RAC – Running a virtual classroom
Updated: Mar 6
Course: A 2-hour management skills discussion
Date: 24 Jan 2008
# of Participants: 21
I am feeling: Exciting
It is the first time I deliver online. Frankly, it was messy but exciting. It is like learning to ride a bicycle the first time. You fall and hurt yourself but you know that after you pick it up you will enjoy it.
We used Webex online classroom. Its design is quite training-friendly. For example, the facilitator can control the discussion by virtually passing the ‘mic’ around. On the other hand, even with a ‘mic’, learners can participate by raising hand or typing chat message. I like the polling function the most where the facilitator can post a multiple-choice question and obtain the result right after the learners make their choices. In short, Webex is training-friendly in the sense that it allows 1-to-many interaction in an orderly way.
One interesting thing I realised during my preparation for the Webex sessions is that you need different kind of facilitation skills. Yes, the virtual class will only be successful if the facilitator conducts it well. Yeah, the technical set up is not enough. In fact, arguably facilitation skill is even more important in a virtual than a real classroom since you do not have your physical presence to engage the learners.
For example, in both real and virtual classroom, learners join in gradually. In the real one, (ideally) you say hi to those who arrive earlier, and then you move on to the others. Whilst you are greeting the others, you can still engage those who arrive earlier since simply you can see each others. Your learners can come forward to you if needed. This is however not the case in the virtual classroom. Whilst you are busy greeting the others or with other technical set up, those who arrive earlier may get dis-engaged. Without anyone talking to them, they may think the line is broken or get distracted by their inbox on the same laptop.
I was thinking what a facilitator should do in a virtual classroom. Well, I am sure that one-way lecture is suicide unless you are Larry King. I think the radio DJ analogy works the best. Being a virtual facilitator is like being a DJ. So, what can we learn from a good DJ? Let me share my thought on this in the next post.