Digital learning (Virtual Classroom) platforms also offer a variety of tools designed to promote participation by learners. We have whiteboards, rooms for the meeting, polling, and text chat. The correct incorporation of these in our services positively affects the perceptions of our new learners.
However, one modern learning problem that we face is the form of communication that these tools create: is it interaction or collaboration?
“Calling on learners to do anything every three to five minutes” is an old piece of advice. This method produces contact when used correctly. To add something to the case, learners must place their fingers on the keyboard: contribute a response in chat, answer a poll question, put a green mark next to their name if something applies to them.
However, many people believe that running a poll like clockwork every three minutes leads to learner engagement. Not true — a button can be pressed by anyone, but that doesn’t mean they’re engaged.
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In the virtual classroom we talk a lot about improving the engagement. Interaction provides the opportunity for learners to communicate with each other and facilitators during the case, often through technology. We can use chat, emoticons, surveys, whiteboards, breakout rooms, web browsing and application sharing.
Interaction manages to keep our services running. Although it motivates our learners to remain awake, it does not mean that they are learning. It is important to include interaction, but it isn’t enough to generate deep learning.
We want true teamwork in school. We want them to learn from each other if we make an effort to bring people together.
It is during teamwork that learning occurs. This helps our learners to draw on the basic information they may have learned from material from the course, such as readings or videos. Apprentices get to practice by working together. It gets them to think in a higher order, including solving problems.
Would you run a Webinar or a virtual training course?
How do you know if real learning is enabled by online learning event?
Ask yourself, “If a learner watches a session video, will they have the same experience as they would if they participated live in the session?”
If you say, “Yes,” then you present a webinar. It may be a super-interactive webinar with meaningful content catching the attention of the learner but it is not a full-blown training event. If you answer, “No, learners from a recording of this session won’t have the same impact,” then you’ve created virtual classroom training. If you design lessons using Adobe Connect, for example, and place learners in breakout rooms, they connect and learn from each other.
This approach facilitates teamwork close to what we do in the classroom on face-to-face. In these cases, documenting becomes less important, as you have created a true training event that influences success on the job.
Build on that fundamental knowledge with a deep dive into various subtypes of interaction and collaboration, and use them in smart ways.
Serial contact activities call upon learners to engage one after another, one at a time. In face-to-face classroom we often use serial interaction during icebreakers.
We can ask students to say their name and a fun fact about themselves one at a time, for example, until everyone has introduced themselves to the community. While all learners are involved in this type of activity, they often struggle to remain centered while others share their knowledge, particularly if we don’t require learners to memorize the content.
Serial communication is very rarely used in virtual classroom. This takes a long time and we have no personal background information to make these things unforgettable. Nevertheless, I have seen serial participation widely used in live online learning sessions. The keys: tiny learner groups and tight architecture.
One agency I worked with offered travel agent services around the world, and they transferred agents into a new web-based environment. There was a shift in the design agents working with regular, but there was no demo available. How do we train people on a product that isn’t open to everyone? The answer was given with serial involvement.
We invited 8-10 learners to virtual classroom sessions at one time and used sharing of applications within that network. I’d share the new platform with the applicants and hand it over to them. The participants said: “I need to go back and forth from point A to point B. As they booked this trip, the learner called “travel agent” asking questions from “travelers.” Whenever the travel agent got stuck, the new platform helped other learners find out where that knowledge belonged.
The next learner would then book the next part of the journey. The learning in a small group founded on itself, with everyone dependent on everyone else. Serial teamwork performed very well in this situation.
This method worked, because we were not teaching people how to become travel agents. Learners knew what questions they had to pose while booking travel for clients, they just had to practice with the system.