​How to design a perfect virtual classroom

9th February 2017

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great virtual classroomsThere’s a lot of buzz about ‘virtual classes’ amongst people in the training world at the moment. With technology making this particular platform ever more user-friendly, learning professionals are increasingly looking to incorporate great virtual classrooms into their programmes.

Yet there is still confusion as to what a virtual class actually is. Some people mistake it for a live webinar, but there are significant differences – not least the fact that virtual classes are far more interactive.

Virtual classes are already winning over new fans. To quote one recent piece of feedback we received:

“Very surprised how the online format worked out. I got more interaction than I would get in-class with Dutch colleagues alone.’

Indeed, a well designed virtual class replicates all the best experiences you associate with a face-to-face workshop. The students in your virtual classroom, however, can be anywhere in the world!

So how do you put together a virtual class that really engages students and works as effectively as a face-to-face session?

Here are some top tips to do just that.

Intelligent design

When in the planning phase, there are three factors to take into account in order to get the pitch and structure just right:

  1. Duration
      The optimum length for a virtual class is anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes. You can opt for longer sessions, these should include several breaks and time for application of learning. It’s worth bearing in mind how long your students will be comfortable sitting behind a computer, and how this might influence the effectiveness of the training.
  2. Division
      Maintaining engagement is key to successful training, so deliver your virtual classes in manageable bite-sized pieces. This makes the content easier to digest but be careful not to lose the flow and create a session that feels disjointed. Break up longer sessions with personal reflection time, comfort breaks or opportunities to prepare for the next section.
  3. Duplication
      Help students connect to your content with repetition, revision, application and consolidation. Make sure this is relevant and has a clear purpose.

Compelling content for great virtual classrooms

Once you have designed the template for your virtual class, it’s time to put some flesh on the bones. Here are 6 essential tips for creating content that inspires.

  • Keep the overall objective in mind at all times, making sure you focus on the learner’s point of view. Begin each sequence with key messages and objectives, remembering to link forwards and backwards to emphasise the flow and make connections.
  • Engage with the learner even before the class begins. For example, you could incorporate an exercise or an ice-breaker that readies them for the class, or simply chat with them as you would in a real classroom environment.
  • Make the activities as diverse as possible, using a variety of teaching methods, personal reflection, group work, etc. Facilitate this by using the full range of functionality your software allows, and build in activities that are self-managed outside the virtual classroom.
  • Encourage participant interaction every 2 or 3 minutes. This could be via chat, a poll, use of an icon, breakout room, etc. Choose according to the desired result, but ensure there is some variety – using the same functionality over and over can be monotonous.
  • Create visuals that are stimulating and impactful. Use licensed images/videos and keep text to a minimum. Generally speaking, slides should move on every 30 to 60 seconds, each containing one key point. Keeping the visuals active is very important as attention is more limited than in a face-to-face environment.
  • Prepare participants for the ‘real world’ by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and key learnings. Introduce post-course actions and an activity planner at the end.

If you bear all these points in mind when you put together your virtual class, you are more likely to engage your learners and make them comfortable operating in an online environment.

Preparing is one thing, but delivering is quite another! In our next blog, we will share advice on how to facilitate great virtual classrooms and keep it lively.

Cegos UK offer a number of virtual classes for a variety of topics. Check out our ready to go off-the-shelf courses for your organisation here. Contact us if you would like to know more.