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So much goes into creating a smooth and interactive experience for learners in the virtual classroom. The general rule for virtual training is that learners should be asked to do something every 3-5 minutes. For example, this could mean they participate in a chat exercise, answer a verbal question, answer a poll, give a feedback icon, work in a breakout group, or annotate a slide.
A great deal of multitasking is required in this type of environment and it can be challenging for even the most experienced trainer to facilitate, instruct, and manage the technology, all at the same time. With this much interaction, the help of a virtual classroom producer becomes essential. I like to think of it this way, “When you lose eye contact, you need an extra set of hands to compensate.”
So, what tasks can the producer do to help make your session flow smoothly? Here is a sampling:
- Prepare the virtual tools to be used in the session.
- Conduct a class warm-up with the participants before the session begins.
- Handle technical support issues for the participants and the facilitator.
- Oversee the chat area and monitor for questions from the participants.
- Alert the facilitator to raised hands or chat questions they may not have noticed.
- Annotate/scribe on the whiteboard while the trainer facilitates the exercise.
- Act as a back-up if the facilitator’s internet connection is lost.
- Answer questions to generate participation if its slow to start.
I’m exhausted just reading that list! Yet, it shows how a producer allows the trainer to focus more on delivering the course material.
Unfortunately, some trainers are uncomfortable with the idea of co-facilitation. You will each have different styles and, with many people working remotely, you are most likely in different locations. The ultimate goal is to be “in sync” with your partner and work together as if you’re doing a dance. Think of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey or, if you’re a reality fan like me, how about “Dancing with the Stars!”
When I started facilitating in the virtual classroom, I was nervous about working with a producer. Would our styles match up? Would we click? Could we get our “dance” just right? I’m thrilled to report that everything flowed perfectly. Even the participants commented on how well we worked together—seamlessly and in sync! Yes, I had found my Maks Chmerkovskiy!
So, how did we become a dynamic duo? Here are Langevin’s top seven tips for working with a producer in the virtual classroom:
1. Follow the same detailed lesson plan as it will clarify both the facilitator and producer roles.
2. Rehearse together at least two weeks prior to the session.
3. Establish rules for how to deal with participant-related problems. For example, who will answer questions in the chat area.
4. Have a contingency plan for dealing with unexpected emergencies. For example, what happens if the facilitator loses connection to the virtual classroom.
5. Determine how you will communicate outside of the virtual classroom. For example, text via cell phone or use an instant messenger program.
6. Support and always look out for each other.
7. Document lessons learned after every online session for your own professional development and for other facilitator/producer teams who will teach the same course in the future.
By following these best practices, I’m confident you’ll find your perfect “dance” partner, too! What else do you do when co-facilitating with a producer?
For more best practices on training in a virtual classroom, check out Langevin’s The Virtual Trainer workshop. It’s filled with ideas on how to present engaging visuals, use synchronous software tools, and handle the unexpected in a virtual classroom. Also, don’t miss out on your very own toolkit of valuable job aids, tips, and techniques in The Virtual Classroom Producer workshop. They’ll help you excel in your producer role before, during, and after every virtual classroom session.