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5 Virtual Classroom Design Constraints

Posted by Melissa Grey Satterfield on 11/30/15 3:00 AM
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If you’ve ever attended Langevin’s Instructional Design for New Designers workshop, you know that early on in the design cycle we cover project planning. At this stage in the process, we’re looking to identify potential design constraints and determine the timing parameters for our proposed design project.

In an ideal world, instructional designers would be free to design a course however we see fit—free of any limitations that might impact the course design or delivery. But how often does that happen? In reality, most designers are faced with at least some constraints, things like: design and instructional time, budget, location and number of learners, and availability of subject-matter experts.


As our newest virtual classroom workshop, Instructional Design for the Virtual Trainer, just launched, I thought it timely to share some of the design constraints we face when taking on a VC (virtual classroom) design project.


Some design constraints are applicable to any type of training, while others are unique to the virtual classroom. There are nine critical design constraints for virtual classroom training. They’re critical because any one of them can have a significant impact on the decisions you make as a VC course designer. In this blog, we’ll look at five of the nine constraints. That’s right, if you want to know all nine, you’ll have to join us for the workshop! So, let’s have a look at some VC design constraints and the impact they have on your course design.


1. What tools/features are available in your VC Platform? The answer to this question will have an impact on what methods you choose to present content and how your learners will practice/apply content (e.g. the more tools available to you, the more options you have to create interactive training that allows your learners to apply the content in a variety of ways.) Breakout rooms are the perfect example of a feature that allows for small group interaction.


2. Does your VC platform play well with others? Certain systems or applications may not be compatible with your VC platform, limiting the ability to teach participants how to use the systems and/or applications (and have your learners practice using them). Also, certain file types may not upload to the virtual classroom, or may not display as intended. For instance, at Langevin, we use Adobe Connect as our VC platform. At the current time, Microsoft Word files aren’t supported by Connect, so we have to convert them to PDF’s.


3. Will you have a Producer or Co-Facilitator available? Whether or not you have help in the VC will have an impact on what methods you choose to present content and have your learners practice it, since more complex methods (e.g. breakout rooms) may be challenging to set up and execute with only one facilitator. At Langevin, we’re fortunate enough to have management buy-in and support for a producer to help teach our virtual courses.


4. What is the suggested/mandated virtual session length? Time-related constraints are likely to be the most common constraints you’ll face as a VC instructional designer, and impact the presentation and application methods you choose. You’ll need to carefully select methods that allow you to cover the content required given the amount of time you have to work with. You may also need to assign intersession work, and pre/post-course assignments.


5. What is the suggested/mandated class size (number of learners)? Just as smaller class sizes are preferred for traditional, classroom-based training, the same is true for virtual classroom training. A smaller class size will allow for increased interaction, engagement, and practice opportunities. Whereas a larger class size will limit interaction, engagement, and practice activities, increasing the risk of having learners tune out from the training. At Langevin, we cap our VC class size at twelve.


As you can see from the implications associated with each of the above design constraints, they can significantly impact the design of your virtual training course. Make sure you take the time to investigate (i.e. ask questions) before you start designing the course—you’ll be glad you did! Better yet, attend our Instructional Design for the Virtual Trainer workshop and we’ll guide you through the VC design process, step by step. Hope to see you there soon!


Tips for Success in the Virtual Classroom

Melissa has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Nevada where she studied broadcast communications. During her college years, Melissa worked as an on-air personality for several radio and TV stations in Las Vegas. She’s always been a bit of a performer, which is probably why training is such a good fit for her. Before coming to Langevin, she was a senior training specialist and course developer for an organization based in L.A. Melissa knows the challenges trainers face, as well as the rewards that come with improving job performance. Her training mantra is summed up best by something she learned during her very first Langevin workshop, “Never do for the learners what the learners can do for themselves.” When not in the classroom, Melissa loves travelling, relaxing at the beach, cooking, and hosting dinner parties.

Tags: virtual classroom, instructional design

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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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