Going Virtual – #2

So you’ve got an idea of what you want to do – a meeting, a course, a learning experience – but you’re not sure how you will do that virtually. Do we just use a webinar and run the event that way? Do we put everything into e-learning modules? Should we just video the facilitators talking?

These questions point to a larger design question that I’ll cover soon. But the first thing you should do is assess what tools you have available, and/or what tools you want to acquire to enable virtual delivery.

The Technology Audit

For many clients, gaining approvals for digital tools is a rather lengthy process. For you, I would suggest getting in touch with your Learning and Development staff and/or IT staff to find out just what is available. Quite often education designers in large organizations don’t have a clear view of just what is already available.

For larger organizations, here are the questions I would be asking right away:

  • What digital tools and staff do we have available to create electronic content? Are there restrictions that we should be aware of (e.g. file types, file sizes, media players)?
  • What is our preferred webinar technology (e.g. Zoom, Gotomeeting, Adobe Connect, etc.)? How do we access that? Do we have staff that serve as technical hosts for those events?
  • What is the technology profile for our attendees / participants? Is there a standard ‘kit’ that everyone has? For example – laptop, mobile phone, access to an LMS or other content portal, etc.?
  • Can attendees install apps on their laptops or mobile phones? Some orgs have restrictions around this.
  • Is there an example of a really successful virtual delivery that has been done in our organization? What tools and process were used?
Participants gathered to interact with facilitators online / on a screen.

In some cases, and through the above process, I have witnessed an unusual and joyful connection being made between education designers and champions and underutilized learning technologists who are eager to help.

Using multiple experts from different locations on webcams.

And for the smaller organizations, this may be more of a question about what few tools (free or by subscription) you want to access to enable your work to continue.

For example, we recently had an event that was scheduled but could no longer accept attendees due to the guidance of the state and federal authorities. So, for this small organization, we examined what tools we had available:

  • A digital SLR camera and tripod that could shoot video
  • Mobile phones with portable charger
  • Wifi on location
  • Laptop
  • Facebook org site
  • Email / e-news letter
  • Camtasia (a multimedia / e-learning authoring tool)
  • YouTube channel

With the above tools, we designed and delivered the following:

  • Foundations: Sent an e-news email to the membership of the organization to alert them to an upcoming live-stream event on Facebook, and provided the link to the Facebook page
  • Exploration: Had a volunteer use her mobile phone (with portable charger) to live stream the event (40 min long). Used the laptop on wifi to monitor the live stream and respond to comments. Used the SLR camera to record the event for later editing.
  • Application: Used the recorded media from the SLR camera and edited / published to YouTube a video version of the event (some components of the event were for the live stream only). We used Camtasia to do some simple editing to produce the video. We then communicated the link to the video to everyone in the org – as some did not have access to Facebook.
Opening sequence from the video we put together.

You’ll notice that I’m using the Foundation, Exploration, Application language here – that is explained in another post. This is just to reinforce the idea that a good design accounts for the preparation of the attendees, the delivery of a deep-dive session, and then the support / continued learning opportunities that can follow.

So! Now you have done a technology audit to see what is available. You may, in fact, discover a burning need for something that is currently not used. More than once I have been in the position of suggesting a learning platform, webinar technology or mobile app. Whatever it is, I would strongly advise testing access to that technology with your participants before committing. Most vendors will provide some kind of test access version that you can use for that.

Consider the audit done. It’s like cooking. You have now identified what’s in the fridge and in the cupboards, or available at the local shop. You have a design in mind. Now you need to choose the right tools for the job.

That’s next.