I have provided technical support for online learning sessions during most of my 16 years at FKA, using many of the available platforms. The quality of the technology has improved over the years, but technology being what it is, there are still things that go wrong. Here’s list of my top 6 tips for running successful online learning sessions to help ensure your participants have the best possible learning experience while minimizing the technical challenges.
1 – Have participants test their access to the platform well in advance
- Some corporate/government firewalls may block your platform and time is needed to get approval for the participant to use the platform.
- Most of the platforms provide a test meeting url that can be used.
2 – Open the live session early
- I typically open a session 1 hour in advance to allow time to:
- test access to the platform,
- Upload any new content,
- Test audio conference quality, and
- Configure any platform settings (ie. Turn on ability for participants to chat to everyone, which may be off by default).
- This allows ample time to deal with any issues and accommodate any last minute changes.
3 – Use a telephone conference bridge rather than VoIP for voice communication
- Voip has improved a lot in the past few years and we use it when it is a client request, but our preference is still the telephone conference bridge. If we lose our internet connection or the platform has problems we are still in voice communication with our participants.
- When using telephone conference bridges, I recommend having at least 2 phones logged in as a moderator, preferably at different locations. In some cases, if the moderator line is disconnected, the conference bridge shuts down which will kill the audio connections for all participants.
- We also don’t recommend participants using cell phones to connect to the telephone conference bridge. We’ve found the chances of a participant getting disconnected from the audio are much higher when they are on a cell phone (weak signal, battery issues, etc).
4 – Use a headset with microphone
- This helps eliminate background noise and provides better audio quality than speakerphone.
- Allows you to have free hands to type responses within the platform.
5 – Have an Uninterruptable Power Suppy (UPS) on all computers and network devices
- In the event of a local power outage this will keep your connection to the platform active for a period of time, possibly until the power is restored. Mostly we have laptops for logging in – the batteries will keep them going if the power goes out. All of our other network devices are on large UPS’s giving us about 20 minutes of run time. On the occasions that we have lost power during an online session, we have been able to keep going without the participants even being aware. This can avoid having to reschedule a session, which can be challenging given the busy work schedules of our participants.
6 – Always record the sessions
- Allows participants to go back and review, further enhancing the learning retention for the participants.