Virtual Classrooms for the time of the Virus

Going Virtual in the time of the virus

With the advent of Social Distancing, physical classroom training is simply not possible. Project Laneways has already given it’s first course in a virtual classroom.  There were teething problems but it went well. We had some very good feedback on the experience.

I thought it worked very well.  Quality of delivery was good, and opportunity to interact with other participants was appreciated and worked well.

 A participant in a virtual class, March 2020

What do Virtual Classes look like?

We have tried to make it as close to the physical classroom experience as we can

  • Live remote interaction with an Australian based trainer and the rest of the class.
  • The same trainer who conducts the classroom training.
  • With the exception of a short session on the preceding business day, it will be held on the same days as the originally scheduled class.
  • We use easy to use and free (for you) web conferencing software.
  • Sessions are capped at 90 minutes followed by a break.
  • Typically, two sessions in the morning and two sessions in the afternoon.
  • Course text books are posted to you.
  • Course materials are  emailed to you in advance.
  • Many exercises take place in virtual “break out rooms”.

In addition to the web conferencing software, we create WhatsApp groups for each course, which acts as an emergency communication system but, also, adds depth to the interaction between participants.. In one case, it even led to a discussion between participants about a possible job opportunity!

What have we learnt about Virtual Classrooms?

In no particular order

  • Many participants had the occasional and short loss of their internet connectivity. Fortunately, this has yet to happen to the instructor. Instructors have a backup connection in place.
  • Many of us are still working through the details of working at home. Flatmates, pets, children and, of course, partners all presented minor problems for the participants.
  • Many participants mute their microphones to protect others from their background noise. This is being considerate. But it had the effect of muting the more impulsive interaction that usually happens in face-to-face classes. net result? It took a bit longer to get strong levels of interaction. But we did get their in the end.
  • Some exercises have to be modified for a virtual environment, but most translate quite well.

The course was thorough, practical and really enjoyable. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to attend the class in person. It was run virtually via Zoom instead, and to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by how seamless it was!

 A participant in a virtual class.

What’s next in Virtual Classrooms?

We will continue to take the approach that we always have. Continuous improvement! Every aspect of the courses will be inspected. This includes:

  • Presentation techniques
  • Course exercises
  • Course materials
  • How the exams are taken (these are administered by APMG, but we have some choices that we can make)
  • What technology we use and how we use it.

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