How long should a virtual classroom session be? Half an hour, all day? How many people, six? 15? It’s a challenge to know what is right.
Often people ask me how many people should be in a virtual classroom. I recommend as few people as possible and the Lightbulb Moment virtual classroom courses I run are limited to 10 attendees only, so I can concentrate on getting to know individuals and tailoring to a team. These sessions are two hours, by my CPD Series is 90 minutes and my webinars sometimes half an hour.
How long and how many people largely depend on the consultancy you’ve done around the business need, what you need to focus on people doing at work and therefore what attendees are going to be doing in the session(s).
A while ago I did a shout out on social media to just see what other people were doing. Here’s what I found out.
How long should a virtual classroom session run for?
I did a quick poll about this on Twitter and got back 52 responses.
I also asked on our virtual classroom Facebook group.
Both polls shows that an hour was most popular, but so were some longer sessions.
There were a few comments on the Twitter poll, which are great for making us think about what is right for our situation. Valary Oleinik replied that “my preferred answer would be as long as necessary and no longer… Even if something is scheduled for 30 mins, I have never had anyone complain about getting some of their time back :)”. This is a great point about the efficiency and focus any training should have, but that virtual classrooms can take advantage of a little easier – there’s usually no travel or room charge cost implications involved.
Coursables responded that their analytics show that “professors go on until students have questions. That’s the benefit of being live”. I like the questions bit, it’s entirely about the interaction in my experience. Lastly shiftED Academy highlighted that the preference of their participants is an hour.
Number of attendees in a virtual classroom summary
Obviously it’s up to you, your design and what’s right for the need at the time. Don’t be afraid to schedule it for half an hour and end early if that’s all it needs. But likewise, longer sessions can work really well if you design and deliver them with excellence.
How many participants or attendees should there be in a virtual classroom?
This was a Twitter poll.
65% of the results were for up to 12 people, with some a bit more and a very small proportion of more than 30 people.
On the virtual classroom Facebook group most popular was 12-25 people, but under 12 people also in there too.
My virtual classroom sessions run with up to ten people, it’s about tailoring the content. For me, the 12-25 number of attendees is heading towards a webinar style session.
On the Twitter poll Joshua Freedman said “we use a lot of interaction questions on chat + Zoom breakout rooms so that even with larger classes (30-60 people) there’s dialogue. Webinars can absolutely be used for learning, they just need to be designed for a larger number of people and facilitated appropriately.
When you have more people, there’s less personal interaction with individuals. You might get to know a few of the people that share more in chat, but less of the quieter people.
The interactions, activities and types of engagement are also a little different. Your whiteboard activity with 25 people can’t always include a paragraph of text, perhaps those activities need to feature quicker interactions with marker tools (or name arrows in Webex) to still be readable.
Also you can run virtual classroom sessions with less people. A one to one could be the perfect thing that someone needs to get them going or get them unstuck. You might just have a business need for two or three people and it’s great to concentrate on them.
The flip side of this, having run sessions with this number of attendees, is that you don’t always get the variety of views and answers as you would from a bigger group. Also if you ask questions the smaller group can feel under more pressure to answer and have a negative reaction when they don’t know the answer. So that’s all in the facilitation finesse!
How many people in a virtual classroom summary
Cindy Huggett has done some more work on these questions, asking 237 people.
As before, it’s all about you doing the consultancy and finding what is right for your organisation. There’s no point trying to fill a course, meaning that a handful of people waiting for weeks or months when they need the learning now. And if you are thinking that the amount of time spent live online for the number of people is an issue, what content have you got that you can make into resources for pre-work and post-session or course resources?
What do you think? Share your comments below.
I have been teaching deep technical courses that are usually taught in physical classrooms. They are all day and up to 16 students. They have lectures and labs. We try to fit it all in just like physical classroom environments.
I just ran a virtual classrooms for 1 person and we both found it really valuable. Total focus on his needs and we brought in additional ideas by using output from other sessions with more people to explore and discuss.
But i agree about 12 or so Works really nicely. If its a bigger Group its all about getting more interaction but i agree you cant necessarily hear from the quieter ones. Great árticle jo
Insightful and helpful as ever, thanks Jo
As a longtime virtual classroom trainer, the content of the course determines the length. Many courses I teach are 5 day courses all the way down to 1/2 day. Most are 5 days and normal work hours, just like conventional classrooms. Standard breaks for washroom and coffee. One hour for lunch. My virtual classes have lectures and labs and during lab times are also flex time. They can use the “step away” icon or the coffee break icon. For my technical classes, 3 hours before lunch, 3 hours afterwards just like conventional classrooms.
My courses are capped at 16 people, as I need to manage watching their labs, fielding questions and private texting students and have found that 10 is managable, 16 is the limit.
Just an insight from my experience. (I use Zoom mostly now and AnyCam for visuals and camera. I use a green screen)
very helpful for sharing experience to teach virtual classroom. thanks