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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workplace. I’m Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, and with me is my co-host and good friend, JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm. Our topic today is a special short episode on virtual teaching best practices. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many in-person training meetings into being conducted online.
We know that many of our listeners are business leaders and HR professionals who may not have a lot of experience delivering classes online and hope that our sharing some tips to consider could be helpful. Well after the coronavirus is in our rearview mirror, we think many organizations will have realized how effective and enjoyable training online can be and will want to keep it as part of their developmental agendas.
Yeah, JoDee, let’s talk about some of our experiences training online. When do you train online?
Well, Susan, both of us teach regularly for SHRM national, both live classes and virtual classes, so I’ve had a lot of experience with them, and using a couple of different platforms for them, as well. And also, at Purple Ink, we’ve done some webinars and online trainings, some at the request of our clients, and some because we’ve been forced to a bit, either with the pandemic, or we actually had a snow day for a big group this winter where we very quickly moved to an online training, and I’m getting ready to record a training for a local SHRM chapter that I’m doing virtually next week.
Ah, that’s great. I really started teaching online, I want to say about three years ago, and it was with SHRM, and honestly, the first time I, I thought, “Oh, I can’t do this. I cannot just talk for 90 minutes and not get feedback.” And so I think some of the tips we’re going to talk about today are things that I had to do in order to stay sane. I need, I got to get people’s reactions, right?
Right. I think, too, I’ve learned about this as well, not only as an instructor, but as a participant, to figure out what works and what doesn’t work as I’m attending online training as well.
Makes sense. Well, let’s talk first about how do you prepare when you’re getting ready and you’re going to be moving maybe an in-person class to online? What are some of the things you have to think about?
So one of the things I like to do, even though a lot of training, sometimes you’re showing a PowerPoint on the screen for the majority of the class, I like to put my face on the screen at the beginning of class.
JoDee, you’ve got a great face for that.
I always feel like when I’m attending a class, I like to see the instructor. And when – I think it can build sort of a more comfortable feeling that people seem like they get to know you a little bit more when they see your face.
I don’t –
I think you’re right.
– keep it on for the whole time, because that can just be distracting from the PowerPoint as well. But if we’re chatting, I’ll put myself back on.
What I think is important if you’re going to show your face, which I do think is fun, I want to be able to relate to who’s, who the teacher is, and seeing them really is useful. Make sure you practice with your camera, make sure that you are centered, that people are not looking up your nose, that, that you really – it’s a good view for you and that your background doesn’t look cluttered, or… Yeah, those are things I think it makes sense to practice with somebody in advance.
Right, and they’re just so distracting for the viewers, right? If you have that clutter in the background or a bad view.
I also think it’s really important if you’re going to record, and I would if I was going to be doing any type of a training, record it, because someone’s going to miss and you want them to see it. And all the technology platforms, Zoom, Adobe Connect, Google Hangout, all of them will enable you to record it. Make sure you put a big post-it note at the beginning to record. I have started classes and I realize, “Oh my gosh, 10 minutes ago I should have put the record on,” so I now put a big post-it note, I never forget.
Yeah. I also think it can be important to consider whether or not you want the format of the class, is it more of a webinar or a classroom, if you’re expecting lots of interaction, certainly voice interaction, think about it more as a as a training. But if you had a large group, I would say maybe 35, 50 – 50 for sure or more, consider recording it as a webinar where other people are not participating. They may not even be on the screen for other attendants to view, but that they’re just looking at you, the trainer, or possibly a panel online. But, but either way, participants can still participate via the chat room, and I think that’s important that the participants can still have a, quote, voice via the chat.
Yeah, well let’s, let’s move then to actually ways to increase interaction. Definitely the chat room is one of them if we’re not going to turn on people’s screens or their voices. Other ideas, I think, that are good tips to share. One of them is, I learned from my daughter-in-law who’s doing some teaching online right now for user experience design, she said it’s the 10, 2, 2 rule. So you may be familiar with this. It’s, if you’re going to be doing anything online in a training format, the suggestion is you spend 10 minutes sharing information, and two minutes then having the participants think about something, give them a problem, giving them some type of an application, and then you spend two minutes debriefing that in the learning, so it’s called the 10, 2, 2 rule. And I think it helps you keep people, for about as long as you can, their attention span on one particular topic.
Yeah, I like that. That also reminds me of a group I actually did some online training for about five years ago that I had forgotten about, and they required me every eight to ten slides to have an interaction, and that could be that I asked a polling question, or I offered time to discuss or chat about the topic, and that keeps people engaged as well.
Smart. How about breakout rooms? Do you use breakout rooms? I know some of the technology platforms that we’ve had experience with, they do enable you to do that.
Yes. So I think you do have to be careful about breakout rooms, because if you don’t know the chat technology well, they could be a little tricky, but very powerful tools, when they work well, to get people to interact in smaller groups. Not only can people chat in the smaller group, but they can actually be able to draw on the screen, to be able to type on the screen, to be able to share their own screens with activities that you’ve asked them to do. So very powerful tool.
