Once I hurtled past the technology roadblock, I found myself sitting through several hours of online lecture. I found my mind wandering, even though the subject was something I was really interested in. It was not the instructor’s fault. He knew his subject and taught it well. I’m really glad that I was able to take this class with him.
What was the problem? In this particular case, the screen that was shown to the students included presentation slides. There was no movement in the slides, except to go from one to the next.
It is really hard to capture and keep students’ attention during an online class, especially the ones like I teach that mimic the in-classroom experience. They can’t see a teacher pacing the floor; they can’t see the instructor’s expressions; and they can’t see how the other students are reacting. So all you have to keep the students with you is good material and the sound of your voice. But it really helps if you have movement on the screen too.
So how do you get movement? In my case, all the classes I teach are about computer software. I can vary my presentation by jumping out and sharing my screen as I perform the tasks involved in that part of the course. I also look up reference material online while sharing my screen.
If you have drawing tools in your virtual meeting software, use them. I realized after this class that I wasn’t using mine enough. When I started teaching online I was using IBM Lotus Sametime Web Conferencing, which has a full set of drawing tools and allows you to share the screen as well as display a slideshow. Plus it had a whiteboard so you could draw diagrams, if you had the skills. We have moved to using GoToMeeting, but we’re not using the version that has all the tools. Still we have pointers and highlighters. My friend, Rob Kirkland, drags out his Visio software and draws diagrams onscreen for his students.
If you are not teaching something that requires screen sharing, so what the student sees changes (that keeps them awake), you need to do some things like highlighting or including some movement in your slides to keep audience attention. And that applies to online meetings too.
Of course, stopping and working on exercises also helps. The students can get away and try for themselves what you’ve been describing or demonstrating. They come back refreshed for the next round.
I guess we all have to get more creative, or hope our students have a sufficient supply of caffeine.
I have been teaching online for several years now, but a couple of weeks ago I had to take an online class. What a difference sitting in the student seat!
It certainly gave me a greater appreciation of how my own students are experiencing the class, and I’d like to share that with you.
First, there is always a technology speed bump — the one you have to get over into order to attend the class. I thought I was pretty comfortable with this by now, but I found myself fumbling through all the instructions I had to follow. There were two sets of instructions: (1) How to connect to the computer I would be using for my lab exercises and (2) how to connect to the live session where the instructor would be speaking.
This particular class also had a further wrinkle, in that questions and observations not covered during the live sessions had to be entered at a third website. This is not the usual procedure, since most instructors of live classes are available all day or have some sort of “office hours” or connection by chat so students can ask questions as they work through exercises. This only occurred because it was the first time the course was being offered, and feedback needed to be recorded so the course could be improved as needed.
It was as I was going through all this that I realized just how much we ask of our students when we offer them online instruction. They are immediately placed outside their comfort zone in dealing with software that may not be the same as they are used to, plus they have to deal with the very real possibility that they may not be able to connect easily because of firewall issues (tight firewalls at their work sites can make connecting for an online class a nightmare sometimes). Although we have them test their connection ahead of time, sometimes they are still dealing with it on the first day of class.
So, there I was, reading a couple of pages of instructions (I printed them out to be sure I followed all the steps), and I heaved a great sigh of relief after I had successfully connected to the lab computer. It made me take a second look at how we could make it easier for our own students to come to our classes.
Social networking is now a way of life for many of us, but not necessarily for those we work for or with. I just discovered a site that has some interesting insights into using social media for marketing (http://socialmediatoday.com). So why don’t we make more use of social media for training?
Basically, training has taken a real beating in this economy. “We can’t afford training” and “Our users know how to use email” are the new mantra for Notes, and other mature software products for that matter. So how do we get users information on the best way to use the products they have? Well, why not use social networking?
Why not use a Twitter account to set up Notes tips and tricks, for example? Point your users to it. You just have to be sure to keep it current.
For trainers, you could point your students to a blog or Twitter or Facebook site that you use to keep them posted on tips for using the software they’ve just been trained on. With a blog, you can also encourage responses.
So, how about getting social?
If you are a trainer and already are using social networking as a training tool, let me know what you are doing so we can all benefit from your experience.
This has been out for a while on David Leedy’s blog, but I just received a note about it from Carlos Casas. If you are learning or using XPages in Domino Designer, you should keep this cheat sheet by your side.
I am hoping this blog will be a useful place for all of us to share information on IBM Lotus training, both as trainers and students. I have been an IBM Lotus certified instructor for many years, and I welcome your comments about your training experiences.
I work for The RockTeam in Lewes, Delaware, USA and also for LEOnline.net, an Authorized IBM Training Partner. Some of the courses I teach include IBM Lotus Domino Application Development and Help Desk, Lotus Forms Design, and Lotus Web Content Management.