I often get asked by new users of virtual classrooms how they can best prepare for a session. At Research Week, many of our presenters are using virtual classrooms for the first time, and it can be daunting. There are a few tips:
- Remove the cat from your office chair
- Always check your setup. Every session is new, and even if you’ve used the same computer, headset and internet connection before, things can happen. Which brings me to
- Always log on early. Most things can be resolved, but it’s frustrating for the participants to be hearing “can you hear me? Can you hear me?” Of course, it’s worse if they can’t hear anything at all
- Think radio. It’s odd having no visual cues, so imagine you are a radio announcer or interviewer. With ppts.
- Don’t get too clever. Or if you do, test it out first (see a later post on tadpole wrangling…its a long story)
- Don’t get TOO boring. At least check in with your participants every now and then to check they are still there and not wandering off to do the ironing. Or asleep. Which brings me to
- Use formal methods of engagement. By this, I mean polls, asking for emoticons to see if people agree, circling things on the screen etc etc
- Don’t make the session too long. At Research Week, we think 90 minutes is as long as most people can engage with a headset on. You can make it longer, but it’s hard.
But apart from all that, how do you really set up? Well, I thought I’d share my setup with you all, to show you what I do. Mind you, I have been known to do rehearsals and meetings in hospital car parks, or on the side of a road from one place to another, but I only do that if it’s not a high stakes situation, otherwise you are tempting fate, and the power of wifi.
So here’s my console at home: feel free to replicate at will.