Steps by Steps Process to Design for the Virtual Classroom

Steps by Steps Process to Design for the Virtual Classroom

We know better than most that simply lifting a slide-deck from a face-to-face (F2F) workshop and presenting it in a virtual one just doesn’t deliver the best results. So, where do you start in building a workshop specifically for virtual delivery?

Here are 8 steps we follow in building our own virtual workshops. 

This process works with F2F design too yet are even more important when producing virtual workshops. Why?

Well, virtual workshops are bitesize in nature, so choosing the correct content to make time work best for you is critical. And in a virtual setting, we must fight harder to keep participants attention, so ensuring every second count is even more important.

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1. Start with the end in mind

As always, purpose, purpose, purpose. What do you want your participants to think, feel, do or know as a result of this workshop?

A big mistake that designers can make is opening up PowerPoint and thinking, “Right. Slide 1…” 

How can you know what to include if you haven’t carefully considered the outcome of the workshop as a whole?

Beginning with the result you are looking to achieve and then working back from there makes it much easier to edit and decide on your content and process, so then everything is focused on achieving that result. 

2. Brainstorm Content

What are your key messages that you want participants to take away from your session? What skills, models or processes might you include?

If you are converting something that already exists F2F into a virtual workshop, then you will have some content to begin with. However, don’t rule out replacing certain processes or models with something that might be more appropriate for the virtual environment. Take the time to really consider what could be included over what already exists. Making the most of this step gives you the opportunity to refresh content too. 

Even if you are designing from scratch, this step is still important. Get creative and think about what you know that could be useful to help achieve that result you’re aiming for. Don’t worry though, you won’t include it all, it just helps to create a smorgasbord of different ideas to choose from. 

3. Decide on your gigs

A gig is a chunk of content, learning or process. In this step, you’ve got to be ruthless. Decide on what must stay in and what can be dropped. What can be explored in ways beyond the virtual workshop, through pre-work and referencing etc. 

Come back to the purpose of your virtual workshop. If there is any content or process that doesn’t move your learners towards that output, then don’t use it. There are often other ways of getting content to your learners outside of the virtual session; for example, you could point them in the direction of a useful video or guide, that they can access after the session has ended. Or, that they can read prior to the workshop, so that you can use the time to discuss it. 

Everything takes a little bit longer in the virtual environment compared to F2F, so be sure to consider how much time you have got. 

Virtual workshops are often best delivered in bite-sized format - somewhere between 90 mins and 2 hours. It is worth considering delivering two separate workshops that give you time to explore what you need to, without being rushed, rather than having everything crammed into a single one. 

4. Work out your gig processes

How will each gig be achieved? What processes, materials and activities will deliver this gig in the most efficient way? Here is where you can work out your timings.

For example, you have decided to explore a particular ‘model’ in your virtual workshop; how will you do this? Will you explain the model and then create a discussion instigated via chat? Will you put people into breakout groups to talk? Will you have them complete posters? Are any extra resources needed?

Ideally, you want variety in your approaches, but still with purpose. No need to do a breakout group if it won’t achieve anything meaningful, for example. Consider the best practice for each model and how it feeds back into your purpose. 

5. Bring your gigs to life

Here you can ask yourself what stories, examples, questions, demos, imagery or science will add appropriate flair to each gig? 

This is about the extra flair that makes your content interesting, memorable and fun. You may decide to start investigating stock photos to use or research some case studies/examples that bring your content to life and bring home your point. 

Remember, flair and fun can still be achieved alongside your purpose. 

6. Link it all together

Think about sequencing. It’s time to double-check your timings and order. Decide what needs to be said to link each gig to the next and fuel the overall purpose of your virtual workshop. 

Examine carefully the whole flow of your workshop. Is the order correct? Does it cover all the bases you require; the why’s, what’s and how’s? What is the link between each section? Have you identified where the recaps need to go in and where your opportunities to set context are?

It is also helpful to consider alternative options for different groups or if there are timing issues here. Where can cuts be made? Where is your flex?

7. Create the introduction

One of the last things to do is to consider how you will kick off this virtual workshop. Remember, it needs to start with a bang!

What will go on your welcome slide? How will you grab the attention of the participants as they enter the session, to get them thinking and interacting with the tech immediately?

Your welcome slide is the opportunity to begin creating context for the participants and getting them into the zone of the topic at hand. Putting the thought in and really considering how to get things started, can ensure your virtual workshop gets off on the right foot. 

8. Create the slides and materials

Finally, you can go to PowerPoint. It’s time to pull everything together into a seamless, flowing, simple to follow, slide-deck with extra materials. You shouldn’t be going to PowerPoint any earlier than this!

So that’s it. Our step-by-step guide to designing a virtual workshop. Did you learn anything new? Will you leave creating your masterpiece of a slide-deck until last going forwards?

Let us know how you get on. Good luck!

Here’s the apt resource that will help you make an informed decision.

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