Making The Most of Online Learning

Sept. 15, 2020 - Carrie Hawes

When academic and professional development courses abruptly moved online in March this year, many learners found themselves scrambling to adapt to a new online learning environment. At the Center for Corporate Education at VCU’s School of Business, we similarly found ourselves pivoting to make sure our clients received a quality learning experience; often redefining what an innovative online experience looked like along the way.

As we look to continue online learning through the end of 2020, we have compiled a few tips for success when taking a synchronous (live) online course.

Turn Your Camera and Microphone On

Unless the facilitator says otherwise, leave your camera and microphone on. This allows for ease of conversation as you would have in person. Additionally, seeing individual learners helps the facilitator follow your nonverbals and gives them live feedback and the ability to course correct and make the most of the learning environment. Confusion on your face, a slight head nod, or a thumbs up all help keep learning on track and lessen the need for the awkward “is everyone okay?” pause.

But what about privacy? If you’re at all concerned about privacy of your space when engaged on camera for class, consider using a picture background like Zoom allows or sitting in front of a plain wall. Everyone understands that sometimes animals pop on screen, or a child will run in frame to wave, this is the new reality for many. Feel free to turn off your video briefly and/or your  microphone to address the situation and rejoin as soon as you can.

Utilize The Chat Function

For all video platforms there is typically some sort of Chat or Q&A function. A great facilitator or host will be monitoring this for feedback and/or for engaging participants. If you have a question or have to mute yourself due to a noisy surrounding, opt to engage via chat to communicate.

You can also use the “Private Message” function in chat to let a specific person know information. For instance, you might  need to message the host that you are stepping away for a moment when your pet decides to start making an appearance on screen.

Follow Up

If you leave a course and feel like you missed something, like an in person course, it’s always appropriate to follow up. Whether it’s staying on the virtual session with the instructor, or sending an email, the continued conversation helps eliminate confusion and also creates networking opportunities. If you don’t have the contact information for the facilitator, reach out to the host organization, more often than not they’ll be happy to connect you.