Monday, 03 December 2018 12:46

Interaction and the Virtual Classroom

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BY ALISTAIR LEE BY ALISTAIR LEE

As an instructor, one of the biggest differences between a virtual classroom and a physical classroom is the inability to see your learners. Even if everyone turnson their webcam which isn’t very common in most virtual classroom settings - it’s difficult to read body language. Seeing your learners in-person makes it easy to understand who is engaged and who might be distracted. Seeing your learners helps to confirm if they understand the content or if they’re still struggling with comprehension.

While you may not be able to see your learners in the traditional sense, being able to judge engagement and compre-hension are no less important. In a virtual setting, we need to rely on different methods to evaluate if someone is engaged or if they understand the content. The key is interaction.

Interaction is important regardless of whether you’re in a physical classroom or virtual classroom of course, but it’s absolutely critical in the latter because it helps us “see” the same things we’d use our eyes for in a physical classroom.

More importantly, interaction reinforces the concepts that are being covered – aiding in retention and comprehension as well as engagement. In a virtual classroom setting, it’s important to provide opportunities for interaction often.

The conventional wisdom was that it’s necessary to create an interaction every 5 to 7 minutes. In fact, in speaking with successful virtual classroom instructors, they recommend prompting for action every 2 to 4 minutes.

This is not to say you need a group exercise every few minutes. An interaction might be something as simple as asking learners to set their status or respond to a poll question. Providing varied methods of interaction can help create a more engaging experience. The benefit of a virtual session is that you can start to measure that level of engagement. Engagement dashboards can help you understand the overall level of engagement in the room and some virtual classroom platforms can indicate the level of engagement for each learner.

Here are some examples you can use to provide interaction in your next virtual classroom.

1 Asking learners to set their status to “Agree” or “Disagree”. This is the fastest and easiest way to gather feedback and since the status shows next to the learner’s name, it’s an effective way of seeing who is engaged.

2 Use Chat instead of Q&A. Q&A is a nice option for a large webinar where you want questions to be moderated and managed. In a virtual classroom, using open chat helps create a better sense of community. Platforms such as Adobe Connect enable you to add multiple chat pods at once to organize responses or capture feedback on different topics simultaneously.

3 Use Polls throughout your session. Polls are fairly common in virtual classrooms, but they’re often used only at the very start or very end of the session. Using polls throughout your virtual classroom can not only provide great interaction for learners, but can also provide guidance to the instructor. Mix up poll types – don’t always use multiple choice. Add short answer and multiple answer polls as well. Re-use the same poll questions within a session to see if minds have been changed.

Virtual Classroom

4 Whiteboard templates. Whiteboards don’t have to  be a blank slate. Have learners use the whiteboard annotation tools to markup a slide or image that is incomplete.

5 Breakout Rooms. Breaking a virtual classroom up into smaller, collaborative teams to work on an exercise is a tried and true method for engagement and interaction and encourages participation.

6 Voice & Video. While it’s typically the instructor de- livering most of the content, inviting learners to respond through voice and video adds additional voices and helps build a sense of community. People are more likely to interact when they can see others interacting.

7 Word Cloud. Sometimes a chat window can be even more effective when learners can see the most common themes and responses. Using a Word Cloud app in your virtual classroom can help encourage participation.

Virtual Classroom2

8 Quizzes. While polls are a handy way to capture re-sponses, bringing a quiz into a virtual classroom can help you measure comprehension and provide immediate feedback to learners.

9 Interactive Simulations. Software such as Adobe Captivate can create an interactive simulation enabling learners to put their knowledge to practice. Bringing a simulation into a live virtual classroom enables learners to ask questions and collaborate.

10 Add a game. Gamebased learning is an excellent way to test the un-derstanding of your learners while providing an opportunity for interaction. Products such as Adobe Connect enable you to load custom apps into a virtual classroom, so adding something such as a collaborative crossword puzzle or a quiz show game in the style of “Jeopardy” or “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” can make your classrooms highly interactive.

Interaction is critical in a virtual classroom. It’s useful not only to measure engagement and comprehension, but to increase engagement and comprehension. Think about how you can provide additional opportunities for interaction in your next virtual classroom.

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