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When Live Virtual Learning Really Works
The best courses deliver collaborative learning experiences that engage and inspire learners. Your virtual learning platform can either help or hinder that pursuit.
Vaishali Sangtani
Senior Manager, Product Marketing Adobe Connect
has had interaction with virtual teaching and learning
in the last two years, some of those online encounters stand out for how exceptional they were while others were barely worth the effort to show up. What often makes the difference are three elements: 1) how engaging the interaction is; 2) how well- developed the virtual instructor tools are for delivering a peak learning experience; and 3) how effectively the instructor uses the video conferencing features at hand.
Multiple studies published in the Harvard Business Review, Science, Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and even LinkedIn have found that students learn best in active, social learning environments. It’s the instructor’s job to inspire and engage those learners. By asking questions, providing advice, giving context and explaining specific examples and solutions, an instructor brings learning to life for each student in his or her own meaningful way. Then additional learning occurs in the interactions among the learners.
These collaborative experiences can harness the power of diverse groups for learning — yes — but also for getting to know, like and support each other as they pursue their individual goals. Those kinds of outcomes have a major impact on student retention and their levels of satisfaction with their classes.
5 Principles for Online Learning
We’ve identified five basic principles for online learning that enhance the learning outcomes and interactions and that live, online instruction should incorporate:
A common visual experience for all learners. The right platform can let the instructor control what the learner sees — display of video, slides, chats, talking heads — to minimize the level of distraction and keep the focus on the content rather than, say, the attendee list or anonymous chatter.
Short bursts of content mixed with peer interaction. The bursts should be no longer than seven minutes and, ideally, between three and five minutes. Memorable instructors do careful sequencing to make sure content builds on one idea after the next and so that activities are appropriate for the
content being delivered. Those activities could consist of quizzes; focused chats; word-based tasks such as fill-in-the- answer, word clouds, sticky notes and task lists; and audience feedback through raised hands, agree/disagree, laughter, applause, speed up/slow down, upvotes and star ratings.
Peer-group breakouts, with some combination of
video, audio and chat (depending on instructor preference); whiteboard usage; polling; question posting; and easy screen sharing. The instructor should be able to create breakout rooms quickly — through auto-assignment, a fixed list or rotation — and then communicate with participants across all breakouts or within a given breakout.
Movement. To combat limited attention spans and counteract the boredom that sets in when students have to stare at words on a slide, instructors need to provide a variety of slides, layouts, videos and interactive features. Top virtual platforms offer a multitude of options for keeping the learning session moving and learners engaged.
Accessibility. Here’s where the virtual classroom can improve upon the in-person version. The addition of embedded closed captioning, keyboard commands, color controls, enhanced navigational features and integration with screen readers enable students with specific needs to more fully participate while expanding overall usability for all learners.
Functionality for Facilitating
Memorable Learning
As you assess the caliber of the virtual learning tools your instructors are armed with, make sure they provide the functionality that facilitates a more memorable learning experience. That’s how you can play a role in helping students get and retain more from their courses.
For example, make sure there’s a level of content consistency across sections being taught by different people. You do that
by using a platform where the entire presentation with all interactive tools (slides, video, audio, chat threads and exercises) can be stored in a shared system with assigned editing privileges.
Also, give your instructors “backstage” controls that

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