Friday, July 31, 2009

Overt Operations in the Virtual Classroom

My last post focused on using your mouse deliberately for any movement on the screen. What else needs to be executed in a deliberate and overt manner in the virtual classroom? Nanette Miner shares excellent tips on deliberate language in her article, The Non-Drowsy Virtual Classroom in T&D Magazine this month. Miner suggests, "... language in the virtual classroom needs to be much more direct." and "To assist your participants, give written instructions for activities, preferably both on the screen and in a handout."

Confusion among participants when they are asked to complete a task or activity is not uncommon, but can be easily eliminated with deliberate language. Graphics and images can also support your instruction. For example, when facilitating a course with scripted role play, we asked two participants to volunteer by raising their hands and simultaneously showed a slide with instructions on how to raise your hand plus an image of raised hands. Next we assigned roles and asked the two volunteers to read the script on the screen. The role play was written like the script for a play and speaker lines were highlighted in corresponding colors to keep it straight. By encircling a task with clear instructions and images, we eliminated confusion and didn't miss a beat with this exercise.

Monday, July 27, 2009

An Antsy Mouse

I attended a web conference today where the presenter was sharing his screen with the audience and demonstrating various features of a web product that shall remain unnamed. He was a fine speaker, however, he had a frustrating habit that I’ve seen with many web conferencing presenters – I call it antsy mouse syndrome. The presenter was constantly moving his mouse all over the screen as he spoke which was very distracting. In a physical classroom this distracting behavior occurs as well, when the speaker with a laser pointer tries to “circle” what he’s pointing to on the screen. Most speakers naturally have a tendency to gesture to support their spoken word, which is a good thing, however gesturing with a mouse or pointer tool in a web conference will leave your audience dazed as confused as they won’t know where they should focus on the screen.

To prevent this problem, all of your mouse or pointer movements should be slow and deliberate so your audience can follow your movements. As you point or click, tell the audience what you are doing, for example: “I’m clicking on the Reports tab to open up a drop down menu. Next I’ll select Manager Reports…etc.”

One way to check your mouse movements to is to log in as a participant and watch the participant view as you click through a web site or whatever it is that you will be demonstrating. Another technique is to record yourself as you rehearse. In either case, watch closely to ensure that your mouse or pointer movements are supporting your content and objectives and not taking away from your audience's experience.