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The Covid-19 Pandemic lockdown fueled an exponential increase in the use of web conferencing tools to fill the void of in-person meetings and conferences. This has resulted in many developing a love-hate relationship with a variety of web conferencing software, one of the most prominent being Zoom.  Zoom had previously been the ankle-biter (I viewed it as “that free conferencing system trying to get market traction”) of the dominant conferencing platforms GoTo Meeting and Web-Ex.  Zoom use exploded because it was easy for everyone to use for remote meetings and the interface and features rocked. For the most part, this helped embed and accelerate the use of webcams for online discourse.  “Social presence” online was suddenly ubiquitous.  Those in the association market moved annual meetings online with heavy use of Zoom for live sessions and for recording sessions in advance.  Professional development and continuing education offered by associations shifted online with live workshops being conducted using Zoom.

Fast forward to post-pandemic …a new definition of blended learning has taken form.  Face-to-face workshop meetings now take place on Zoom, while on-demand activities (like watching an instructional video) and taking assessments are done asynchronously (on the learner’s own time).   This is the new model for replacing the one-to-three-day place-based workshop.

Here are my recommendations for using this new model:

  • Designate a Zoom Producer role that is separate from the instructor role.  This person is responsible for the technical execution of the online classroom and the setup of on-demand activities.  Their responsibilities include eCommerce coordination (collecting learner fees), enrolling learners, setting up live learner polling, managing breakout rooms, and use of the whiteboard.  Attendance documentation and reporting and set up of learning platform activities should be managed by the producer as well..
  • Pre-build as many components as possible.  This includes breakout rooms and polls.
  • Document the instructional design of the live zoom session/s and on-demand learning activities in a syllabus that is shared with each learner.  This means having a list of learning objectives for each activity including break-out rooms and polls.  Provide instructions on purpose and logistics for breakout room discussions. 
  • On-demand activities should be relevant and engaging.  They could include “check on learning” questions, videos, online courses offered by LinkedIn Learning, licensed courses from American Management Association, home-made audio lessons, or a branched scenario created with Storyline or Branch Track (applied learning exercises such as those touted by expert Clark Aldrich at www.shortsims.com provide opportunities for higher-level thinking per Blooms Taxonomy
  • Use a learning management system (LMS) or learning platform to “stage” and frame the workshop contents.

Full disclosure: The company I work for, Web Courseworks, markets a learning platform called CourseStage.

How can a learning platform enhance your blended learning workshop?

Most learning platforms have some sort of integration with Zoom or another web conferencing software.  You want your learners to enter the blended learning experience through your learning platform for several reasons. First and foremost, the purpose of the learning platform is to be your association members’ one-stop site for members’ professional development.   Your member’s lifelong learning portfolio home base.  This means a comprehensive and easy-to-use transcript of all certifications and continuing education credits.

Here is my short list of features a learning platform affords associations efforts to produce blended learning events:

Lifelong learning portfolio:

  • Transcript
  • CE Credits recorded
  • Badges and certificate storage
  • Self-Reported learning documentation (that annual meeting provides a lot of learning opportunities)
  • Automated emails that keep members in touch with their workshop assignments and professional development goals in general
  • Career mapping aides

On-demand Activity Creation:

  • One-stop shop for on-demand activity creation including storage and version control
  • Integration with a video control system like Vimeo
  • Features to build templated activities around
  • Quiz engine and questions banks
  • Self-Assessment activity
  • Peer benchmarking
  • H5P integration to allow for canned activities like flashcards, interactive video widgets, image sequencing, image hotspots, and tools learners can use to enhance the experience.
  • Social learning activities such as discussion threads or mentoring features

What the learning platform does besides tracking the learner’s performance and participation (yes, it’s a big database with a dashboard for reporting) is it provides the learner a framework or “stage” for a blended learning experience.  The live Zoom session is just one type of learning activity within the workshop.  It is generally the lecture portion of the experience.  

To augment this and to make the workshop an immersive learning experience, you need multiple activities and a series of live Zoom sessions.  The learning platform should ultimately display for the learner a “report card” calibrated to the learning objectives of the blended workshop. This is the next-generation blended learning model, a workshop of both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities using Zoom and a learning platform.

Contact Web Courseworks today to start planning your next virtual conference for associations.