A new dawn
I think everyone will agree that the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed our lives. In this new world, we have had to find new ways to engage and interact with, not only our family and friends, but also our colleagues and learners.
Online platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom have been around for a while, but now we have to do a lot more live online meetings and webinars to communicate with others. From a teaching or training perspective, this now means using these platforms to deliver in ‘real time’.
Like every learning environment, we need our webinars, classes and meetings to be as effective, engaging and enjoyable as possible for both our learners and teachers/ tutors. It can be a long day taking part in live online sessions for hours at a time, without a break and how do you know if your colleagues or learners are taking everything in or if they are they checking their emails?
Whether it’s a training workshop, a webinar style seminar or a meeting with colleagues, everyone needs to enjoy the experience and hopefully some of these basic principles of live online delivery will help you do that.
The first thing you need to do is research the platform you are using and find out its interactive functions.
You may have a basic web conferencing set up like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Or perhaps you have access to virtual classrooms like Adobe Connect, Webex, Blackboard Collaborate or Big Blue Button. (Many other brands are available!)
Basic platforms will usually allow your audience to answer yes or no, make annotations and message the room using the chat pane. Some also allow screen sharing and audio and video.
Set your settings
Ensure you keep your online meetings or webinars safe by sharing the link in an email only to those you want to invite. Some platforms allow you to keep people outside the room until you grant them access.
Remember to be accessible and inclusive from the beginning by asking on invites if anyone has any disabilities and plan accordingly.
Regardless of who your audience is, make them feel welcome. Be sure to greet them as they enter the room and once everyone is in, explain the session’s ground rules.
Let everyone know how long the meeting will last and if there will be a comfort break at some point. Also, let your audience know if they willl be using any of the interactive tools during the session and ensure they know how to use them. These tools can include:
- Chat pane – here, your audience can discuss topics, share ideas and ask questions.
- Mic – learners can get their ideas or opinions across using voice, however, remember that not everyone likes to speak in a group.
- Icons – raise your hand; indicate yesor no; show a smiley face or clapping hands. These can all be used for quick feedback.
- Whiteboards – pen tools are excellent for learners to draw on the screen. You can use a pre-made slide and have them make marks or answer questions.
- Screen sharing – take them to a website or show pictures or a short video to break up the session.
- Breakout rooms – you can support group work with smaller numbers of learners.
- Polls – find out what your learners think or get some evaluation at the end.
If you have a smaller number of learners, you can check their mics are working. You might also want to leave their mics unmuted. For a larger number, though, remind everyone to mute when they are not speaking. Background noise can be distracting for everyone.
If you are chairing the meeting, try and include everyone. Allow everyone the opportunity to make their points using the tools you have available. Interaction is your friend. It allows the audience to interact with you and with each other. This is where the sharing and creative thinking happens – they can ask questions and make suggestions. Your audience will appreciate frequent interactions and using the tools in the classroom will keep everyone included and engaged.
Finally, start and finish on time. Those attending may have other things to do or they might need a break from the screen.
Follow up on your session
A recording of the meeting might be useful to those who could not attend or maybe had to leave early. It is also a great way to recap on any points made. It is also good practice to share your content in another, more concise format, for example, you could list the notes in a word document and share this along with the recording.
Some platforms also allow you to save any chat or polls that was part of the session. This can be useful after the class for assessment and evaluation.
Plan well and follow some of these tips for a more productive session that colleagues will value and enjoy, as they can participate fully and share their ideas, meaning everyone is engaged and no one is excluded.
Give it a try. You might find you enjoy this method of delivery more than you expected.