Langevin's Train-the-Trainer Blog

Group Dynamics in the Virtual Classroom

Posted by Lynne Koltookian on 8/5/19 8:00 AM
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Photo by: StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay

I’ve been teaching in the virtual classroom for about two years now and teaching in the traditional classroom about twenty years. When designing and delivering training, you gain a solid understanding of human behavior, specifically group dynamics. In the traditional classroom, people progress through the four stages of group dynamics rather quickly. They start to form, storm, norm, and perform quite well provided the instructor has created a positive learning environment and conducted certain activities at the right times for the group. People also pass through the four stages of group formation in a virtual classroom. They may not be physically together in the same room but they are together as a group. The instructor needs to conduct introductions, icebreakers, and early participatory activities to facilitate the group bonding process in the virtual classroom.


Teaching in the virtual classroom has its pros and cons just like any training modality or strategy. I find it quite fascinating to see how people conduct themselves in a virtual class, especially if it’s their first time. Here are five interesting factoids based on my observations in the virtual classroom. Hopefully they’ll help you be more successful when you teach your live/online sessions. Keep in mind, some people:

  • are uncomfortable speaking out loud in a virtual environment but they are comfortable typing a chat message to participate. Be sure to include a variety of response options.

  • thrive in the virtual classroom as they are tech savvy and enjoy learning while using the features of the learning platform. Embrace these learners!

  • are extremely quiet in the virtual classroom. The instructor may need to call on them by name to ensure they are learning, participating, and maximizing their training.

  • may not participate openly with the full group but actively work on their exercises and activities when they are placed in private break-out sessions.

  • may be hesitant initially to learn in the virtual classroom. Once they start participating and experience the interaction and opportunities to learn, they often change their minds. Encourage your learners to keep an open mind.


So, if you are a new virtual instructor and are having difficulties with group dynamics, or understanding some of your participants’ behaviors, perhaps my observations will make things easier for you. If your virtual courses are designed well, with plenty of activities every 3-5 minutes, and content that is simple and clear, everything should go as planned. Inform your learners ahead of time on what to expect from learning in the virtual classroom—it’s important to set their expectations and calm any fears they may have about the virtual classroom.


To learn more about how to engage and “read” your learners in a virtual environment, as well as calmly handle unexpected issues, The Virtual Trainer workshop is the perfect place to start. If you’re responsible for designing virtual classroom training that is engaging and maximizes performance, have a look at the Instructional Design for the Virtual Trainer workshop.


Tips for Success in the Virtual Classroom


Topics: virtual classroom

Written by Lynne Koltookian

Lynne has been a course leader with Langevin since 2007. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in Education from Boston University. After working many years in human resources and sales, Lynne transitioned into training, her true passion, where she’s been facilitating since 1994. Her training philosophy is simple—learning should be fun! The essence of a good instructor is someone who can make complex things easy to understand and fun to learn. In her free time, you’ll find Lynne cycling, hiking, downhill skiing, and scuba diving.

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    Our very own master trainers 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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