some thoughts on virtual teaching

Yesterday I led a virtual class that had all sorts of problems…

First of all, only one learner showed up despite my efforts to widely advertise the class. It seems even though online learning is supposed to be flexible adult learners still struggle with finding time for synchronous events. Is it because they forget to mark their calendars? Is it because they don’t think they will learn anything? I don’t seem to be able to find answers to those questions.

Second of all, the learner who attended the class did not have a headset, which caused a lot of echoing when I passed the microphone to her: I could hear myself twice throughout the whole lesson. Even though this is usually a major disruption I decided to go with it and after each time I spoke I paused until my voice decided to dissipate.

Thirdly, the screen sharing tool got blocked by my anti-virus program! It was a first. I apologized to my learner and chatted with her while fiddling with the ports on my computer to fix my access to screen sharing. After a few minutes screen sharing was available and I was happy to move on. Hooray!

On the bright side,

  • I didn’t panic; I just played along with what came at me.
  • I successfully multitasked and fixed the port issue on my computer while chatting with the participant.
  • The participant did not get flustered although it was her first virtual class experience. She was happy to realize that she could understand what was being said and done.
  • As there was only one person in the class, I was able to ask her to demonstrate what she learnt: she shared her screen with me and successfully displayed her new skills.

So, some best practices that came out of this experience are:

  • Never panic – smile and take your time to find a solution.
  • Have some extra questions on hand that participants can work on while you are solving any problems.
  • Have Skype open on the side to talk with participants during screen sharing (the chat box in the virtual class cannot be seen at that time). Form a group conversation in Skype so you don’t have to respond to 10 similar messages.
  • Insist that participants have headsets if they wish to speak during the class.
  • Be happy with what you have and make the best of it.

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