Ten Ideas for Exercises in the Virtual Classroom

If you have either attended or facilitated training in a virtual classroom you know that maintaining a high level of interactivity is key to keeping participants engaged.  Here are ten ideas for exercises to try in your next virtual classroom session:

1. Discuss a picture
Display a picture that illustrates a concept you are teaching.  Ask the audience to call out or type in chat what they observe in the picture.  You can do this as an icebreaker by showing an image of an optical illusion then ask or poll people on what they observe in the image.

2. Discuss a video
Just like in a face-to-face setting, it’s good use multi-media to add variety to the classroom.  The best practice for video is to load it and play it within your virtual classroom, rather than try to stream it live.  If you want to use a video from Youtube, try using the Youtube Downloader tool to get a version of the movie that you can upload into your classroom.  Short 1-2 minute videos work best.

3. Play a game
Young and old alike always enjoy playing games.  Plan a game for a section of your training where you think energy may wane, or for the end of session to end on a fun note. You can display a slide with empty boxes that represent the letters of a phrase and a clue at the bottom of the screen, like the Wheel of Fortune game.  Then go down the participant list and ask each person to guess a letter.  Use the annotation tools to write letters on the screen as people guess.  Try other games like Jeopardy or hangman.

4. Poll before revealing content
To get a point to stick, ask participants to reflect on a concept by creating a poll.  Post the poll first, gather input, then reveal the content.  Your poll could be fact-based (“what is the #1 cause of x?”) or opinion-based (“Based on your experience, why does x happen?”)

5. Prioritize a list
Focus the group on where their priorities lay by asking them to call out items while you make a list on the whiteboard or poll pod.  For example, ask “What are the qualities of a good mentor?”  Once you’ve gathered the typed list of qualities, copy and paste into a poll and ask participants to select the top 3 qualities that make a good mentor.   Your poll results will reveal the most important qualities, as prioritized by the group.  Use the poll results as the basis of a discussion.

6. Scavenger hunt
If your participants need to know how to access information on a website or how to use an application, place some questions about the website on the screen such as a poll question and a question to respond to via chat.  Then ask them to open a new browser and go to the site to search for the answers to the questions.

7. Whiteboard squares
Draw squares on the whiteboard and ask participants to type their name in a square to claim it.  Then ask participants to write the answer to a question in their square using the drawing tools.

8. Partner chat
In a traditional classroom, trainers often ask participants to discuss a topic with a partner or in a small group. You can replicate this exercise in the virtual classroom using chat.  With Adobe Connect, you can post multiple chat pods on the screen.  Prior to posting the pods, use the ‘rename’ function to rename the chat pod with the chat partner names.  Post a question on the screen for participants to discuss, then watch the screen explode with activity.

9. Virtual role play
Without the visual clues and body language of a face-to-face setting, it’s difficult to carry out a traditional role play exercise in a virtual classroom.  However, scripting the role play provides a starting point.  On a slide write a script for 2-3 characters where each person speaks twice.  Ask for volunteers to read the script.  You may find that participants who are reading the script will continue the role play on their own – the script helps to get them started. Facilitate a discussion around the role play afterwards.  This activity is described in full in The Book of Road Tested Activities.

10. Chat takeaway goal
As you conclude your session, ask participants what their #1 takeaway goal is after completing the training.  Ask them to type a response in chat.  Tell participants you will email them the goal as a reminder in 3 weeks.  Thanks to Anne from Sodexo who shared this idea at the ACL Conference in 2010.

For more ideas on activities to include in your virtual classroom, get a book like The Book of Road Tested Activities or visit Thiagi’s Training Games site, and look for activities that you can convert to virtual settings.