One thing I know is that being a technical expert on a virtual learning platform will not make you a good virtual classroom facilitator. The key is listener engagement. But a recent experience made me question whether the technical platform is more critical than we think.
Recently, I watched a great course design go up in flames because the learning environment couldn’t deliver what was needed. What do we do when our virtual learning platform doesn’t play nice?
It all goes back to how we, as instructional designers, integrate the curriculum with the capabilities of the virtual learning environment being used. Not all platforms are created equal. This isn’t meant to be a review of capabilities; there are plenty of sources for that. Just a reminder, as you get ready to lay out your instructional design, ask yourself some key questions:
- What’s the nature of interaction and learning in the course?
If you need to have verbal exchange in the classroom and brainstorming in breakouts, be careful. Many platforms, for cost and simplicity reasons, favor, or only offer, VoIP (Voice over IP) as audio communication in the classroom. VoIP generally has poor audio quality with lots of background noise. People get frustrated trying to hear, distracted and disengaged. This is even more challenging because not everyone’s network is the same, even in the same organization.
Some platforms with VoIP only allow one speaker at a time to be unmuted and speaking. Awkward at best, unintelligible at worst. Will everyone have a microphone? Don’t assume.
- Planning on chat as a primary exchange?
Make sure your platform allows chat between participants and moderator/presenters. Screen sharing-based platforms can be limited in this regard.
- Not sure if you have the right technical match?
Don’t make your pilot program the test case. Run your activities with live participants on the platform of choice before you finalize your approach. Lots of build slides and animation? That may not work with the platform you are using. Test, adjust and test again.
There are a host of things to consider when designing a facilitated virtual program. Don’t find out on your first program delivery that you missed a step. Align your design with the capabilities of the platform you’ve chosen to achieve success.