Virtual Learning in the New Normal – Activities That Meet Your Objectives

As we established in our first article, how we might be learning right now has changed, but the fundamentals of virtual learning remain the same:

  1. Start with objectives
  2. Know your audience
  3. Design learning activities to meet objectives
  4. Pick your technology (or choose functions of technology available to you)
  5. Sustain the knowledge/challenge the forgetting curve

In the first installment of our Virtual Learning series, our own Allison Farr talked about starting from a place of strong objectives and audience insights. Once you’ve established these foundational elements, it’s time to design activities to meet those objectives. Then, pick the technology (or pieces of technology) that you can use to accomplish these activities and meet your objectives virtually.  

Design Learning Activities to Meet Your Objectives

So you’ve established your objectives—what you want your learners to be able to do coming out of your training. Learning activities are the mechanisms that allow you to meet those objectives. The most effective activities are those that engage your learners, allowing them to get involved and apply what they’re learning through interactivity.

In light of your objectives, think about what activities would help you meet those in engaging ways. Learning activities could include:

  • Partner Presentations
  • Hands-On Demonstrations
  • Case Studies
  • Brainstorming
  • Role Playing
  • Concept Mapping
  • Games

Pick Technology to Accomplish Your Activities

After identifying the activities that allow you to meet your training’s objectives, specifically for virtual learning, you next identify the technology you can use to successfully carry out those activities.

Even when training is done virtually, activities that feel familiar can be comforting. Now more than ever, people are seeking the “coziness” of recognizable experiences—case in point, Netflix currently has a “Familiar TV Favorites” section at the top of their homepage.

Just like watching an episode of Friends for the 20th time can remind you of a simpler past and give you the comfort of knowing what to expect, learning activities done virtually that mimic activities we’re used to doing in person can help learners feel comfortable and be more apt to retain information.

Say you’ve identified brainstorming as one of the activities you’ll be using in your training. In a typical face-to-face session, you may have learners break into groups to use Post-it Notes to write down ideas and place those on a whiteboard or flipchart. In a virtual training, it isn’t impossible to accomplish this brainstorming activity—you’ll just have to find new ways to use technology to do so successfully. Video conferencing platforms offer ways to put participants into breakout groups, and there are a variety of virtual whiteboards available to use, including Freehand by InVision and Microsoft Whiteboard.

Virtual learning can be effective—but, if done poorly, it can have a negative impact on the user experience. To get it right, you have to understand your audience and objectives, then combine that understanding with a little creativity and some hard thinking to determine the right activities to get the job done. In the upcoming final installment of our Virtual Learning series, we’ll talk about how you can get the most out of your training by sustaining knowledge and challenging the forgetting curve.


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