• Richard Chambury

Moving from traditional classroom to online course delivery

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

With much of the world moving to remote working in light of the current COVID-19 situation, this presents some obvious challenges for instructors who usually deliver face-to-face training seminars. There is already plenty of advice out there for employees who are switching to working from home for the first time, but what about the people who are responsible for delivering training? 

We have outlined some of the most important features to know about in Totara Learn to help facilitate your move to online learning delivery.

get to grips with the technology

There is little more frustrating for online learners than trying to watch a session riddled with technical errors and glitches. 

For instructors, this means learning how to use the webcast program (whether this is Big Blue Button Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts or something else) before you deliver your first official session. This could be as simple as setting up a test session with colleagues and making sure you understand all of the controls. You may also want to test the learner experience with someone else hosting so that you can see what features are available to learners, whether that’s "raising a hand" to ask a question, voting in polls or what chat facilities are available.

We have handy quick start guides for Big Blue Button and MS Teams, ask your account manager for a copy.

It’s also essential that you have a fast, stable internet connection to avoid constant freezing and audio/video issues. Check with your IT department to check that your connection is good enough. If it’s not, your users could use a mobile hotspot. We use MS Teams a lot for client meetings and it can be frustrating when the internet is 'slow', especially if all delegates are using video. To compensate for this try using chatrooms instead of video will be more efficient.

actively invite questions

Most webinar-hosting programs allow instructors to turn on a chat facility, enabling learners to ask questions or clarify points throughout the session. It’s up to you whether you make questions visible only to the instructor or to everyone in the chat, but of course there are pros and cons of each - and it will, in part, depend on what exactly you're teaching. 

If you make questions visible only to you as the instructor, this can help people stay focused and not distracted by constant noise in the chat running alongside the webinar. If you make them visible to everyone else in the chat, other people may be able to weigh in with their own thoughts, and it can help avoid duplication of questions. Either way, you should clarify upfront whether you will address questions throughout the session or at the end, and you may even consider unmuting those with questions at the end if you think it will require some dialogue.

We prefer to have the chat only visible to the instructor, and have one moderating the questions while the other delivers the content.

However, if you would prefer not to enable live chat during your session, make sure you provide a place outside the webinar to raise any questions or discuss the content. You could set up a course that contains a forum, and where you can host the video of the webinar post session to encourage networking, sharing and further discussion.

Paulo Freire's "banking concept in education" highlights the importance of the opportunity for dialogue in learning. In a face-to-face lecture, attendees can simply ask questions in the moment, whereas moving online requires you as the instructor to create a dedicated space to allow learners to demonstrate their knowledge and not just consume it. Laurillard's conversational framework explores the link between instructors and learners, and the role both parties have to play in the learning process.

Essentially, one-way videos or webinars just aren't going to cut it - inviting discussion and conversation is vital to ensure that learning objectives are met. Remember, it's still a classroom and your delegates want interaction.

choose your format wisely

Different instructors prefer different methods of delivery in-person, and this is still the case for online delivery.

For instance, some instructors create slideshows which can be switched into webinar format very easily. If this is your preferred method, you can simply speak over your slides as you would in a classroom setting. Big Blue Button allows you to upload and run PowerPoint presentations like you would do in the classroom. Another method is to turn on your video and speak directly to attendees so that they can see your facial expressions and gestures. In an academic setting, some lecturers set up the camera looking at their whiteboard so that they can draw diagrams and make annotated notes, so consider if this could work for you. Webinar tools like Bib Blue Button have whiteboards built in, so you can do this directly on Totara itself.

For smaller groups and more interactive discussions, it may be worth inviting everyone to turn on their cameras (if they want to) so it feels more like a face-to-face conversation.

This can help create a better flow to the discussion, but be aware that this is best used in very specific circumstances. Many people don’t like being on camera, and video can take up a lot of bandwidth, so this should be used selectively, and certainly not with large groups.

how to manage assessments and evidence of training

We get asked how to mark attendance a lot. Delivering training online is one thing, but how do you then assess attendees’ understanding of the material?

Big Blue Button will enable Totara to mark completion once a delegate watches the presentation, but how do you know they were active in the delivery? There are several options you can use to better track 'completion'.

You may ask learners to submit an assignment or a reflection online. With Totara Learn, your learners can upload assignments and evidence directly within the LMS to log any necessary documentation in their Record of Learning. Even simpler, you could use a Quiz and set up a simple knowledge assessment to trigger course completion.

Totara Learn also allows you to track and confirm seminar attendance. Your delegates can can register for an online event, and you as the instructor can confirm that they attended within the system by adding them to a seminar and marking then as fully attended, giving you a clear overview of who is committing to their online training.

You may also wish to follow up online events with evaluation(s) /feedback(s) to check how attendees felt about the session.

beyond the webinar

Not all training suits delivery by webinar, meaning you might want to explore other online learning options. 

Some training may be turned into e-learning modules. Authoring tools like Adapt may be used to create user-friendly e-learning for rapid creation and delivery of training content, which can of course be revisited, reused and updated over time.

There is also the H5P activity module which enables you to create interactive content such as Interactive Videos, Question Sets, Drag and Drop Questions, Multi-Choice Questions, Presentations and much more. In addition to being an authoring tool for rich content, H5P enables you to import and export H5P files for effective reuse and sharing of content.

You could use e-learning modules alongside webinars to enable further learning or reinforcement of outcomes.

in summary; managing online training with Totara Learn

If you’re an instructor who is moving your training online, seminar management is an essential part of Totara Learn. You can use this to manage both in-person and online events, and you can use it to track attendance, send reminders and share information about your online sessions.

You can also see an example of how forums work in the Totara Community. As an instructor, you will probably be tempted to jump in and answer every question that pops up, but it’s best if you resist the temptation and allow users to learn from their peers. Instead, you should take the role of a moderator, ensuring that any inappropriate content is dealt with swiftly, and responding to questions only when asked directly. For more informal conversations, you can set up a chat activity, which is set to run at a particular time or always open for text chats.

If you want to supplement your online seminars with additional learning activities, you can add SCORM courses, quizzes or Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), or upload useful resources using folder, file, page and URL modules. You can also use the lesson functionality for more complex training course structures.

If you’re thinking about making the switch to online training permanently, it could be a good time to consider setting up programs and certifications. This means that you can create a package of courses, including live online seminars, e-learning content, resources and assignments, to guide learners through your training content. You can also set up notifications and reminders to nudge learners to complete training if it’s especially time sensitive.

This is a guest post from the Totara blog

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