In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, at Sony UK TEC, we have had to adapt our workshops to an online setting in order to comply with the continuous changes to government guidelines around social distancing.
Moving from face-to-face to a virtual setting has made us evaluate which approaches work best to get the most from the sessions, whilst keeping our audience engaged.
Therefore, we took it upon ourselves to experiment with a select number of workshops and wanted to share exactly what we found out.
Below are 16 top tips to follow when running online workshops, direct from our coding teacher Steve Lewis.
Whilst some of these may seem obvious, they can be easily overlooked when focussing on the intricacies of online learning. We hope you find this useful when organising your own training!
1. Be prepared
Being prepared may seem like an obvious point to start with, but it is important to remember this is as true with face-to-face teaching as it is with running online workshops.
The more preparation you can do beforehand to make sure your lesson runs smoothly, the more relaxed you will be when delivering the material and coordinating workshop tasks.
Providing your group with all the details they require ahead of time in order to log in and hear the session successfully will pay off and won’t cause you to waste time during your allocated slot.
2. Check your lighting
As with any meeting, ensure the lighting is right in your room. Specifically, with online meetings, the lighting can really affect how the audience sees you which is crucial when building relationships with your class.
Having experienced poorly lit Zoom meetings in the past, I made sure I set up my laptop with a lamp positioned behind it and a plain backdrop to avoid any distractions when presenting.
3. The going is slow, so be patient
Having already worked with the children attending my investigational workshop in person, I understood how to my pace my sessions.
However, it was apparent that in an online setting, additional time was required allowing them to follow my guidance when accessing Hwb and clicking through the various links.
I found it was also important to consider the pace of the slowest group member, not for them to feel left out. When running your workshop, considering group work, and providing printed tasks and instructions may help with keeping to your timings and will initiate collaboration.
4. The fewer the clicks, the better
Following on from the previous tip, it is always better to keep online navigation tasks to a minimum to keep the session as straightforward as possible.
The more steps your class must take to reach a certain page / outcome, the more opportunities there are to make mistakes. You may want to consider building a link into the group’s notebook, avoiding passwords (unless information is confidential) and having log in details at the ready!
5. Lower expectations
With the nature of virtual workshops being that an authoritative adult is not always present, it was evident that the classes attention span and willingness to listen was decreasing throughout the session.
If possible, consider requesting adult supervision throughout the lesson to help them focus and to monitor their participation throughout.
6. Play with the platform
Before starting the educational content of the session, it may be useful to build in a ‘Getting to know the platform’ exercise to your timetable so that the audience can familiarise themselves with the programme’s components.
For example, during my test session, I gave the children the opportunity to play with the Chat function and explore GIFs, stickers and emojis.
This was not only a good way to break the ice but encouraged them to avoid distractions later in the lesson!
7. Using the ‘Chat’ function
When you or your audience are not using webcams, speakers or microphones, the Chat function on your chosen e-platform will be crucial in communicating with your audience.
This will allow you and your class to keep a record of what has been said and refer to missed or forgotten information.
I also found the function helpful for visual learners who find instructions harder to follow, as well as for those who did not feel confident when speaking up in front of an audience.
8. Avoid distractions
Avoiding any distractions is particularly true when communicating with children!
Make sure you turn off computer notifications when sharing your screen, switch your mobile phone to silent and make sure you are in a quiet setting to deliver your session.
9. Allow them to share screens, or not
Allowing your class to share their screens can be helpful when someone is finding a task difficult or needs additional support.
However, sharing the screen with the entire class can be intimidating and distracting.
When running my next class, I intend to provide an iPad to one member of the meeting in order to help those individuals who require assistance throughout.
To keep Q&A slots and discussions as productive as possible, consider encouraging the class to mute their microphones at the start of the session, only turning it off when they would like to participate in the conversation.
This will keep everyone focussed and avoid the audience speaking over each other. Just make sure they turn off their mute button before they start to speak!
Specifically, when you have several groups working in the same classroom, consider using headphones to avoid any distractions and interruptions from others.
Headphones can also reduce the amount of noise feedback usually produced through microphones. An unwelcome sound for any audience member!
12. Save it
To ensure work isn’t lost, encourage your class to save their work throughout the training session.
The children suffered with this during my first session having left their documents unsaved over lunch!
13. Know their names
If you’re running this with your usual class, then this will be a no-brainer. But, if you’re taking a new class then it’s a must!
Make an effort to remember your audience’s names by encouraging name badges or typing an introduction in the Chat function.
This is a nice ice breaker for the class and will allow you to form a personal bond with each member.
14. Screen time
Of course, when taking part in face-to-face workshops, team members have regular opportunities to move around and have time away from the screen.
Building this into your session may encourage them to be more focussed in the long run whilst allowing them to take breaks and brainstorm away from the computer.
15. Remember they can see and hear you
Don’t forget that whilst online, your audience are always able to see and hear you!
It is therefore important to remain professional throughout the session and turn off your video/speaker function when needed.
16. Energy Levels
It is no surprise that delivering training sessions is tiring work, especially when trying to keep a class motivated in an online setting!
Make sure you are mentally and physically prepared for your session by having a drink to hand and standing up at regular intervals.
You might want to consider a standing workstation to keep yourself moving which is sometimes key in increasing the energy levels of your classmates too!
17. Encourage Fun!
Of course, this rings true in all sessions, whether online or in-person, but make sure your audience are engaged and enjoying themselves.
This can make a huge difference in the learning process!