. However in a webinar setting it’s even more crucial so as not to waste attendee’s time and cover key topics within the allocated time while still allowing the attendees to interact.
  2. Provide pre and post webinar activities to complete. This is a great way to get conversations started at the beginning of a session and also an opportunity to apply what they have learned.
  3. Keep the numbers small if you want interaction between participants. I had chosen to just have 6 attendees in this particular workshop so that personal experience and also so that the attendees could talk to the group, share their activities as well as use the chat feature.
  4. Variety; as these webinar workshops were two hours long including variety through content. Attendees were given videos to watch, sample courses to review and also participate in conversations and a chat area. This all provided variety and ensured it wasn’t just a ‘sage on the stage’ style of training. We also do this in our Certified Articulate Training workshops. Attendees have to replicate what the trainer has just shown them and we also share desktops to help with any issues or challenges.
  5. Take a break. Just because it’s a webinar doesn’t mean that you can’t get everyone to take a five or ten minute break. The webinar sessions run for 2 hours at a time so we take nearly a ten minute break halfway through the session.

One participant noted that they were a bit dubious about doing the workshop via webinar before we started as the only webinars she had attended in the past were more presentation type sessions that went on for too long and became boring. However by the end she was a convert to the experience. She also loved the ability to have time to reflect and process what we had covered through the sessions and realised she wouldn’t have had as much opportunity to do this during a full one day workshop.

Like everything, there will be pros and cons to delivering certain content online or in a face to face setting. I used Wiggins and McTighe’s ‘Understanding by Design’ approach to help me convert this workshop into an online format. By using a ‘backwards design’ approach, it allowed me to think of my end goal first and work backwards designing learning activities to match.

I would love to hear of any experiences you’ve had with changing the approach you take to a training program.

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