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Creating a community via remote learning

A colleague recently sent me a clip of trainees doing an activity during a  pre-Covid  training course; a packed room with around 20 young journalists based in Delhi, in pairs, discussing a thorny editorial problem. The energy in the room was fantastic – arms waving around, points being debated, everyone so involved. Of course this is what we are all aiming for with our remote training. And we all know that it’s much easier in a room, than over Zoom or Teams. But it’s not impossible. I’ve learned over the past year that with my longer courses when I have the trainees in a group for a week or more, one of the ways to encourage this active participation is to ‘stick’ the trainees together early on, to spend time making sure they know each other and are comfortable with each other. I don’t think this is just a ‘nice to have’ – the learning is definitely more successful if people feel part of a group. So I’ve built in time for extra breakout room activities, in groups of 2, 3 and more; created a what’s app group for them to share content and good wishes to each other (social learning), and I’ve built in activities that they do together, independently of a trainer,  outside the Zoom sessions.  Does anyone have any other ideas? And how do we create this ‘community of practice’  when we’ve only got people for a day – or less?

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  • Hi Cath, I'm currently working on content for a webinar about 'humanising the virtual classroom' (with Jo Cook) and looking for examples to include. It would be great to chat more with you about this - would you be open to a conversation? Let me know and maybe we can connect? Thanks, Sarah.

    • HI Sarah - yes that would be really interesting. How are fixed on Friday? thanks Cath

      • Brilliant! Friday morning is free. Feel free to drop me a message on sarah.wightman@acteoncommunication.com and we can arrange it. Thanks! Sarah.

  • I think the key thing your describe about the journalist training session was the engagement of the learners, and over the last 15+ years of developing virtual classrooms that has always been the top level metric I use. 

    You might engage learners / audience members in different ways (variety of technique is important), but, it's still about engagement.

    Not being engaged - when in a F2F session, if your not engaged in the subject the environment is a "trap" to prevent you leaving.   
    The virtual room doesnt have that "trap / lock on the door", so, it feels like the virtual aspect is causing the lack of engagement , but, it most likely ISNT the cause of the lack of engagement, that is usually caused by poor content, poor technique and lack of variety of inputs / thoughts for the audience (they have wandered off mentally).

    In design terms, a more practical word can be "involvement" rather than "engagement", if I'm not involved in the virtual classroom it's a passive experience, and, you learn very little being passive.

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