Fall has officially arrived. Somehow it has seemed to take forever to arrive, while simultaneously coming in the blink of an eye! This season is certainly one for the ages, one we’re all trying to learn from… at warp speed! While schools, businesses, teachers, parents, and students are dealing with new schedules and formats, I’ve been reflecting on my own learning experiences at school and at work. My student experiences didn’t include a virtual learning model, but at EPI we’ve been conducting business in a virtual environment for years.

As I was scrolling through LinkedIn recently, I came across this fun graphic. The image made me smile immediately. It epitomizes what so many of us are adapting to: doing what we’re good at and doing it virtually.

Source: Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education

Each of these personalities was a leader in the virtual instruction of their craft but, while they each used different scenarios and methods, the one thing they couldn’t use was interactive technology. Television is a powerful medium, but it only allows for a monologue with the viewer; a dialogue is always much more engaging.

And all too often, virtual learning is done in a minimally engaging way (think lecture or presentation with little or no back and forth).

It’s too easy to want to talk AT people and present info, but that’s not where the actual learning happens.

Learning happens in the discovery, interaction, and application of ideas. And then sharing and practicing what you learn. When I think back to my own student experiences, what I valued most was being challenged by my teachers to think for myself and interact and engage.

Virtual teaching has been around for a while, but the tools we have today provide a more interactive virtual environment, one that allows for real-time group communication and gives us the ability to replicate what is typically done in the classroom.

But to be able to effectively educate and facilitate in a virtual environment, it’s important to remember:

1. Engagement Is Key!

Lectures are boring. Reciting information and hoping it sticks is a great way to make your audience tune out instead of in. Research shows that our attention waxes and wanes. During a lecture or presentation, the first attention lapse comes a mere 30 seconds in; the next lapse comes at about 5 minutes; the next at 7-9 minutes; and the next at 9-10 minutes in. Which means you only have about 10 minutes before your audience switches to complete passive mode! And that time may be even shorter if your audience members are in the comfort of their own homes.

To keep your audience tuned in, be sure to:

  • Establish intrigue; make learners want to find out what happens.
  • Make it collaborative by using interactive elements and quizzes.
  • Include videos (but keep them short; studies show optimal video length should be under six minutes).
  • Prioritize key points and reinforce them throughout.

2. Build Content to Build a Relationship.

By providing relevant and valuable content, you are establishing trust with your audience and, therefore, are building a relationship. Produce quality content consistently and your audience will connect. Fred “Mister” Rogers created a strong emotional bond with his audience that was meaningful and memorable, even without a face-to-face environment. His technique was simple and down to earth: relevancy of message; simplicity of language; active listening; respect; and an inherent belief in the goodness of humanity.

3. Commit to Lifelong Learning.

I hope everyone was fortunate enough to have a Mr. Bollman (my high school communications teacher). He was clever, direct, and encouraged me to never stop learning. I learned to appreciate his ability to challenge me with feedback and his openness to being challenged in return. His willingness to have a discussion with me, not at me, helped me learn and increased my confidence.

People often stop learning once they feel they get good at something. But that is short-sighted. Not only should you actively pursue learning within your industry, you should also continue to develop your personal skills. In other words, get out of your comfort zone! You will grow, be inspired, gain confidence, and have some fun along the way—just what the doctor teacher ordered!

Headshot of EPI CEO Michelle Kelly

Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)

More Good, Good Stuff from EPI

Click here to read Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

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