Making the Transition from Classroom Trainer to Virtual Classroom Trainer

For those of you who have made the move to facilitating in the virtual world…. Congratulations!

It was simple and easy, right? Or was it?

Even though you had a course that was already developed (for the physical classroom); and had learning objectives that were specific, measurable and learner-centered; the smooth move to the virtual classroom was bumpier than you expected.

Lack of Visual Clues

Being a subject matter expert and having delivered the course face-to-face more times than you’d like to admit, certainly helped. But creating an engaging and motivating experience in the virtual learning environment is not an easy task.

When moving from your role as a skilled classroom trainer, the first adjustment you need to make is to relinquish any reliance on face-to-face interaction with all its visual clues and readily apparent immediate feedback. Typically, trainers find the physical separation from their learners the most challenging adjustment in the transition to the virtual classroom. We can’t see the approving nods or the puzzled looks; we can’t see if they are distracted due to multi-tasking; we can’t see that disinterested I’m-at-the-beach gaze.

So how do we compensate for this?

Effective Design

As with any good learning program, it begins with effective design. The virtual program must follow a Systematic Learning Process of Presentation, Application and Feedback. Our virtual classes must engage the learners, promote meaningful feedback, use the technology effectively, and provide opportunities to evaluate achievement of the learning objectives.

We need to choose and adapt presentation methods that promote interaction in the virtual environment. Lecturing in a monotone voice, with poorly designed visuals doesn’t work in face-to-face courses…and, it is disastrous in the virtual classroom.

In the physical classroom, when the skilled facilitator picks up non-verbal clues that suggest she is losing her learners, she quickly changes methodology. For example, she can break the learners into smaller groups to brainstorm on a flip chart the advantages and disadvantages of the concepts or ideas presented. The virtual trainer can also do this by using break-out rooms with whiteboards, or use polling questions to “get a pulse” on the topic or use chat to support real-time, online conversations. However, you cannot depend on non-verbal clues, so these changes in presentation or application methods must be designed into the program.

The successful transition therefore requires that the design takes into consideration the typical capabilities of the virtual classroom technology and the trainer is fully conversant with all the tools available to support collaborative exercises to meet the learning objectives. The new tools to facilitate interaction must be learned and practiced, so that the transition to the virtual environment is smooth for both the virtual trainers and the virtual learners.

Making a Successful Transition

As we make the transition from classroom trainer to the virtual classroom trainer, we need to realize that:

  • applying a Systematic Learning Process,
  • following adult learning principles, and
  • creating active learning,

are critical in both the physical and virtual environments.

As classroom trainers in transition, we also must be cognizant that for learning and success to happen in the virtual environment:

  • interactivity must be designed in and cannot be done in an impromptu manner;
  • motivation is more important;
  • visuals have more impact; and
  • voice plays a much stronger role.

Connect with us to get more information on transitioning successfully to the virtual classroom. Ask for FKA’s Typical Capabilities List used in Live Sessions as well as Capabilities used Outside the Live Sessions.

FKA President
Michael Nolan