5 Tips for Teaching Effective Virtual Courses

By Lou Solomon

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It’s Still About the Human Touch.

 

At Interact Studio, we teach the power of being your best, authentic self in all forms of communications, from speaking and messaging to media and high-stakes conversations.  

Offering virtual courses is not our first choice but given COVID restrictions, our only choice while in-person classes are on hold. We reconcile our goal of authenticity and the virtual medium with instructor presence, warmth, interaction and storytelling. 

We admit it–we have been amazed!

Here are 5 of the most important Tips for Teaching Effective Virtual Courses:

  1. Have the right human being on the other end of the learning.

    In some ways, the virtual classroom is not entirely different from the in-person one. Creating a space for people to experiment is key. If participants don’t feel safe, they will withdraw their participation and they will do it early in the course.A warm instructor can impact the environment through encouragement and coaching—and just by being a genuine person with hobbies, friends, pets and families. For example, one of our lead instructors, Susie Adams, is an avid sports fan. Occasionally she can’t help but let her passion for a team or personality shine through the online environment and it has a wonderful impact on participants. They talk a little trash with her. Everyone laughs. These unrehearsed, human moments can lift engagement and an element of fun in the course.

  2. Use interactive tools to build engagement.

    Science tells us that our brains are wired to drift off every ten minutes–and online, that number goes down. Online, you have to step it up with shorter modules and all the interactive tools available. Master the use of breakout rooms, whiteboards, chat, polls, models, feedback from teammates and faculty. Video clips are also powerful. All help with engagement and retention. 

  3. Connect through eye contact. 

    As a virtual course leader, there is one key habit you must develop in the absence of human support, and that is to look regularly at the camera on your device to provide participants with eye contact. Their brains do not discern that you are looking at a green dot and not at them.Does it really matter? You bet. If participants see good content and hear a voice but the instructor never looks at the camera, the human connection is broken. The experience becomes impersonal. 

  4. Tell Stories. 

    Telling stories is the ancient and powerful teaching tool, no matter what the format.  We tell stories to make sense of our world, and this extends to business concepts as well. In-person or online, stories that illustrate the main idea behind a module will generate understanding. Whether maps, videos or metaphors, stories are the most effective way of organizing information and making it stick.

  5. Have a producer on your team. 

    Instructors cannot multi-task and connect with participants at the same time. Patrick Sheehan is a talented member of our team who wears many hats. As our virtual producer he deals with technical issues and watches out for folks who are occasionally dropped. He oversees all the interactive tools, orchestrates breakout rooms, runs video, etc., and can jump in and facilitate if the instructor loses their connection.

At Interact Studio, we were skeptical about online classes. But as long as the learning is personal, information is retained, and knowledge is applied. When the human touch is applied to great content and interactive learning, breakthroughs are still possible.