How to create the best virtual classroom experience

Image of a laptop, cup and pad on a desk. To help get across getting the best virtual classroom experience.

You want to deliver online training. You want to create an engaging learning experience for your participants. But how do you go about creating a virtual classroom that fosters knowledge transfer and engagement? Whether you’re unsure about how to get started with setting up a virtual classroom or you’re currently delivering online training but feel like you’re not quite hitting the spot, we’ve got you covered.

Why should I create a virtual classroom?

During the pandemic, we were all forced to move our learning online. While some of us might want to rush back into physical classrooms or offices, it might be worth giving that virtual classroom another shot. Virtual classrooms are flexible and can allow you to overcome geographical limitations. And, when done right, they can actually be more effective than in-person training.

Creating virtual classrooms saves time — and the environment

Not having to physically travel to a classroom or meeting room undeniably saves us time. This, in turn, increases our productivity and reduces stress. Of course, unless you walk to the classroom, this saves you time and helps to reduce your carbon footprint.

So what could possibly go wrong?

While virtual classrooms have loads of benefits compared to traditional classrooms, that doesn’t mean that they’re always better or more effective. If not set up correctly, a lot can (and will) go wrong, creating an ineffective, non-engaging learning experience. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

How to create a virtual classroom

When creating a virtual classroom, you can take many different approaches. There really isn’t just one right way of doing this, and sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a little. Here at the VTT, engagement and a learner-centred approach is at the heart of what we do. So no matter which approach you choose, remember: it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Virtual classroom techniques and approaches

Synchronous vs asynchronous communication

Synchronous communication means two or more people communicate with each other in real-time. This could, for example, be live instructor-led training. On the other hand, communicating asynchronously doesn’t happen in real-time. So one person might ask a question at 8am but will only get an answer later that day at 5pm. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and you can pick and mix as you please. For example, why not offer microlearning units by email in addition to live training?

Flipped classroom

A flipped classroom approach allows you to combine the benefits of live training with the flexibility of self-guided learning. This is one of our personal favourites here at the VTT. It involves providing your learners with the resources ahead of time. This could be in eLearning modules, a PDF playbook or even educational videos. The great thing about a flipped-classroom approach is that learners can use valuable class time to apply and consolidate what they have learnt.

Live virtual classes: the right set up

Delivering online training can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right set up and thoughtful preparation, you are bound to create an engaging learning experience.

Familiarise yourself with your platform

With so many platforms to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The truth is, there isn’t just one ideal platform, but they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Once you’ve chosen a platform, the important thing is to really get familiar with it and all of its features. It’s also always a good idea to track any potential software updates.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even integrate external resources and platforms, such as Kahoot, Mentimeter or Mural, into your sessions!

Hardware for virtual classrooms

Once you’ve chosen your platform, it’s time to think about your hardware. If there is a chance of background noise, investing in a noise-cancelling headset might be a good idea. It’s also crucial to ensure your webcam and audio are working correctly before starting any live sessions and that the angle of the webcam is showing your best self. Some facilitators like using a second monitor when they are delivering training. Ultimately, it all depends on what you feel most comfortable with. Think about how you can make the experience easier for you (and, of course, your participants) rather than trying to incorporate as many fancy gadgets as you can.

Light and background

Nobody wants to look at a dark room. Ideally, place your desk near a window. It’s also essential to have alternative lighting options, such as lamps or ring lights, for when the weather isn’t quite as nice as you thought it would be – this is especially true in winter. While lighting can generally enhance your teaching experience, it is crucial to avoid backlight – unless you want to appear as a mere outline to your learners!

Another thing to consider is your background. You could aim for a plain background, create an appropriate backdrop, or use a virtual background. Remember, this isn’t about you or about showing off how fancy your office is. Instead, the aim is to create a virtual learning environment free of distractions.

Plan ahead

Workshops need to be planned carefully, whether online or in person. In fact, if you want your learners to feel that they are in safe hands, one of our VTT principles, you need to know what you’re doing. There’s nothing worse than realising halfway through your session that you have run out of material. So come prepared, make it engaging, focus on your learners’ needs and enjoy the process!

Still unsure how to facilitate a successful workshop online and set up your virtual classroom? Perhaps consider signing up for our Train the trainer programme.

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