5 Tips We’ve Picked Up From Leading Virtual PD

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As more schools adopt BSD Technology Education programs, our team continues to innovate with high-quality virtual PD training for our teachers. Video conferencing enables our instructors to facilitate professional development sessions with teachers and accommodate busy schedules worldwide. However, virtual training comes with its own unique challenges. Here are some of the best tips that we’ve picked up after hundreds of sessions with thousands of teachers.

Welcome and Follow Up Emails

The communications that bookend virtual training are crucial opportunities to build trust and set expectations. Before every virtual session, BSD sends each teacher a welcome package, instructor bio, and a personalized PD agenda. Providing participants with the “who,” “what,” and “why” of training helps kick start solid relationships. These small gestures demonstrate that we respect teachers’ busy schedules and use our time together productively.

Once the virtual session is complete, a follow-up email is sent out containing a summary of the covered material. Follow-up communication is critical for verifying goals, reenforcing new knowledge, and outlining the next steps.

Show Face

One of the biggest challenges with virtual PD is creating a relationship between the instructor and participants. To be most effective, the instructor must use their camera in addition to audio, no exceptions! Our body language and expressions allow teachers to connect with instructors and more accurately interpret the lesson material.

Along with the camera, the instructor must be ready in the following aspects:

  • Attitude – The instructor is excited from start to finish and passionate about the material.
  • Environment – The instructor is in a setting with minimal background distractions, good lighting, where they will not be interrupted.
  • Wifi Connection – If the teacher cannot see or hear clearly, the training will not be effective.

Continuous Engagement

As a virtual instructor, it can sometimes feel like you’re playing in an empty room. However, our instructors keep teachers engaged throughout the session by asking questions that teachers will answer with confidence.

Ex. Prompting participants with directions such as “go ahead and click that button and let me know what happens.” Answering questions like these can build confidence for the teacher and help hold everyone accountable to follow along.

When leading 8+ participants, the chat log becomes an important tool as people are often hesitant to speak up when they know others are listening. For large webinar-style training with 20+ attendees, we recommend dedicating a second team member specifically to manage the chat.

Don’t underestimate the power of short breaks every 90 minutes to allow teachers to refuel and refocus!

Prepare Prepare Prepare

A successful virtual PD session is made in the days and hours before the live training begins. Even a slight hiccup can make the difference between an audience who is engaged or disconnected from your message.

We recommend pre-registering teachers for any accounts they may need before training and setting up those accounts with everything they’ll need before starting. At BSD, this means creating classrooms with demo students preloaded with relevant curriculum.  

Additionally, ensure that all browser tabs and supplementary documents you will need are on hand and organized. It’s also a good idea to ensure that your computer desktop is neutral and organized.

Record the Session

Professional development sessions are recorded to the cloud for two important reasons. First, it’s imperative to have an internal record of the session for training and quality control purposes. Second, recordings are a great resource for the teacher cohort to refer to when they want to review the material.

We use Zoom video conferences at BSD, which allows us to record to the cloud.

We want to know your thoughts on effective virtual PD. Have you run them yourself? What techniques have you come up with to connect with your attendees? Connect with us on social media or via email to share your virtual training experiences.

about Mike
Mike is the Head of Partner Success. He brings a decade of coding and classroom teaching experience to his role at BSD.
Combining in-depth technical knowledge with strong communication and presentation skills, his work helps to inform BSD's technology curriculum, online platform experience, and professional development offerings.

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BSD Education (Build Something Different) partners with schools to bring technology education into K-12 classrooms through our programs of learning, online learning platform and professional development training.

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