Virtual Classroom Tips: Lessons from the 2017 Online Learning Conference

Ah, New Orleans. It’s the ideal center stage for jazz bands, beignets and, well… deep-dive discussions on the latest in online training.

For four days, more than 400 training professional converged at the heart of The Big Easy for certification programs, hands-on clinics and back-to-back breakout sessions on the most pressing issues facing online facilitators today. Suffice it to say there was a lot of excitement around Training Magazine’s annual Online Learning Conference (OLC).

So of course, AirClass had to be a sponsor. Invite folks to parade with a brass band? Arrange for attendees to sample creole cuisine on a steamboat? Absolutely. Especially when it comes with an agenda led by many of the industry’s brightest minds and biggest innovators.

We learned a lot, and we’re excited to share our team’s biggest takeaways from the conference.

Takeaway Tip #1: Go Virtual

Once upon a time, face-to-face training was the gold standard in virtual training. Then numerous challenges began pushing the traditional classroom experience into a virtual space. The result? Today’s participants don’t just expect engaging online environments — they demand it. 

If there’s one overarching takeaway from this year’s conference, it’s this: Making a smooth move to the virtual classroom is imperative. Without it, customers will simply go elsewhere to obtain new knowledge and skills. A successful transition requires:

  • A training-focused delivery platform
  • Quality instructional design
  • A skilled instructor

“I spoke with a leading training company whose training demand has been upended over the last eight years. Roughly 70% of their customers used to prefer face-to-face training. Now, approximately 70% are demanding live online training options.”

      Dan Beckius, Enterprise Account Executive

Takeaway Tip #2: Listen to Learn

There may be a lot of noise in New Orleans, but at one memorable session, it was the silence that was prized. Kassy LaBorie, director of virtual training services at Dale Carnegie Training, encouraged facilitators to borrow tactics from radio broadcasters.

When an attendee asked a question, for instance, LaBorie asked for the person’s first name and then made a point of using it in her reply. This simple, subtle listening gesture can have a tremendous impact in making trainees (like radio listeners) feel invested.

Another key component of listening, LaBorie explained, is self-assessing. It’s only by reviewing recordings that facilitators can improve enunciation, eliminate bad habits and learn when to be concise.

Most importantly, becoming comfortable with silence is critical. 

“It’s an instinct for instructors to fill the void, but Kassy recommends giving people appropriate time to answer, not abandoning an idea or topic in case there isn’t immediate feedback, and staying cool under pressure—especially if something doesn’t go to plan.”

 

        Eric Gilmore, Senior Inside Sales Representative

Takeaway Tip #3: Use Creativity to Connect

Do you struggle to create meaningful connections with participants in the virtual classroom? Have you ever thought to use a virtual scavenger or storytelling to increase engagement?

Neither had our team. At least, not until attending LaBorie’s lunch-and-learn. It was during this AirClass-sponsored session that we learned how a little creativity can go a long way.

For example, consider the online scavenger hunt. In a virtual classroom, you can invite participants to explore online course material to find answers to provided questions. Use Breakout Rooms to create teams and then review the findings together via a collaborative whiteboard.

Similarly, you can repurpose course content in ways that make it enticing for attendees to share what they’ve learned. With three to four images, ideally sourced from the previously-displayed course material, prompt attendees to tell a story connecting each of the images. By inviting them to summarize newfound knowledge in their own words, you’re creating a more engaging opportunity to reinforce and reiterate course material. 

Allison Howard, Marketing Specialist

While these were the highlights, there were plenty of other takeaway tips — including ones we’ll use to guide future product decisions at AirClass.

Takeaway Tip #4: Feedback

 “For me, OLC was an opportunity to meet with trainers and learn what they are excited about. As a support specialist, I was also attentive to the pain points they shared. These insights are valuable as we work to make AirClass a true standout within the industry. ”

                              

         Virginia Moore, Technical Support Specialist

Ready to put these ideas into action? If you’re not already using AirClass, sign up for your free 30-day trial here. You’ll get full access to our entire suite of virtual classroom features — Engagement Scores, Replays, breakout rooms, interactive whiteboards and more — that make it easier than ever to create collaborative online learning environments.