You know, and that brings me to the next tip, which is it’s a good idea to have a tech producer or somebody, some other type of TA or buddy with you, maybe just a friend who knows that you’re going to be doing this particular class, because it’s possible if someone goes into a break room and no one else is there, maybe the people you’ve assigned them to be working with went out to get a cup of coffee, they stepped away, whatever. It’s wonderful if you have a tech producer or that buddy who can be your troubleshooter so that you as the facilitator who’s trying to drop in and out of the break rooms trying to facilitate the whole session, even outside of the break rooms, somebody who can troubleshoot for you and help you get through any of those technological glitches that just might arise.
Yeah, I – it’s, also can be helpful, although I’ve taught many times now, I feel like I can be pretty good about teaching and watching the chat box at the same time, yet I still have many times had that tech producer with me who has, has texted me or held up a sign to say, “JoDee, look at the chat box.” It can be a lot to watch for if you’re just doing it yourself. So.
Yeah, I think that’s very fair. I also love especially online to insert videos. I think that there’s so many wonderful videos out there. Whatever the topic is, I think it gives you a break as the instructor but also, I think, helps some of the participants to engage in a different way. So I’m a big believer in trying to find some video to insert.
Right, I like that too. Another thing on the tech producer can also be to help you in case your participants can’t hear you, right? You’re switching in between breakout rooms or take a break or something, that they can let you know if there’s any technology challenges on your end. So I really enjoy working with someone else as a training buddy or a tech producer, whatever you want to call them.
Yeah, I like that. You’d mentioned that one of the best tactics that you use is trying to make sure that you’re using maybe polling questions or you get them to think about various things. There is a technology platform out there called Top Hat, and you can find them at TopHat.com. I have not used them, but I’ve seen it used by others very effectively, and it enables you to put real time quizzes in, it just has a, takes doing polling questions to the next level. So for our listeners, I would look at TopHat.com and see if it makes sense to insert into your programs.
Sounds good. Susan, what about some other classroom norms that might be unique to virtual training?
Yeah, I, especially if you have participants who this is not their natural go-to, they’re used to in person trainings, I think it’s smart in that first session to talk about, there’s some things unique about learning in this environment. I think it’s fair to let everybody introduce themselves, but then to have people go on mute, and say we’re going to do that so that we don’t talk over each other. I think it’s really important for you, as the facilitator, recognizing it can be a little distant, you’re not up front and personal with people, so the front end and the back end of every class, I would do some type of a warm up or reengagement and some type of a warm down at the end so that you get that human to human connection. And maybe it’s wishing people – the next NFL game’s coming up, maybe talk a little bit about that, whatever it is that people can relate to, so it doesn’t feel as stiff.
Yeah. You talked about everyone putting themselves on mute, which of course I totally agree with, and knowing that several tech platforms also give the instructor the ability to mute the participants as well. So when you have that one person who is, has their dog barking in the background, or kids crying, or putting you on hold music or whatever, that can be very powerful that you’re not having to wait for that person to mute themselves, but that you have the option to mute everyone as well.
Yeah, I try not to use it, because I want people to pipe up when they have something they want to talk about, but there comes times if the number’s too large, or if there’s somebody who’s accidentally put us on hold or done something, then we have to do it. So it’s there if you need it.
Yes. Also be watching your screen, or again, if you have this tech buddy, they can do it. I just heard a story last week of a friend of mine who is, of course her college classes have been moved online. The professor was doing a pretty detailed demonstration that was supposed to be showing on the screen, so they had turned their back to the screen to do it, not realizing that the participants couldn’t see what she was doing at all, and literally went on for 45 minutes.
Talking about this demonstration that no one else can see. So.
Oh, that’s painful. Painful!
You know, I – one of the other things I would like to mention is that I do think it’s important on any online class that somewhere on the screen, you always have your contact information and your phone number so if, if your tech buddy perhaps can’t be on for your whole session, and if something like that does happen, the 40 minutes of lecturing that no one could see, that they could text you, at least they could text you to say, “Hey, we can’t see what you’re doing.” So I think that’s important, somewhere in that screen, make sure it’s always visible.
Yeah. Also, don’t forget to take a break. Sometimes we just – it might seem more obvious when you’re face to face with people in a room and you can tell that people are getting a little antsy or need to get up to take a break, which is not always so obvious on the screen. So if your class is very long, certainly I would suggest maybe longer than an hour and a half, even then people might need to get up and move around a bit. Which also leads me to think about thinking about how long is your class? And I know I attended a three hour online webinar on Saturday, and I thought, boy, I’m not sure I would want it to be any longer than that. Now, I am seeing some conferences coming up that are scheduled to be done virtually, and I’m, I’m curious to see, I’m not sure I could make it much past three hours without interacting, but just a point to think about how long is your class? And is that appropriate for virtual, or should it be broken up?
I think that’s fair. I have, a couple of months ago did an all day virtual training for a company, and we chunked it up, we did, so that we had three hours in the morning, and then we had like three hours at the end, so that there was ample time at least for people to get up, move around, get food, biological breaks, and those types of things
Yeah. All right, well, we wish you lots of luck as you move to more of your classes online and we’d love to hear any best practices that you have. We really appreciate you joining us today. You can check out our JoyPowered® books at getjoypowered.com/books, subscribe to our newsletter at getjoypowered.com/newsletter, and listen to our other podcasts and subscribe to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast. Where can you find those podcasts, JoDee?
You can find us at getjoypowered.com or on Apple, Podbean, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you find your podcasts. Thanks for joining us today, and make it a JoyPowered® day.