The move from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom demands more activity to keep engagement high before and after but can be just as good. What becomes crucial here is to be clear with questions such as "What do we want to achieve?", "What is crucial to be able to achieve it?", And "where and when are different activities best performed?". When we have answered these questions, we do not have to start again from scratch, fact is that many activities in the virtual classroom can be similar to the activities you do in a physical classroom. We just need to think a little differently. Hopefully, after reading this article, you have received some concrete tips on how you can think and set up your digital learning experience.
The time we have online cannot be as long as in the physical classroom
When the physical classroom is moved into a digital environment, conditions change. Suddenly we do not have a whole day together anymore. The reduced time requires prioritizing. It gets vital to think through which material and exercises create the most value to be presented and carried out in the virtual classroom. It will also be important to portion out information and exercises before and after the time in the virtual classroom to prolong the learning experience.
Plan for the most effective exercises in the virtual classroom and more activities before and after the session
Just as schools use the flipped classroom method, digital learning opens up the opportunity to utilize this method also in corporate training. The method is simply based on us trying to prioritize and make time for synchronous activities together in the virtual classroom. This means that we need to provide as much information as possible in advance and afterwards that can easily be consumed by the learners themselves at their own pace.
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What steps are needed to succeed in this?
Step 1- Finding out our transfer goal
In short, it means - what new behaviors and knowledge do we want the participants to start applying after the learning experience. Transfer goal is connected to what the individual will do differently in their work role when they come back to work. Notice that there is a difference between a transfer goal and a traditional training goal which focuses more on what knowledge the participant will have after a training.
If we do not start with defining a transfer goal, we risk to spend too much time in the designing phase about different exercises and information that COULD be useful for the learners, but we are not sure if it is connected to a real changed behaviour. Always think of why we are creating the activity and what job it is doing for the learner.
Transfer goals help participants to establish purpose and relevance by answering common questions such as: “Why should I learn this? “What can I do with this?”
In times when we are more digital, it becomes even more important to define our transfer goal because the time we have together in the classroom is less than before. Which results in the participant performing more learning activities on their own instead of together in a classroom. Then it is very important for the motivation and self discipline to be able to answer questions like “why should I learn this?” “What can I do with this?”.
Step 2 - What information and which learning activities are essential to reach our defined transfer goal.
Once you have defined your transfer goal it is time to look at your learning design. Make a list of all learning activities you did with the participants before in the physical classroom. Look at the list and try to be as self critical as possible by getting rid of exercises that do not have a clear connection to the transfer goal. Think about what is really important for the participant by looking at what is “must to have” and eliminate activities that are “nice to have”. I guarantee that you will be able to get rid of a few. Do not limit yourself with what is possible to do in a digital learning environment. Everything is possible to transform into a digital format. We just need to think a little differently.
Step 3 - What information and learning activities works best for the participants when, where and how?
Just like when we are planning a physical classroom experience, an agenda and a common thread is needed through our digital learning experience. Look back at the list you created with “must have” activities and think of how they can be packaged to get most engagement from the participant. When we were in a physical classroom setting we had a full day together, which was luxurious for the trainer in the sense that he/she had all participants' attention (well, at least their presence).
Now that we have a limited amount of time together in a virtual classroom, not all exercises and all information can fit within the time span. We must therefore ask ourselves:
- What information can be portioned out before the virtual classroom session?
- What should be carried out during the time together in the virtual classroom?
- What is better to do on their own after the session?
- In what format should we deliver the learning activities to get the participants attention?
In the digital learning environment we must think of a learning experience as a journey filled with a variety of activities. It cannot stay with a one time event no longer since there are too many aspects of the physical classroom that we lose by just squeezing in our agenda in a Zoom meeting. The classroom and tools we use are now different, but that means that things are just changing to something different from before - not that it necessarily needs to be worse.
Use the benefit of digital tools in your learning design to expand the learning journey. But be careful, you should only invest in a digital tool that can package and deliver your “must to have” activities and not get a tool that is “nice to have”. Therefore step two to list “must have” learning activities needs to be done before you decide upon what tools can help the participants to reach their transfer goal.
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