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How to Use Your Facilitation Skills in the Virtual Classroom

Posted by Paul Sitter on 8/19/13 4:00 AM
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You’re a successful classroom trainer, but you’ve just been directed to teach a virtual classroom session. What to do? Well, there’s good news and bad news.

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First the good, and there’s lots of it. All those years you spent perfecting your delivery and facilitation skills were not wasted. Some of the skills that transfer directly to the world of virtual training are:


The use of your voice for engagement of learners is perhaps even more critical for the virtual classroom trainer than it is for face-to-face training. In a virtual classroom, the trainer’s voice, not their body language, carries the message.

A classroom trainer learns to think ahead while covering content or flipcharting while also facilitating a brainstorm session. Those same multi-tasking skills are valuable for a virtual trainer who monitors a chat discussion while posing questions for participants and sequencing the next slide they will see on their computers.

A well-phrased and well-delivered question can engage participants, create a degree of accountability, and provide a quick assessment for the trainer as to how “tuned in” the participants are.

In the world of training, using the right words and actions to bring the message across to the learners is a practiced skill, especially when communicating activity instructions. Effectively describing what to do, how to do it, and how long to take, enhances learning and the credibility of the instructor. In a virtual environment, that type of clarity is a particularly great skill.

Early Arrival
As an experienced trainer, I like to be in the classroom (virtual or traditional) 30 to 60 minutes before my class arrives. The intent of being early in either case is to make sure that everything works as intended and to be able to greet the participants as they arrive.

Any classroom trainer knows, "If it can go wrong, it will.” Slides out of sequence, pens out of ink, software crashing – we’ve all been there. Of course, adding the greater dependence on technology of the virtual classroom, the ability to maintain composure when things go off script is another transferable skill for the trainer.

Any experienced trainer knows the three most important parts of classroom success – prepare, prepare, prepare. In the world of virtual classroom, frustration with technology that “doesn’t work” is a quick way to lose a learner.


All of this leads to the other news: “The Bad”.  But really, there is "no bad"!  For most of us, learning every aspect of the technology the organization uses for virtual training (something like Adobe Connect or Cisco WebEx Training, etc.) is the biggest hurdle.


Virtual classroom software emulates a “brick and mortar” classroom which may include features such as chat, whiteboard, screen sharing, breakout rooms, hand raising, and polling. It is incumbent on the trainer to be thoroughly familiar with the tool, including what every menu and sub-menu choice allows.


Bottom line? Becoming a virtual classroom instructor takes time to learn how to use the hardware and software; however, many of the delivery and facilitation skills you’ve mastered in a face-to-face environment transfer directly to the virtual classroom solution.


For more information on virtual classroom, check out my four-part blog!

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Paul has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor’s degree in History. Throughout Paul’s career he’s had the pleasure of training for a variety of industries including sports, military, technical, aviation, and academia. Paul firmly believes with the right training and support, people can be competent performers in most positions. The organizational trainer is the key to providing that performance boost. In his spare time, you might catch sight of Paul on the sidelines of a soccer field, biking through Napa Valley, or spending some quality time with his family.

Topics: facilitation, virtual trainer, virtual classroom, presentation skills, tips-for-trainers

About this Blog

Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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