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Training Teachers for Remote Learning Facilitation

posted on Sep 16 2020

by Taylor Ann Spencer, Program Manager

Training staff to be good in-person facilitators is tricky enough, but training them to facilitate through a screen adds a new layer of challenges. There’s so much to discuss, from handling technology to choosing the right activities to keep kids engaged . . . where do you even start?

kids on zoom

As a children’s entertainment and educational organization that has been running virtual programs since mid-April, we have had plenty of practice, not only facilitating events but training others on the best ways to facilitate virtual programs.

Here are our Top Tips for Training Virtual Facilitators:

Get their Tech Set-Up Straight

First thing’s first: make sure your facilitators how to use their virtual platform! If they’re using Zoom, make sure they know how to use the waiting room, share their screen, and share music! If your curriculum uses break-out rooms, make sure they understand and can successfully manage those as well.
While you’re discussing virtual platforms and their functionality, make sure to emphasize the following guidelines that will make their facilitation MUCH more effective:

Spotlight is their Friend

Spotlighting is the facilitator’s most powerful tool for controlling and guiding the class’s focus. When facilitating, they can (and should!) use the spotlight to direct attention toward themselves or other participants that they’ve decided to feature.

Facilitators should be monitoring the spotlight’s focus constantly during the class. Keep in mind that participants may be viewing the session in spotlight view only, and if that’s the case, the screen receiving the spotlight will be the only thing that they can see. It is crucial that the facilitator is on top of guiding this view at all times!

puppet on zoom

Muting should be a Given

Nothing interrupts a session more than when a participant’s younger sister throws a temper tantrum in the background! Remind facilitators that it’s usually best to keep everyone muted unless they have been called on to speak. Facilitators should mention this to all participants at the start of each session, along with instructions on the best way to get the facilitator’s attention if they would like to share something (e.g. raising hands or private messaging them in the chat). That way participants understand what to expect and how to be heard if need be!

Emphasize the Difference between Virtual and In-Person Facilitation Styles

Your facilitators may have a great laid-back style and teaching toolkit for leading in-person sessions, but those specific skills and tools may not translate virtually! Once they understand how to use your online platform, run through the following tips for planning and executing their virtual content:

High Energy is Key!

It’s tricky to keep kids (or adults!) engaged in a virtual session. Emphasize the importance of keeping facilitation energy high! Even if your teachers usually have great facilitation energy, urge them to double it when teaching virtually. Participants’ eyes glaze over much faster when they’re staring at a screen . . . and you want to keep everyone alert and engaged 100% of the time!

excited pre-schooler remote school

Mix it Up and Move it Along

Another trick to keeping participants engaged is to keep the pace of the session rolling and vary the type of activities. While participants might stay engaged in a game for 10 minutes during an in-person session, they’ll probably get bored of it after 8 minutes during a virtual session; so it’s important to plan enough activities to change it up every 7-8 minutes.

Facilitators also try to include a variety of activity types, bouncing between physical and mental, full-group and individual, and short and long durations. Switching up the vibe from game to game keeps everyone engaged and focused on the session!

man on zoom teaching
There’s a LOT of information out there, and this is just one more “top tips and tricks” style post. If you’re looking for an interactive training workshop where you can get concrete ideas on how to apply the principles of successful virtual facilitation to your specific program, consider booking one of our virtual training workshops!

In-Depth Virtual Training Workshops For Your Staff

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Taylor Ann Spencer

posted on Sep 16 2020

by Taylor Ann Spencer

Taylor Ann is an NYC-based theater artist and children's theater director. After graduating from Hope College with a BFA in theater and creative writing, she toured with Missoula Children's Theatre for a year before moving to New York City. Taylor Ann was the Supervisor for mainstages Theater Camp Long Island in its' inaugural summer in 2018.