As teachers in many areas of the country struggle to take their classroom activities into the virtual training world, here’s what we’re finding.
Many are familiar with online teaching tools that they have been using in their classrooms: tools such as Quizlet, and Kahoot!, and Quizziz, and Swivl. Collaborative tools such as Google Docs are also in use. (These are all tools that bear a look by business trainers as well!)
Students log in through their iPads, tablets, or laptops and participate online in the midst of the classroom. They can access these tools from home as well, to complete assignments or do independent learning.
But with many school systems going completely virtual basically overnight, many teachers are struggling to translate the classroom experience itself into the online world. Sound familiar? Our business classes are doing the same.
The first question is what online platform can I use? Some school systems already have virtual learning systems set up: Blackboard, Canvas, Google Classrooms, and so on. Businesses may already have Adobe Connect, Webex, Microsoft Teams, or even Skype for Business.
Other teachers need a low-cost online solution—as many in the business world do as well—and they need it now.
Here are a couple of our favorites, with a quick look at costs, features, and limitations.
Zoom: It seems as though the whole world has been holding meetings on Zoom for the first time in the past week! Churches, synagogues, book groups, writer’s collectives, families…and teachers. Zoom certainly was in the right place at the right time. Here are the details:
meet with one person for free, for as long as you like
Meet with 2 – 100 people, but with a 40-minute limit
14.99/month version: Meet with up to 100 people, with no time limit
Webex Personal: If you are familiar with the corporate version of this software, with its rather high costs, you may be surprised to learn there is a free version! It does not look and function identically to the corporate version—it lacks a whiteboard feature, for example. But other functions will be familiar. Teachers—It has a great Webcam feature, a fabulous “hand raise” tool, chat, and other tools that are very useful for teaching.
Meet with up to 100 people, with no time limit
Call-in users may have to pay—but computer audio works fine for free!
Meet with up to 50 people
Has many other business-related functions, such as scheduling
As both school teachers and business trainers alike are thrown into the virtual world, we are finding a lot in common. Teaching methods, the need for student engagement, the need for ways to interact online with our participants—these are universal.
Recently, IconLogic has been teaming up with the certification council for online training, ICCOTP, to offer minicourses based on the curriculum of the full online trainer certification course. These courses are free to school teachers and are being offered at a low price for business trainers. As we all go virtual, let’s find out how we can help each other and share our knowledge.
Jennie Ruby, CMT, CTT, COTP, is a veteran eLearning developer, trainer, and author. Jennie has an M.A. from George Washington University and is a Certified Technical Trainer and Certified Online Training Professional. She teaches both classroom and online courses, and has authored courseware, published training books, and developed content for countless eLearning projects. She is also a publishing professional with more than 30 years of experience in writing, editing, print publishing, and eLearning.
That’s right: note taking. It’s not just for students, anymore!
Of course we are used to thinking of note-taking as a student activity. And it certainly still is. In one of my online classes just this week, one of my students said, “Hold on, hold on! I’ve got to get this down!” before she would go on with answering a question I had asked her. Then she answered my question, and no doubt wrote that down as well! But she and the other participants were not the only ones taking notes in my class. I was taking notes, too.
Starting during the participant introductions at the beginning of my online classes, I begin to take hand-written notes. I make sure to have a well-spaced roster of my participants, with plenty of room to write. During their introductions, I note key facts about them, such as where they are calling in from, what kinds of topics they work with, and what organization they work for.
Taking these notes by hand helps me learn about my students. My goal in online classes is to get to know my students at least as well as I get to know participants in face-to-face classrooms—or maybe even better!
Recent research by Pam Mueller of Princeton University, along with Daniel Oppenheimer now at UCLA, shows that hand-written notes may help us learn things better. That’s important for students, and in my classes I sometimes mention this fact to learners. Now, the type of information that hand-written notes helps the most with is conceptual knowledge, rather than just plain facts. Notes typed on a laptop seem to be just as effective for learning rote facts and details.
But I hand write my “class” notes anyway—notes about my class participants, not about my content—and I notice a dramatic improvement in my ability to remember who my students are and where they are coming from. I feel like I truly get to know them.
Once I know my students, I can help them with learning the content of the class by actively using examples that relate to their experience. For example, if I know one of my learners for eLearning software is going to be creating training videos for active-duty nurses, I might mention a few ways to engage learners without audio voiceover. Why? Because the nurses may be trying to absorb the eLearning while working at a station in a busy ward, where they can’t use earphones!
I teach online courses by myself in a room full of computers, monitors, and microphones. I may not see another human being all day. But at the end of the day, I do not feel as if I spent the day alone. I feel the same as if I had spent the day getting to know, and then working with, a room full of people.
Here are some of the things I take notes about:
Where participants are calling in from
What topics they work with (finance, healthcare, manufacturing, etc.)
What role they play (instructional designer, training manager, instructor)
Contributions/comments they make about the class
Questions they ask that I promised to cover later
And in my software classes, I create a column for checkmarks, where I note whether each student has had a turn to share their computer screen.
In the online classroom, we need every possible tool we can use to get to know, engage with, and create learning experiences with our participants. Try note-taking in your next online class!
Jennie Ruby, CTT, COTP, is a veteran eLearning developer, trainer, and author. Jennie has an M.A. from George Washington University and is a Certified Technical Trainer and Certified Online Training Professional. She teaches both classroom and online courses, and has authored courseware, published training books, and developed content for countless eLearning projects. She is also a publishing professional with more than 30 years of experience in writing, editing, print publishing, and eLearning.