The pandemic lockdown increased the prevalence of online education, with many schools making a full transition to the virtual format. While SEEC has seen success with online delivery of their in-class offerings, business communications instructor Diana Kawarsky initially had some concerns about the switch to virtual learning.
“Going directly from five hours in person to five hours online can work in a pinch, but if it’s not done right, it can be draining for students,” she says. “Spending days in online courses… people who don’t know how engaging the online format can be may consider that punitive. Who would want to sit in front of their computer for a five-day Zoom meeting?”
Kawarsky is dedicated to making her online classes as participatory as possible and set about restructuring her course material for maximum interactivity. “Even talented in-person presenters have to do some rethinking,” she says, “and figure out what works and what doesn’t work in the online environment.” She applies the principles of Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT) to help provide a more engaging experience, something beyond just a webinar.
The principles of VILT allows participants to connect with the course content and interact with the instructor and other students. It advocates using multiple points of contact such as live video streaming, pre-taped lessons, live conversations, and one-on-one coaching – resulting in a rich, multifaceted experience. “Then when the students do come together in the virtual classroom, they tap into an online synergy with each other,” says Kawarsky.
For the subjects that Kawarsky teaches, the online approach can also enhance the experience in a number of ways for both student and teacher: being able to do a more extensive skills analysis before the course starts lets her better customize the material in her High Impact Business Writing course to the level and needs of the class; and the ability of participants to record themselves giving sample presentations and upload the video for private coaching is a fantastic tool for her Improving Presentation Effectiveness course.
To be sure, the physical classroom is not about to go completely extinct. Kawarsky points out that getting away from familiar environments, like the home or office, to convene with others in person will always have value. In the meantime, however, the virtual format has a lot to offer.