Attention To Detail And Your Own Growth Are Crucial
In 2020, “zoom” went from an occasionally used verb to an indispensable and capitalized (“Zoom”) communication fixture in our daily lives. Whether through that service or any other online platform, the instruction-and-learning process has clearly turned a corner. Even when we resume a semblance of normalcy, there is no going all the way back to the pre-pandemic instructional status quo.
The reason is simple: Despite the difficulties and limitations of online learning, there are also obvious benefits. Those positives include ease of access, the elimination of costs associated with brick-and-mortar learning spaces, and—let’s be honest—stay-in-your-pajamas convenience.
This is a sobering and immensely liberating acknowledgment. For nearly 30 years, I have worked in the adult education and training industry with a focus on serving professionals seeking specialized or advanced certifications. Over that span, so much of my company’s challenge consisted of the practical, logistical concerns of getting students inside a hotel or conference center.
Those days will surely return because in-person learning has clear advantages and we are a highly social species. However, we now know that it is not the only way to operate.
For those with a history of effective in-person instruction, there is no guarantee that your effectiveness will carry over into remote instruction. Such a cyber-shift requires attention to detail, including the willingness to let go of what worked face-to-face and to implement new techniques.
Transitioning To Remote Instruction
In making this transition, here are 3 crucial elements that should be part of any instructor’s repertoire:
1. Spice Up The Visuals
Wherever they may be, your students have plenty of familiar, tempting distractions beckoning them. So, consider how to spark and keep their attention. These 3 P’s are a good start:
- PowerPoint slides that do not simply re-state what you are already saying but instead create practical memorable nuggets of the most important information. (If you prefer another medium to PowerPoint, the same suggestion applies.)
- Poll questions that can help introduce a new topic, promote engagement, and help students learn about one another through their responses. (Be sure to poll sparingly, though, to avoid bogging down your presentation.)
- Photos, illustrations, and infographics that reinforce a principle or key point.
Make the effort to go beyond being a “talking head.” It’s fine to show up on camera in certain spots, but think about how to turn your students’ screens into a dynamic learning canvas.
2. Prioritize Your Biggest Points
Trying to do too much can result in too little learning.
Identify the most important elements of whatever you want to cover, and take the time to plot out how you will most effectively communicate that material. Make clear to your students which parts of the class are of utmost significance so that they know to really focus during those times.
If your goal is to help people “major in the majors” and take away what is most vital, then snapping them to extra attention from time to time is the way to go.
3. Watch Your Tone
When only your face appears on-screen, instructors cannot rely on body language the way they could in a classroom. It’s not best practice, anyhow, to have your mug dominate students’ screens, as noted in the “spice up the visuals” section above.
As a result, varying your voice’s tone and pitch is an absolute must. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. There are plenty of instructional videos that offer tips to bolster your delivery, including voice-over veteran Peter Baker’s remarks.
Invest the time to grow in this area, and your students will reap the benefits. If this all feels like acting, then you get the point. Your new (recurring) role is that of an online instructor. Embrace it!
Though this list is far from exhaustive, these steps offer a durable foundation that should assist any online instructional setting. During this pandemic era, they have been instrumental in helping my firm continue serving professionals in the nearly 20 cities where our reach has expanded since the early 1990s.