18 July

How to design an engaging virtual classroom?

A successful learning experience is one with engaged and active participants, but how exactly to design a virtual classroom session that creates this scenario?

A lot of the skills that you will need for designing and facilitating virtual classrooms are similar to the physical classroom, but virtual classrooms tend to be more focused, more concise, more structured and move at a quicker pace.

It is not just a case of transitioning your existing classroom content into virtual delivery, your content needs to be redesigned, restructured and chunked up differently for this type of delivery, to avoid falling into presentation mode and end of delivering a webinar.

Consider the virtual classroom design principles

  1. It should be a highly interactive live online session
  2. Typically host two virtual classrooms for an existing one-day classroom session
  3. Each session should be about 2 hours in duration with no more than 2 topics covered, keep your virtual classroom content light!
  4. Keep the group size small, ideally about 10 – 15 people. Sometimes when we go online there is a tendency to add more people, but this impacts the ability to keep the session interactive.
  5. In terms of the purpose of the virtual classroom, the focus should be on context not content – so practical examples, stories, case studies.
  6. Allow your participants to engage in exercises, discussions and Q&A’s.
  7. Make sure to debrief the self-managed learning, providing action planning for the next part of the journey.

Design the full blend learning experience

When designing a virtual classroom, it is important to think about the full blended learning experience, avoid looking at the virtual classroom in isolation. The learning blend is made of the virtual classroom session itself, the self-paced learning and the social learning.

Self-paced learning includes the pre and post-independent learning that happens as learners flow in and out of a virtual classroom. It could involve learners

  • Accessing online resources
  • Completing individual activities and exercises
  • Self-reflection on their learning outcomes
  • Personal action planning
  • And also completing course assessments

In terms of social learning, you can use things like forums to allow participants to:

  • Post questions in advance of the virtual classroom
  • Share their reflections and personal learning objectives
  • Share the outputs of independent activities or exercises
  • You can also use social learning to provide participants with personalised feedback

Use tools in your favour 

The best and most engaging virtual classrooms use available online tools to support the delivery of their content. They are essentially a context creator rather than a content provider, offering new solutions to achieve a successful learning experience. 

Here are a few key tools for driving engagement with learners

  • Content sharing and screen sharing
  • Interactive Whiteboards
  • Polls
  • Audio and Webcam
  • Live Chat
  • Reactions
  • Breakout Session

In summary, it’s essential to dedicate time to create an online experience where learners are active rather than passive – which increases their engagement and minimises distractions.