Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Moving From Traditional Training To Virtual Classrooms, Part 3

In the first two posts in this series, we shared our opinions on how to effectively transfer content to the virtual classroom, and what the length of such an experience should be. In this third installment of this four part series taken from our book, The Learning eXPLOSION: 9 Rules to Ignite Your Virtual Classrooms, we will briefly touch on instructional design.

Please Note! What works in the traditional classroom may not work online. Taking your well-balanced interactive instructor-led training (ILT), and simply throwing it into a virtual classroom platform where you share PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide while lecturing your poor audience to sleep, is NOT the right approach. This point may seem obvious, but unfortunately, this is how much of today’s online synchronous learning is taking place.

When you begin building your new virtual classroom experience think about who your virtual learners are. They are most likely sitting at their desk surrounded by numerous other potential distractions like email, the Web, co-workers, background noise, cell and work phones, bosses, their job responsibilities, and much more. In other words, they are just looking for an opportunity to leave your online lecture to update their Facebook status with something like “I would rather crawl across a field of broken glass than attend this boring webinar.”

So knowing that you have to win the battle of distraction, you will need to build a virtual experience with frequent interaction and engagement. To do this we recommend that you hold your learners virtually accountable in three ways— Verbally, Visually, and Kinesthetically. We call this the Rule of Virtual Accountability.

In each of the three areas of virtual accountability there are activities you can create and platform tools you can utilize to build an engaging experience. For example, to hold your learners verbally accountable you could communicate up front that you want their verbal participation, and provide frequent opportunities for them to verbally respond to questions and exercises. To hold your learners visually accountable you should provide a visual roadmap of the training. And preferably not a slide with bullet points. If your platform allows for it, use videos to teach a principle. If you do this be sure to keep your learners accountable by asking them to answer related questions during or after the video. In the case of Kinesthetic accountability give your learners something to write on during the experience. We call these supplemental materials, Toolkits. Have them refer to their toolkits throughout the webinar to read a quote, complete an assessment, or answer relevant questions.

These are just a few of the many wonderful and exciting activities you can build into your virtual classroom. Search the Learning Explosion for more instructional design ideas, experiment with some of your own, and to share them with online communities.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hong Kong Kaboom!

Treion and Matt have been visiting Hong Kong to help organizations understand The Learning Explosion and embrace virtual classrooms. Hong Kong is truly an amazing place with a great culture, lovely people, and, like other major cities, lots of traffic.

Imagine the stress relief you can experience by using virtual classrooms rather than having to drive in endless traffic to your training. We talk a lot about the convenience of virtual classrooms, but rarely do we hear about the stress relief it can have.

So the next time you plan a live training session, think about holding it virtually. You'll may save some unnecessary tension in your life and in those of your participants.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moving From Traditional Training To Virtual Classrooms, Part 2

In our first post, we introduced you to the Rule of Knowledge Transfer taken from our book, THE LEARNING eXPLOSION: 9 Rules to Ignite Your Virtual Classrooms, and discussed how much content you should consider using in your virtual classrooms. The second approach you should consider is the length of your virtual classroom.

There are several approached with regard to how long a virtual classroom should be. Some organizations keep their virtual classrooms as short as 20 minutes. Others have successfully facilitated three or four sessions of up to three-hours each, with breaks in between — breaks that range from an hour, to days, or even weeks. Some people build day-long experiences that are broken up into 90-minute chunks.

Our personal experience has shown that anything longer than two hours per session is too long--even with frequent and a varied interaction. We believe that 90-to-120 minute sessions are an ideal length for a virtual classroom experience. It allows you enough time to teach three or four main points and is short enough to keep people engaged.

We recognize that every situation is different. You should test various combinations and options yourself until you find the perfect amount of content and length of your virtual classroom.

It is important to note that there is a point of diminishing returns with how much your learner can absorb in a single online session. As you teach your sessions, you’ll get a sense for when this point is reached and you’ll be able to modify your delivery as needed. While you may be familiar with this concept in a traditional classroom, the ability for you to sense when to move on and adapt your teaching is more difficult to detect in a virtual classroom. Mainly because it is a new mode of delivery, but also because you simply cannot see your learners. Developing an accurate sense of timing and rhythm in the virtual space will take time and practice. Don’t force it. The more time you spend in your virtual classroom interacting with your learners, the more acute your senses will become.

