In our first post, we introduced you to the Rule of Knowledge Transfer taken from our book, THE LEARNING eXPLOSION: 9 Rules to Ignite Your Virtual Classrooms, and discussed how much content you should consider using in your virtual classrooms. The second approach you should consider is the length of your virtual classroom.
There are several approached with regard to how long a virtual classroom should be. Some organizations keep their virtual classrooms as short as 20 minutes. Others have successfully facilitated three or four sessions of up to three-hours each, with breaks in between — breaks that range from an hour, to days, or even weeks. Some people build day-long experiences that are broken up into 90-minute chunks.
Our personal experience has shown that anything longer than two hours per session is too long--even with frequent and a varied interaction. We believe that 90-to-120 minute sessions are an ideal length for a virtual classroom experience. It allows you enough time to teach three or four main points and is short enough to keep people engaged.
We recognize that every situation is different. You should test various combinations and options yourself until you find the perfect amount of content and length of your virtual classroom.
It is important to note that there is a point of diminishing returns with how much your learner can absorb in a single online session. As you teach your sessions, you’ll get a sense for when this point is reached and you’ll be able to modify your delivery as needed. While you may be familiar with this concept in a traditional classroom, the ability for you to sense when to move on and adapt your teaching is more difficult to detect in a virtual classroom. Mainly because it is a new mode of delivery, but also because you simply cannot see your learners. Developing an accurate sense of timing and rhythm in the virtual space will take time and practice. Don’t force it. The more time you spend in your virtual classroom interacting with your learners, the more acute your senses will become.
A major benefit of virtual classrooms is that online exercises and activities generally take less time to complete. For example, a small group activity where you divide your audience into groups of four and have them work on a problem together can be facilitated with four chat pods or a whiteboard tool in a virtual classroom. With the instructor discussing comments and asking for elaboration you can end up with the same results, but in less time.
In summary, we recommend the length of your virtual classroom experience should not exceed two hours. And that is with frequent participation and varied interaction. However, we also suggest you keep in mind your specific organizational needs, and test various options with your end-users. They may only have 30-to-60 minutes in any given day to attend online training. To effectively apply the Rule of Knowledge Transfer you need to remember that you cannot take your six-hour traditional in-person training, transfer it as is into a virtual classroom, and expect the same results. Besides being completely exhausting, you will literally bore your learners to death.