As trainers and teachers we have access to a diverse and fascinating set of emerging training tools. In fact, technology has raised the bar and asks us to take another look at how we design and develop courseware. In a whirl of advances, new ways to deliver training have unfortunately diverted our attention from the knowledge and skills we have to share. It’s dizzying – or it can be. We need to look at how to leverage technology so that it makes sense, so that it enhances the experience and does not become an obstacle for the instructor or for the learner. Virtual classrooms are a good example. Virtual Classrooms can maintain the instructor/learner relationship more closely to traditional classroom learning but to be effective the trainer and learner must use a number of web based tools.
Different from “webinars” or “talking head” lunchtime programs popular in the business world in which the learner listens passively to a subject matter expert virtual classrooms are interactive.
Virtual classrooms allow for active participation, can focus on more complex skills, and offer the opportunity to discuss and practice within a managed environment. This format also enables an interactive “hands on” for both instructor and learner. An obvious benefit is that a global organization can bring together learners from different divisions and locations without the added expense of travel. Less obvious is that by using virtual classroom technology, a company of any size can better position their employees to learn from and use technology to communicate in a more fluid and productive way.
Virtual classroom training not only crosses cultures and time lines, but also reinforces the ability to dialogue with one another and with the trainer in real time. As in face-to-face learning this increases the awareness of content and encourages immediate processing, questions and answers. This approach helps to empower the learners through enabling more and varied types of testing, both formal and informal to replace the standard multiple choice test. Virtual classrooms can include lecture, discussion, demonstrations, hands on practice and independent study labs.
So, what does it take? It takes a shared web portal or secured environment such as Live Meeting, WebEx or Adobe Connect. The trainer needs high speed internet, a separate phone line, webcams and then all of the same tools we use in the classroom. Engaging visuals, learning journals, handouts, games and activities that reinforce learning and make it stick. Next time, I’ll outline what content makes sense such as technical and soft skills training along with some tips and tricks to managing in this space.
There are endless possibilities for both the trainer and the student. Active participation is crucial. We have the technology; let’s use it to ensure a solid return on our investment in training dollars. Virtual classroom technology is not something to fear, like the old teachers ruler – but it’s not going to make bad training great!