In an age when a lot of our training is offered online, it is vital we use innovative techniques to connect with our virtual audiences. As an instructional designer, I often use online platforms to share resources and information with learners. But I find that the more I can infuse a human element into these platforms, the more my audience will engage with the content.
At the 2019 Connected Learning Summit (CLS2019), I presented a new online training package that my project uses to enhance distance learning by encouraging participants to come together online between live webinar trainings. We’ve had a lot of success with this product in helping audiences feel more connected to our trainings. At the conference, I was pleased to discover many other wonderful examples of innovative strategies to foster human connections online.
- One professor incorporates a video-sharing platform into his online courses and encourages students to film themselves and share their videos with the group. The videos help his virtual students connect to him and to each other, and his students have reported that the platform helps them feel more involved in the online course.
- In an online orientation program at a Boston university, colleagues are experimenting with live chat sessions and webinars in conjunction with online trainings to build more peer-to-peer interaction. Their evaluations reveal that students really appreciate the chance to have online conversations with professors as part of this virtual orientation process.
- A creative writing professor sends out surveys to her students ahead of her online course and then uses this information to help each student create an online persona that they share with the group. The survey becomes both a writing exercise and a way to connect to the virtual community in her online classroom.
These strategies excite me. They also remind me of the incredible dedication it takes to be a teacher, and they show that with innovation we can transform barriers into opportunities. As we move into virtual spaces, it is inspiring to see how online trainers use tech tools to help students feel more connected to each other as human beings.
Online environments are by their definition artificial. But by thinking creatively about how to include more human connections, our virtual trainings can actually foster those person-to-person interactions that are so crucial to impactful training experiences.
You can learn more about the product and my presentation here. What are some strategies you use to connect with your virtual audiences?
EDC’s Zoe Baptista is an e-learning professional with more than a decade of experience developing effective online facilitation and training tools that support distance learning.