Virtual Classroom Design and Delivery
Virtual classrooms (VCs) have been around for a few years now, and quite frankly, they haven't yet delivered their potential, but they soon will. Remember what digital photography was like at the end of the 1990s. It was grainy and unreliable, but in just a short time this "disruptive" technology has improved beyond recognition to the extent that today film and print technology is the exception rather than the rule. The demise of Kodak is a reminder of what can happen when the impact of nascent technology is under-estimated.
While it is unrealistic to expect VCs to replace all training programmes, it is probable that we will see VCs taking centre stage as technology, data compression and bandwidth improve.
Cultural buy-in is crucial at all levels in the organisation: for participants to apply discipline to complete all pre-session work; and for line managers and learning administrators to allay fears of possible monitoring abuse. Recorded VC sessions and the reporting of quiz results are two-edged swords; they are useful for internal feedback and as a record for the granting of CPE credits, but they can also stifle participant interaction. The nature of VCs and online sessions is such that their success requires the full commitment of some highly skilled and motivated individuals, who are only likely to be recruited, retained and motivated in a climate favourable to real learning and development.
Choosing what to take virtual is paramount, and there are some great opportunities to deliver timely and satisfying sessions. Although it is tempting for payback reasons to create VCs for the internal "big ticket" programmes (e.g. high-volume induction level courses), this may not be an optimal strategy, especially for a subject as complex as valuation. This is because the less experienced participants who enroll for these entry-level courses often require two major elements:
- Clear understanding of how each topic fits into a complex process (see the Detailed Value Map as an example), which may be much better handled in a live fully immersed course; and
- Maximum amount of unencumbered face-to-face question opportunities.
VCs also conceal a few value traps, such as poor IT project management, an incompatible corporate IT platform, overdocumentation inefficiencies. and inadequate VC course administration skills.
None of these is insuperable, and when well managed, VCs have overwhelming benefits:
- Easy to design and set up at minimal cost
- Work well in short bursts
- Take advantage of elapsed time for "background" learning
- Most useful for participants who already have a good grasp of the topography of their subject, and require short sessions to top up their skill sets