10 Lessons I Learned From Delivering My First Synchronous Learning Sessions

Earlier this week Tom and I delivered our first synchronous training to staff at PLCMC. We delivered three Learn to Learn Online* sessions and had about 10 participants in each session. The sessions were great. We only had one major technical problem and luckily that was on our side not the participants side.

Ironically this week Michele Martin at the Bamboo Project Blog delivered her first webinar. She wrote a great post, 9 Lessons I Learned From Running My First Webinar. Inspired by Michele’s post, I’ll share what I learned this week about delivering synchronous training.

  1. Plan, develop, practice, then plan some more. Anyone who has delivered or for that matter taken online training will tell you it is more work than a face to face class. A lot more work! Give yourself plenty of time to plan and develop the training. Then try it out. Then revise it.
  2. Don’t try to wing it. I can’t tell you how many face to face sessions I’ve had to teach with little or no time to prepare. The very first computer class I ever taught was on Microsoft Project and I’d never used Project before. Though it’s not a good idea, you can pull it off in a face to face class. But in a live, online class forget it! Why? Keep reading.
  3. Silence is not golden! Silence will kill you in a synchronous environment. The minute you stop speaking without warning the participants will think they’ve lost their connection and confusion will begin. If you are starting a brainstorming activity, let the participants know by saying, “You have 30 seconds to _____ during that time you will hear silence. I will let you know when there are 5 seconds left.”
  4. Script or notes? Know your style. Because you don’t want any silence, you need to have a script at least when you start rehearsing. Tom and I practiced a few times with a script then by the time we had our first class I was down to just a copy of the slides, an outline, and some key phrases I wanted to say. Some people, like Tom, are great with a script but when I use one it is painfully obvious that I am reading. I do better with just a few notes.
  5. Have a producer. This is actually one of the most important lessons. Since we are going to be offering at least 60 LTLO sessions, I thought I could do some of them by myself. Tom and I quickly discovered why it is so important to have a producer. You want an active class. You want lots of participation. In order to keep that pace going, you need two people. One person just cannot talk continuously, annotate slides, and monitor and respond to chat. Additionally in our last session, Tom ran into a technical difficulty with his microphone. Had I not been there to back him up, the class may have come to a halt only 10 minutes in.
  6. Record the session. I hate the way I sound on recordings! But I was able to pick up a few things after the first session and improve them for the subsequent sessions. For one, all that talking makes you want to talk fast. Don’t! Remember to breathe.
  7. Let participants know up front who is monitoring chat. I noticed after watching the recordings that a few people were sending me private chat messages. I was not able to facilitate and monitor chat so some of the chat questions went unanswered or recognized by me.
  8. No one knows when you make a mistake, so don’t call attention to it. This is true for face to face and online training. If you click on the wrong slide and it’s not glaringly obvious, just roll with it. The participants don’t know. Your presentation will seem more polished if you let the little mistakes go.
  9. Each facilitator/producer needs to have two computers logged in to the live classroom. One computer needs to be logged in as the instructor and one needs to be logged in as a participant. You need to see exactly what your participants see. This is especially helpful if you are using application sharing. Additionally if you have technical problems on the instructor PC you can quickly grab the headphones and move over to the participant PC. This happened to both Tom and I during separate sessions.
  10. Have fun! Yes it is a totally different experience to deliver live, online training. I was incredibly nervous before the very first session on Wednesday morning. But once we got going I started to have fun and forgot about how nervous I was. In fact once we really got going it was all about the learning and I didn’t even think about the two computer screens in front of me.

That is the goal with live, online training. It’s about the people and the learning and not the technology. I have to give credit here to Jennifer Hoffman and Kassy LaBorie at InSync Training. If you are still unsure about online training, take a free course from InSync. Once you experience synchronous training done right, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to jump in.

*These sessions were adapted from the Learn How to Learn Online sessions developed and offered by InSync Training.

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.

5 comments
Online Education
Online Education

Hi, This blog is cool.Good to know that you are offering lessons online.This seems to be very useful.Great job!

Paul Signorelli
Paul Signorelli

Really pleased to have discovered your blog through Michael Casey's LibraryCrunch posting about your master trainer experience. As I wrote to Michael: Infopeople here in California has also had a first-rate Master Trainer program for those involved in library staff training programs. The initial four-day training was held in 2002, and I was lucky enough to be among the initial group of trainers from 14 different library systems throughout the state. I'm now working as a consultant (training, volunteerism, and mentoring) for libraries and nonprofit organizations, and am lucky enough to be involved in revisiting the project to see how it might be redesigned to more effectively meet the needs of those involved in library training programs. Looking forward to staying in touch with others involved in train-the-trainer projects and general training for library staff to see what we might accomplish together.

Lori Reed
Lori Reed

Paul, I'm glad you found the site too. I am literally in the process of changing hosts and it has been a challenge to get things back up and running again. I think you are the first person to see the new site! It's always nice to meet other trainers too! That's partly why I started this site.

Aura
Aura

Hi Lori - Your voice sounded just fine to me. I think that online learning is a powerful tool and I would definitely like to participate in workshops offered in the future. One thing I kept forgetting to do was to click on the little hand icon to let you all know I had a comment. I'm sure with practice all participants will be more at ease. I'm excited for you to be involved in such a neat endeavor. Keep up the good work :-) This was a great post.

Michele Martin
Michele Martin

What a great post, Lori! Thanks for sharing what you learned here--I'm adding it to my own list. And I keep hearing good things about InSynch. I'm going to have to check that one out. Thanks for sharing!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I participated in a web-conference at work today with a potential new email service provider (ESP).  The ESP company provided a live demonstration of their software online via GoToMeeting.com.  The technology they used is not new to me as I have participated in live webinars and online software demonstrations before.  What was new, though, was my appreciation for the preparation the presenter must have gone through leading up to our meeting today.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the presenter had read Lori Reed’s blog post 10 Lessons I Learned From Delivering My First Synchronous Learning Session. [...]

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