Written by Mike Dixon, BSD Education
As more schools adopt BSD Technology Education programs, our team continues to innovate in order to maintain high quality virtual training for our teachers. Video conferencing enables our instructors to facilitate professional development sessions with teachers from around the world and accommodate busy schedules across multiple time zones. 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 a virtual training are crucial opportunities to build trust and set expectations. Prior to 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 that we will use our time together productively.
Once the virtual session is complete, a follow up email is sent out containing a summary of the material that was covered. Follow up communication is critical for verifying goals, reenforcing new knowledge and outlining next steps.
One of the biggest challenges with virtual PD is creating a relationship between the instructor and participants. In order 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.
As a virtual instructor, it can sometimes feel like you’re playing to an empty room. Our instructors keep teachers engaged throughout the session by asking questions that teachers will be able to answer with confidence.
For example, prompt 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 but will also help to hold everyone accountable to follow along.
When leading 8 or more 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 trainings 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 professional development session is truly made in the days and hours before the live training begins. Even a slight hiccup can make the difference between an audience who are engaged or disconnected from your message.
We recommend pre-registering teachers for any accounts they may need prior to training and setting up those accounts with everything they’ll need for the session. 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 and that your computer desktop is neutral and organized.
Record the Session
All BSD virtual PD 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 back 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 professional development. 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.