Special to the Philanthropy Journal
By Dominic Fitch
For centuries, conferences and teaching sessions have been carried out face to face. As technology progresses, new learning experiences have come into play. Attendees now sit inside a virtual room, where hosts give informative talks through a digital screen. In short, we are shifting more and more towards online learning classes.
Some may long for the days in which they could enjoy in-person educational activities, making eye contact with the speakers and sharing comments with their fellow listeners. But, as with most things in life, once people are used to newer methods, they may end up preferring them.
In truth, virtual learning experiences present some excellent aspects that in-person sessions may struggle to offer. To reach their full potential, however, online sessions require a mixture of strategies and techniques. This is why people designing and developing learning events should be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and technology competencies to create engaging virtual sessions.
In this respect, the article will explore some of the best practices to help you tailor a virtual learning experience that your attendees will truly appreciate.
Reach out early and entice from the outset
First things first, it is important to get your attendees excited about their learning experience. One way to engage people before the event is to reach out to them early. Make sure to send reminders about the session and offer some initial guidelines on what to expect from the activity.
It is also wise to maintain open communication. Get attendees to fire across questions in advance and send out surveys. This will create a sense of both engagement and curiosity. When the time comes, your listeners will be buzzing to learn and take in as much as possible.
However, ensure that attending the event is easy. On the day of the session, resend your attendees the link. This will save them from scrolling endlessly through their inbox, keeping their excitement level on point.
Set clear goals
As the organizer, you want to make sure that you know exactly why you are setting up the event. What are you expecting to achieve? What should your attendees take away from the session? Before picking a suitable virtual platform or arranging a schedule, it is crucial to set some clear goals.
Once you have a sound overview of what targets you aim to meet, you are ready to create an enticing session to favor learning and boost team development.
Develop a solid agenda
Having a clear agenda is also very important. Prior to the event, it is helpful to outline what the experience is about. From specific session timings to relevant links, jot down some preliminary information and share it with your attendees. You may also want to include both the speaker and the expected timeframe.
This will allow your attendees to plan ahead, decide which sessions they would like to join, and have a rough idea of how long each activity lasts. With the details at hand, they won’t be waiting around too long for their anticipated dose of learning.
Choose an engaging host
There is no hiding that audiences can lose interest or get distracted in the blink of an eye. It happens in the physical world and even more so in the virtual one. From messages that pop out of the blue on social media to sudden household distractions, attendees can become disengaged.
It is vital to assign the learning experience to a captivating speaker. With enthusiasm, adaptability, energy, and good rhetoric, an enticing host is the perfect figure to build a true connection with your online audience.
Drive your audience through the experience
As mentioned, attendees can lose concentration pretty quickly. This is particularly true if they miss parts of the experience due to connection lapses. One way to keep everyone on track is to repeat and signpost the same concept throughout the session.
You can do this by explaining a point with different stories that use vivid imagery. It is a great way to freshen up information that you have repeated more than once, and it makes the concept easier to remember. Driving your listeners through the experience is better than simply stating ‘what they should do and know’. Stories and descriptions will go a long way to help your online audience pick up complex concepts.
Ask for feedback
As you reach the end of the session, you may start wondering whether people found it useful or not. Did they achieve what they wanted? Did they learn something new? Did they enjoy the experience? The best way to answer these questions is to ask your audience for feedback. They could provide it verbally once the class has finished or through an anonymous online form.
In the event of some criticism, do not take it to heart. Instead, learn from it, work on what didn’t go to plan, and get ready to develop other sessions with your new tips in mind!
There is no denying that virtual teaching sessions come with an array of challenges. However, with preparation and some essential skills under your belt, you can deliver online classes and workshops that will truly enlighten your audience. We hope these practices will give you a helpful hand in creating your own powerful and successful virtual learning experiences.
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About the Author
Dominic Fitch is a Senior Consultant and Head of Creative Change at Impact International. An award winning theatre maker, Fitch has extensive experience working in the cultural, education and corporate sectors.