After more than 20 years of developing and offering post-secondary facility management courses, the rapid transition to advanced education has given me the opportunity to turn all related courses into a full-fledged online platform. This new virtual reality has brought a variety of lessons – for students, teachers and guest speakers.
Looking ahead, virtual training is expected to be the mainstay of the next vocational education. A way to learn and quality professional development will make it more accessible. As a student and teacher, here are some of the best experiences I have ever had to develop a virtual training experience.
To begin with
- Expect surprises in class. Use speech format and / or mix.
- Accept the uncertainty of who is in the room.
- Be prepared to miss the “live” aspect of the session.
- Note that there is no or no facial response to content.
- Many students become unfamiliar with the technology arena.
- Some will have internet connection problems.
- Determine location and time for planned lessons. Balance home, family and class time. Avoid distractions; For example, children, noise, pets, etc.
In the “virtual world” there was a difficult transition for students seeking professional development who chose a “direct” or face-to-face learning environment. It was a new experience for many. Interaction and participation with the whole class was a key factor in the success of the students’ participation and attention. Communication, sharing experiences, and support were also an important part of the learning process.
Even for an experienced teacher, facilitating, presenting, and teaching online was an adjustment. It was challenging to assess students’ attention span and expectations without visual body language and facial expressions, which would help guide regular energy and curiosity and determine if students understood the information presented.
Online teaching takes a great personal approach to connecting and interacting with students. In my experience, we went down fast and we supported each other when the outbreak occurred. FMs are their own island. It was important to share their experiences so that the students would be open and comfortable to realize that they are not alone. At the time of the outbreak, everyone’s experience was the same and we were professionally supported.
Here are some tips and tricks if you have the opportunity to conduct a virtual training session
- If you are teaching from home, look for a special place that will reduce any disruptions in the home.
- Turn off any Internet connection to minimize communication issues.
- Use your hands, speak in a certain movement, and visualize how you will participate and talk to the camera.
- Hold your camera and smile. It is important that the students communicate with you, see you easily, and distinguish you from others.
- Encourage student participation. Include comments and suggestions in the chat room. Encourage students to raise their hands or create spaces to allow time for contact with their peers.
- Change your voice while speaking and look directly at the camera. Move closer and closer to the camera at different points.
- Make visual presentation fun with large fonts, graphs, and color.
- Provide extended or screen breaks.
Develop a learning experience for all. Help your students develop their skills and knowledge and expand their virtual learning experience
Marcia O’Connor is president of the AMF advisory team. She is a leading consultant and lecturer for the University of Toronto Resource Management Courses, including the FM Verification Program and others.