A major benefit of virtual classrooms is that online exercises and activities generally take less time to complete. For example, a small group activity where you divide your audience into groups of four and have them work on a problem together can be facilitated with four chat pods or a whiteboard tool in a virtual classroom. With the instructor discussing comments and asking for elaboration you can end up with the same results, but in less time.

In summary, we recommend the length of your virtual classroom experience should not exceed two hours. And that is with frequent participation and varied interaction. However, we also suggest you keep in mind your specific organizational needs, and test various options with your end-users. They may only have 30-to-60 minutes in any given day to attend online training. To effectively apply the Rule of Knowledge Transfer you need to remember that you cannot take your six-hour traditional in-person training, transfer it as is into a virtual classroom, and expect the same results. Besides being completely exhausting, you will literally bore your learners to death.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Audiobook Recording Complete

We just finished up our audiobook recording sessions last week for The Learning Explosion. Special thanks goes to Harry Anderson and Aaron Merrill for their expertise! Also to Leena Rinne for lending her excellent voice when our's seemed overworked. The audiobook should be available shortly. We'll definitely post about it when it is ready.

Treion and Matt after three grueling days behind the mic.

Treion carefully watching over the production.

This is a lot harder than it looks!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Moving From Traditional Training to Virtual Classrooms, Part 1

When traditional instructional designers—who have made their bread and butter conducting face-to-face training—try to go virtual, they are often shocked at the differences between the two modalities.

They give it their best shot, but find that creating effective virtual classroom sessions is much harder than they thought. After all, it’s just ILT done virtually, right? Wrong. There are many differences, but when understood and implemented properly, you will find that creating and delivering virtually can be very effective and fulfilling. In our book, The Learning eXPLOSION: 9 Rules to Ignite Your Virtual Classrooms, we outline four approaches you must change in order to successfully make the transition—content, length, instructional design, and delivery. We will briefly share these four approaches in this four part series.

When it comes to content it is imperative to realize that you need to change the amount of content used in your virtual classrooms. Don’t try to force the same amount of content you usually teach in ILT programs into your sessions. Just because you have eight hours worth of face-to-face training content doesn’t mean you have eight hours worth of virtual training content. There is a lot more learners can assimilate when they are physically present, compared to what they can assimilate when they are only present virtually.

Faced with these limitations and challenges you can still effectively transfer your ILT content to the virtual classroom using two proven methods—summarizing and chunking.

As the name implies, you simply provide a shorter virtual classroom version of the full ILT course. This well-established instructional approach works just as effectively in the virtual classroom as it does in traditional ILT. The key with this approach is to focus on the core principles, skills, and/or techniques you want your learners to adopt, and only include that content in your virtual classroom. It will be very hard to part with all of the excess content, stories, and exercises you have been refining for years, but this you must do to apply this knowledge transfer approach.

If you do not wish to part with all of your material then you should break that content up into separate virtual classroom “chunks” or sessions. With this option, you end up keeping much more of the original content and learners simply attend multiple sessions. With the chunking approach you may also consider teaching your virtual classroom sessions over a couple of days, or even weeks. Don’t feel like you need to try and cram them all in one day. Spacing your events apart allows you to build more of a blended learning experience, with assignments, exercises, and other asynchronous learning modules built in between.

To successfully transfer your corporate classroom online requires you to change your approach when it comes to what content to include.

By Treion Muller and Matt Murdoch

Follow us on Twitter at You can purchase The Learning eXPLOSION: 9 Rules to Ignite Your Virtual Classrooms on

Now available on

The Learning Explosion: 9 Rules to Ignite Your Virtual Classrooms is available today on This book will help you move from traditional face-to-face training to virtual classrooms with ease... well, there will still be some work on your part.

We encourage you to read it and provide a review!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Learning Explosion In Action

Right now, a teenager in Kobe, Japan, is learning a new skill on his mobile phone. A small-business owner in Sydney, Australia, is asking his professional network of online associates which Learning Management System (LMS) he should buy. A mother in Johannesberg, South Africa, is searching a medical website for how to treat her feverish child. A woman in Copenhagen, Denmark, is sharing information with others around the world through her blog, website, or wiki about a topic she is studying. Instantly, this piece of information—this learning fragment she has created—will generate interest in an online community. It will facilitate discussion. It will fuel new ideas, innovation, and learning. In this way, one learning fragment shared online will continue to explode. This is the Learning Explosion™.