Why we need to plan questions in the online classroom

In the online classroom, one of the biggest things to get used to is not being in the same room. This is both for the trainer/facilitator and attendees. Not being in the same place means we loose observation and reaction to body language and the human element of face to face. We can use video, but that’s rarely the best solution for a variety of reasons. When a trainer is talking at their computer screen it can be easy to end up in Lecture Land and loose interactivity and engagement with attendees.

I’ve been writing notes for an online training session where I’m planning my interactive questions. I don’t do this to the same extent in planning my face to face sessions and it was bothering me what the difference was. I’ve realised it’s that missing face to face element. In a face to face classroom when I make a statement, I’m looking for people’s reactions. I can then comment on it appropriately, such as “Bob, you are chuckling, have you had experience of this?” to open up the discussion. Or “Alice, I see you’re making notes, is this something that’s important to you?” Maybe “Eve, you are frowning, do you disagree?” or whatever is appropriate.

emoticonsI can’t do that same observation online. This is why I’m planning my questions in more detail for my online class in order to gain that interaction. I can’t just say “have we all experienced death by PowerPoint?” as I might just get silence! I might get emoticon feedback (a green tick or a smiley face) and nothing else. I have to plan my follow up questions… “how did you react to that, please type in the chat window” or “do you remember a specific presentation that went wrong? I will open up the microphones to discuss”.

This reactive and conversational questioning for interactivity comes more naturally in the face to face classroom. It’s an interesting transition to plan for this online, at least in the early stages of your online training career, but one that with a bit of awareness and attention, is just another step towards being an effective online facilitator.

One thought on “Why we need to plan questions in the online classroom

  1. Some very good observations, especially for anyone new coming in to online classrooms. I struggled with the concept of no sight of body language and face to face feedback at first. Once you get your head around it and see/feel and appreciate the need for any one of a varying number of interactions every 5-8 minutes it gets easier.

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