Learning is as much art as it is science. It’s a relationship built between an instructor, an audience, and the content. All three must work together to make the connections within the learner. Those connections turn into changed attitudes, beliefs, or actions. It’s as simple and as hard as that. When you have content that is inaccurate or insufficient, you can’t have learning. When the audience is disengaged from the content or the instructor, you can’t have learning. When the instructor can’t take what she knows about the content and communicate it clearly in a way that the audience can receive it, learning doesn’t happen.
In many ways, classroom instruction is the easiest. The instructor can read the body language of their audience. You can see if you’ve lost them and adjust your approach to keep them in. As one instructor told me recently, “You’re half-an-hour into your 8-hour class and that’s your best material. Now what are you going to do?” If you’ve ever tried to teach to a group for more than an hour or so, you know what that means.
Online learning is tough. The instructor is somewhere, hopefully in a quiet office with a fast internet connection. That instructor needs to bring an energy that is really different from a classroom. The content needs to be compelling and the visuals that are used really need to be on point to keep the audience’s attention. Maybe we’ll talk about everything that a virtual instructor needs to bring to another day. Today, let’s talk a little about what you, the audience, need to do to help yourself to connect with the instructor and the content. Here are four no nonsense ways to get all that you can out of your online (webinar) learning.
Set aside the rest of your work. Let’s be honest with each other for a moment, please. When you log into any webinar, you also have at least three other windows open on your computer. Probably more if you have a large monitor, like I do. You have deadlines, just like I do. You have other work to do, just like I do. There is always something else that needs to get done. If you’re like me, you’re multi-tasking and you think you’re doing a great job at it. Here’s the problem. You aren’t. Letting that sit for a moment. As soon as you start reading the email that came in three minutes into your session, you’re thinking about that and how you’re going to handle that issue. You’re not thinking about what the instructor just said. You’re not thinking about what this class is going to mean to your job over the next several days or weeks. You’re not multi-tasking. You’ve moved on to something else. Set aside the rest of your work. Close your email client. Close the open internet windows. You may believe that you’re the exception to this, but you really aren’t. You’re three paragraphs into this and you’re already trying to read this and an email, too.
Silence the voices around you.Many webinar platforms give you the option to log into computer audio, which is streamed over the internet, along with the visual content. Don’t use that. It’s not the best option for you. If you have a headset for your desk phone, use that. If not, grab your earbuds, Bluetooth headset, or headphones that go with your mobile phone. They’re in the top drawer. That will tie up that line so that no one else can call you. If you use your mobile, set your desk phone to DND (DO NOT DISTURB). Oh yes, I know that your phone has that setting. This is the time to use it. If you’re using your desk phone, turn your mobile to silence and put it where it won’t you can’t see it, feel it, or hear it buzz. Those Facebook notifications will be there later. Yes, it’s possible that someone may actually need to reach you, but odds are any text or call that comes to your mobile can wait. Set your instance messenger to DND. Yep, it has that setting, too. The great thing about the DND setting on your IM is that it won’t even let the message come through. It may go to email, but you’ve already closed that down, right? One last thing, to help the people around you to leave you alone, put up a sign that tells them that you’re busy learning. Here’s some possible copy for your sign. “I’m busy attending an online learning through Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance. Stop by later and I can help you then.”
Secure all available resources. Many webinars include downloadable materials. They may include the slide deck or a worksheet to help you to take notes. Download and print those. They are meant to help you to take notes. There is something about having a pen in your hand and writing your notes out or doodling. I recently read an article where the author championed the idea of note taking by drawing pictures. That’s not my style, but then again, I haven’t even tried it yet. However you do it, take notes. Taking notes helps you to focus and allows the learning to live deeper so that it helps you do your daily work better longer. The downloads aren’t just meant to help you in the moment, but they are also there for you to look back on later to remind you of what you learned and help you to use that learning in your work.
Send every question. I can’t tell you how often a group attends a webinar and almost no one asks a question. I’m confident in my ability to teach and in the ability of every one of our Academy instructors to communicate in a way that audiences connect with. I just can’t believe that after 45-50 minutes of new information that no one has a question. It only tells me that we aren’t as connected to each other as we need to be. Remember that the only bad question is the one that you don’t ask. Don’t rely on someone else to ask your question because they’re the same thing that you are. Everyone brings with them the second grade kid that got laughed at for some question that they asked. Leave that kid at home. Everyone is afraid to ask a question and everyone is worried about what other people think. Gather up some digital courage. Beside that, our instructors look forward to your questions. It tells them that you’re connecting with what they’re saying and motivates them to help you more. Questions energize instructors. Ask all of your questions.
I’m sure that there are reasons why people disconnect from online learning. Virtual learning isn’t the easiest for anyone, especially if you really prefer a classroom. I’d love to know what makes online learning more difficult for you. Maybe you have a tip that we didn’t think about. Please leave us a comment.
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