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Not all questions are created equal, particularly when asking questions in traditional in-person training versus in a virtual classroom. The ability to ask questions during any type of training is one of the most important tools in a trainer’s toolkit. Asking clear and concise questions encourages interaction and participation and allows the facilitator to check for understanding.
Many of the same guidelines apply to asking effective questions in both the traditional and virtual classrooms. However, there are some subtle nuances that make asking questions in a virtual environment just a little bit different. Here are seven guidelines to consider:
Determine the Purpose of Your Question
- Poll learners for their input.
- Encourage deeper thinking.
- Draw out comments.
Make Sure Your Questions Are:
- Focused on only one idea.
- Thought-provoking and interesting.
- Focused on important material.
- Stated in familiar language.
- Aimed to draw out reasoning rather than memory.
- Challenging but “answerable.”
Ask Closed-Ended Questions to Start
Closed-ended questions are less time consuming to answer compared to open-ended questions. Lead into an open-ended question by asking a closed-ended question first. For example, “Raise your hand if you’ve used this technique before. For those who’ve raised their hand, who can describe how they went about implementing this technique in the workplace?”
Indicate How Learners Are Expected to Respond to a Question
- “Who can describe how they implemented this technique in the workplace? Please raise your hand to answer.”
- “Who thinks this is a good approach when dealing with a difficult participant? Give me a thumbs up for yes, or a thumbs down for no.”
- “Who are some of the stakeholders who might be affected by this change? Pick a space on the whiteboard grid and write your answers in that space.”
- “Let us have everyone respond to this next question in the chat area. How will you apply this skill back on the job?”
Use Participants’ Names When You Want a Specific Person to Respond
For example, “Natalie, can you please tell us more about your comment in the chat window?”
- Only call on participants by name when you want them to respond to an opinion-based question versus questions that have an absolute right or wrong answer. You want to preserve their self-esteem by not putting them on the spot.
- Track participation on a copy of the class roster so you can call on quieter participants to answer certain questions.
Use Positive Reinforcement
It’s important to thank participants for answering your questions. Positive reinforcement also encourages further participation.
Avoid Repeating Answers After a Learner Has Answered
Constant repeating sets the expectation that learners only need to tune in when they hear your voice.
While these differences may seem minor, these subtle (yet extremely important) changes to the questions you ask will make a big difference in the virtual classroom. For example, when I transitioned into the virtual classroom, I would often forget to indicate how learners were expected to respond. This would lead to either complete silence or learners deciding on their own how to respond. Some would raise their virtual hands, a few would verbalize their response (often talking over each other), a few would write in chat, and others would write on the whiteboard. Ultimately, this led to confusion for both me and the learners. Applying these seven guidelines will help you ask more effective questions in the virtual classroom.
There’s an art to asking powerful questions in the virtual classroom. Learn about this topic and so much more in our workshop, The Virtual Trainer.