5 Tips to Set Up Virtual Live Classrooms for Adult Learning

Training workers and saving jobs amid the Covid-19 outbreak is top of mind for both individuals and employers.

However, with the recent ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions limiting in-person training initiatives, how can workers continue learning virtually during the pandemic to be prepared for new jobs?

How adult learning helps workers find new jobs during Covid-19

30 Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew have been redeployed as care ambassadors at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). Photo: ST

Recently, NTUC announced that Scoot will be sending some 1,900 flight crew and cabin crew (more than 75% of its workforce) for LHUB’s digital awareness training. The training, which will include home-based learning, aims to help participants develop an awareness of emerging technologies and build self-confidence in leveraging technology.

The first batch of 23 flight crew and cabin crew have completed the training course, with the rest set to follow within the coming months. Other courses that will be made available to workers include change management, project management, service excellence related courses, and technical training.

For example, cabin crew could undergo courses to upgrade their skills in the areas of frontline service while pilots could benefit from training in areas such as managing fatigue. For other workers, training will be made available in areas such as handling dangerous goods, cargo documentation, aircraft maintenance, etc. According to NTUC, these efforts will translate to more than 39,500 training days.

Jonathan Lau, a Jetstar pilot, was redeployed as an SG Clean ambassador. He educates people about social distancing, following the outbreak of Covid-19. This is a photo taken before enhanced Circuit Breaker measures were introduced when people could still eat at food centres. Photo: Reuters

For traditionalists who scoff at online learning, LHUB’s VLCs are actually a crucial component in helping workers in affected sectors find jobs in other sectors. LHUB has curated a series of courses for the Aviation sector, to ensure that Aviation workers can use this downtime to upskill and emerge stronger. The series includes courses on mindset change, service, technology and data.

For the wider public, popular courses at NTUC LHUB such as ‘SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace’, ‘Business Analytics’, ‘Service Redesign’, and ‘Project Management Fundamentals’ have been speedily transitioned to VLC formats to cater to the heightened demand without significant delay.

Yet VLCs in adult education, a new trend in Singapore’s CET scene, come with challenges that impact learning experiences and outcomes. NTUC LearningHub CEO Kwek Kok Kwong shares five ways for trainers to successfully transition to real-time, online modes of learning.

NTUC LearningHub
Graphic: NTUC LearningHub

1. Consider trainees’ profiles and needs

Designing an effective online pedagogy to train workers of varying profiles requires empathy as much as it involves science, says Mr Kwek.

“From PMETs to rank-and-file workers, trainees’ backgrounds vary when it comes to levels of digital awareness and their familiarisation of the dynamics of real-time online learning.

Both curriculum design teams and trainers have to be particularly conscious in planning training methods for diverse trainee profiles. Some might be more accustomed to in-person training and new to virtual classrooms. The key is in the lesson preparation and the anticipation of potential challenges that trainees may face.

Importantly, ensure ahead of time that the learners have the right equipment and set-up for the course requirements. For example, some courses in Excel and data analytics require specific computer programmes, so trainers must ascertain that learners have both the right software and hardware well before the start of the VLC session, and CET providers should ramp up their technical support where possible.”

2. Adapt lesson formats for remote engagement

There is a temptation for learners to succumb to distractions and disengage in virtual classes if the lessons are not effectively designed for this channel, advises Mr Kwek.

“To capture and hold short attention spans, adjust training formats to include interactive learning experiences. Activities such as gamified quizzes, virtual break-out rooms and short polls help to stimulate learners and encourage active learning. Online quizzes also give trainers a sense of whether the learners understand the content in real-time.”

Kahoot is an online quiz game which engages learners in real time. Graphic: Microsoft Store

3. Be mindful of trainees’ remote environment and overall experience

On top of having to dedicate prolonged screen time for virtual classes, when learners are in a remote environment or in isolation mode, the learning experience becomes invariably different as compared to a physical classroom setting.

“Be concise in each leg of the lesson and take regular but shorter breaks. Trainers should remind learners to relax their eyes from time to time and encourage physical movements such as shoulder shrugs and various stretches during breaks so that they would be able to re-energise and re-focus.”

4. Explain the new learning platform and virtual classroom dynamics

Mr Kwek shares that it is important to help learners familiarise themselves with the new virtual learning environment.

“Before the commencement of the course, trainers should provide a comprehensive introduction to using the VLC platform and explain guidelines and ground rules that enable successful interactions.

For example, demonstrate how to use the ‘raise hands’ function, or use ‘class chatrooms’ to input questions for trainers to answer at the end of each section.

Even small details could improve the overall experience, such as positioning the web-camera and the light source so that the face is clearly visible to the trainer, and wearing a headset to block off ambient noises.”

5. Fully equip trainers to carry out effective and engaging virtual lessons

Training in virtual settings is a different skillset on its own.

For this reason, trainers must be fully equipped with the right skills and mindsets to enhance the quality of their training and interactions.

“A trainers’ ability to navigate the dynamics of virtual interactions may make or break the entire VLC learning experience.

Hence, guiding them in making a pivotal paradigm shift, preparing them for potential challenges and scenarios in a VLC setting, and providing them with the right resources should be key priorities in making the transition from in-person training as smooth-sailing as possible.

Usually, in face-to-face settings, trainers are able to get their trainees’ ‘vibes’ by observing their facial expressions and body language. In a virtual environment, they are restricted to a digital montage of the trainees’ faces in varying quality, angles and window sizes.

Trainers need to develop a new sensory and scanning pattern so that they can get back their gut feeling in their interpersonal interactions with trainees.”

Special thanks to NTUC LearningHub for the quotes and tips on VLC. Featured image by NTUC LearningHub.

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