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.

Live Online Learning Coming to PLCMC

Synchronous learning is finally coming to PLCMC. I’m so excited! What a great start to a new year!

Here’s a snippet of the email I sent out to staff:

An exciting new development in learning has arrived at PLCMC, O2L2 (Open Online Learning Live).

O2L2 was developed by technology scholar Tom Cole. O2L2 is a new, web-based platform that gives us the tools to deliver live, online staff and public programs, training, and more. Share content and exchange ideas with others—all from a computer at your location. Eliminating the need to travel between branches for programs, training, and meetings, O2L2 will save both time and money. This is not meant to replace any existing training or programs. Instead O2L2 will provide us with another avenue for learning and communication.

Staff interested in exploring O2L2 are invited to register for one or both of the following introductory sessions:

  • O2L2 Drop in Sessions: Drop in for all or part of the hour to get an informal tour of O2L2 from technology scholar Tom Cole.
  • Learn to Learn Online: A structured one-hour class that covers the tools within O2L2, explores the qualities of an effective synchronous learner, and gives participants a chance to experience an online class from start to finish.

We’ll be using WebJunction’s Live Space program to deliver the training.

Moving Forward with Synchronous Training

It’s been interesting to hear my colleagues around the biblioblogosphere say that they want opportunities to attend virtual conferences or to even be a virtual participant. Some of the reasons cited have been things like travel costs, time away from work, etc.

I filled my car up with gas this morning and saw the gauge hit the $50 mark. It’s been a while (for me who was on leave for 9 months) since I have seen gas prices so high. As I was watching the sale price go up and up and up, I couldn’t help but think we really need to move forward with e-learning.

It’s for those reasons (and more) that I have been a huge advocate for e-learning. In my own organization we have over 550 staff spread across 23 locations. I usually teach 2-3 hour classes and it involves me arriving at least an hour early to set up and a 15-60 minute commute depending on where I hold the class. After the class is over another hour to pack up and commute back to the Main Library. So for each class there is an extra 2-3 hours of time spent on setup and traveling. During a normal month that could total to more than 24 hours. This doesn’t even factor in the commute time and mileage for the participants.

Hopefully this situation is about to change. We are in the process of signing a contract to use WebJunction‘s synchronous learning platform LiveSpace. Tom Cole has been working on this project for his Technology Scholars program and I am excited that he has the momentum going on this project. He’s demonstrated the product for a few of our staff members and they have all been receptive and equally excited about using this as a platform for staff and public training, programs, and meetings.