Live online learning design: interactions and activities

An interaction is about two or more people communication. It’s all about a response from or discussion with attendees. In live online learning sessions this would be via the platform you are using to connect (Zoom, Webex, Teams, Connect etc) and using the tools available to you. This could be a closed question with a green tick/check answer in Zoom, Webex or Connect, or perhaps asking for an emoticon response in Teams. It might be asking for answers to a question in chat, or hand up for someone to come on microphone and many other things that your particular platform might offer.

The importance of interaction

Interactions are used in virtual classrooms and learning webinars for a number of reasons, such as knowing our attendees are present and paying attention. Far more importantly, we need people to think in order to process the content to make it personal to them, to share thoughts and questions to help everyone broaden and deepen their learning and application, and for the facilitator to be able to tailor their delivery. This is important in a virtual classroom with a small number of people, but equally so in a webinar with hundreds. The tools you use and methods might be difference, but the reasons for doing so are the same.

Activities short and long

When we think about the planned activities in our formal learning interventions, it’s a number of actions coming together to help with a learning point towards an action outcome. In other words, what things can attendees do or discuss in order to learn something so that they can do it at work later?

These interactions come together as a learning activity. We use a lot of these in any type of intervention and live online is no different. What we need to do is make sure that we are using the right platform tools (chat, polls etc) and combining these tools in ways that’s more detailed than we are used to face-to-face.

Activities and digital body language

Where we normally have physical body language to reference when we are delivering, live online that’s missing, even if some attendees are on webcam. Instead, we have to break down what we would normally do face-to-face without even thinking about it and use the live online tools available to us to replace this.

For example: in a virtual classroom we might start with a question where we ask people to put a reasonably short response in chat, perhaps a sentence or two. From there we might invite one or more people to unmute to add more or develop their thinking around a topic. Others might add more to chat and we bring that into the conversation too. Then we might move on to another topic. These interactions together might have been three or four minutes, or the conversation may be in more depth at 10 or 15 minutes, depending on your session.

This is a quick and relatively easy way to get the feedback that you might expect when posing a discussion face-to-face

In the example we asked for a short answer in chat. This enables us as facilitators to get the feedback from all or most people that we might normally get face-to-face once we’ve asked the question. Those short answers might be on track, or they might be answered in a different way. Perhaps people are putting an answer with a question mark as they aren’t sure. Perhaps they are telling you in chat the don’t understand or are slow to put any answer at all. This is a quick and relatively easy way to get the feedback that you might expect when posing a discussion face-to-face: you might normally look around the room and see people frowning in concentration and thought, or looking quizzical, or asking their neighbour what this means. This is digital body language in action.

How long is an activity?

A lot of the time when we think about activities, we might consider something much bigger and more designed. This could be some kind of game or quiz people play, or use of breakout rooms for group discussion or collaboration on a project, or perhaps tasks that people do in order to apply their learning (eg following instructions on new Excel functions). This might be 15 minutes, or could be a whole afternoon.

Activities can also be much shorter. Putting a few questions and different tools together, as described above, could be a simple activity and all you need for exploring something in your session.

Either way, it’s about selecting the right live online interaction tool, such as a poll, then chat, then audio discussion, to get to the learning and performance outcome needed.

In summary

We don’t have to think about our activities as just one thing in a box, they are the flow of the experience throughout a session. As designers and facilitators it’s our job to know enough about the topic and the groups to make sure that the questions and activities attendees perform are appropriate to their learning and performance.

It’s the questions we ask, the tasks we set, and the tools we use, both in the platform or external, like Padlet, that make all this work together.

 

Lightbulb Moment offers training courses, a community forum for support, and a whole host of free resources such as videos and podcasts to help you make your live online learning not just as good as face-to-face – but better.

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