Going Virtual – #1

I’ll cut right to it: Tons of people are now interested in shifting over to virtual delivery of their meetings and learning events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m sure many have been interested for a long time, but this recent health crisis has accelerated the need for solutions – not tomorrow, but today.

I’m going to be offering some quick lessons on this from my experience. I have been an education designer for thirty years, and have been on the innovation edge of using new technologies to deliver learning experiences for a long time. If you need to know more about credentials, go for it.

In the meantime: Here is the first installment. Each of these installments is designed to be a 5 minute read, with a framework and an example.

Foundations, Exploration, Application – 3 phase design

At the very beginning, I encourage you (and your team if you have one) to ask some critical, exploratory questions that will help you tease out the topic(s) of your event.

  1. What reading material, videos, questionnaires, surveys, assessments, exercises, etc. should we have our attendees do IN ADVANCE of getting together virtually? A virtual meeting that starts with introductions of those present represents, in most cases, poor design right out of the gate. You should provide your attendees with background info for the topics at hand, and, importantly, ASK them key questions that gain their personal investment in learning more from the event you are planning. This phase is called FOUNDATIONS, because it is meant to provide foundational content and context, as well as gather important input from attendees that will make your event more meaningful for them, as well as more efficient.
  2. What topics and exercises require synchronous interaction, under the guidance of facilitators and experts? If you find yourself covering factual knowledge (lower end of Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy) during a live session, then I suspect a poor design. Please save your precious time together for those things that require togetherness. Things such as:
    • Simulations
    • Real-time problem solving
    • Team exercises / experiences
    • Converstional skills / “soft” skills practice
    • Presentations with feedback
    • Coaching

We call this EXPLORATIONS, because this is where you do deep-dives on topics, under the guidance of experts, and, importantly, practice new skills and receive feedback.

3. What activities, materials and support is needed to ensure that our attendees can apply new knowledge and skills successfully in their context? IF your event is a ‘one and done’, with no consideration of what next for the attendees, then I suspect poor design. Consider how you can link everything – from the FOUNDATIONAL content, through the EXPLORATIONS together, on to APPLICATION in the workplace or context that matters for your attendees. For example, a foundational survey might reveal particular areas of need or interest for the individuals, related to the topics at hand. During the exploratory synchronous event, you do a deep dive with an expert on that area of need, and the expert provides his or her favorite tools to use back at work. You then provide that application support by arranging a way for the attendees to access the tool, you structure learning trios for peer support, and you might even schedule a follow-up call or web meeting to have attendees report back on how things are going – lessons learned and issues faced.

The FEA model – designing for virtual / blended delivery.

Next up: Your Tech Assessment

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