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Connectivity is not connection: How to boost engagement in virtual training classrooms

Learning has a social side that cannot be ignored. Since the need for social connection is hard-wired in our DNA, we tend to feel more engaged in learning programs in which our social needs are fulfilled.

Online training classrooms have their advantages as well, the main ones being accessibility and availability. However, since they don’t involve face-to-face interaction with trainers and colleagues, people tend to feel disengaged and eventually quit classes altogether.

Learning is not supposed to be a lonely pursuit and connectivity is not synonymous with connection. Let’s see what a trainer can do to bring back the “human touch” in the virtual classroom!

  1. Small talk

    Log on half an hour ahead of the scheduled time and get to know the participants. Welcome them, show them the tools you will use during your sessions. If you have time, ask questions about expectations, previous experiences with online learning programs and address any concerns that learners might express.

  2. Warm-up

    Create warm-up activities for the first part of the training and try to engage all participants. For instance, play a video related to the topic you are covering and ask learners to share their opinion in the chat window. In this way, you create an interactive environment that makes people more comfortable with the platform.

  3. Change of topic

    Place a few ideas on the screen and allow participants to choose the next topic. This will empower them and will give them a sense of control. Don’t stick to your predefined plan, be adaptable according to learners’ preferences. Especially when you work with adult learners, keep in mind that they want to be involved in the process.

  4. Scavenger hunts

    Instead of simply sending information carefully organized in a file, try a different approach that will make finding the new information a social experience. Ask participants to work in teams and tell them to explore a platform in search of answers. If you feel that they are up to it, add gamification to give points to the fastest teams.

  5. Connect the dots

    Add snippets of text, images, and short videos on the platform that are parts of a bigger story and invite participants to work in teams or pairs and put the pieces together. Then allow them to share their version of the story with the rest of the class. In this way, you help them work together and connect more with their peers.

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