Synchronous Software Scavenger Hunts

If I’m doing software application training, doing it as a webinar isn’t really my first choice. I’d rather create a bunch of Captivate tutorials and job aids to let people learn at their own pace, when they need to use the skills. Just-in-time, interactive training that supports or simulates actual tasks is my first choice. Application training via a synchronous tool like WebEx, Adobe Connect, or Elluminate too often ends up with passive learners. I’m guilty of this myself too; I’ve done some boring synchronous training that didn’t offer any opportunity to practice skills. Sometimes synchronous training is what we need to do though, so I’ve been trying to find ways to make it more effective.

In my current contract, I’ve been working on creating a Moodle site for a year-long training program. As part of that, I delivered several training sessions for learners and our team. One technique I experimented with during this training was a scavenger hunt, which worked really well for getting everyone actively learning.

The Questions

I had two groups of people who needed to learn how to access and read the reports available in Moodle, which was a perfect topic for the scavenger hunt as a way of finding information in the assessment reports. I set up a practice course with a quiz and multiple demo student accounts. I logged in as each of the demo students and took the quiz to create sample report data. I also added a few other grades in the gradebook.

The questions were based on the quiz results and gradebook, such as

  • Which student had the highest score?
  • Which question did the most students get wrong?
  • Which student is missing a grade for Assignment A?

I built these questions as a poll with multiple choice options. This meant I could show the scavenger hunt questions in a side panel at the same time as learners were viewing the content in the main window of the webinar.

Small Group Scavenger Hunt

In WebEx, you have two choices for sharing online content:

  • Share Web Browser: lets the presenter control everything for demonstration purposes
  • Share Web Content: lets participants interact with a website at their own pace

For my small group of learners (6–8), I used the WebEx “Share Web Content” tool. With this small group, I could let everyone access a live practice course and find their way around themselves. This meant I could ask questions that required my learners to jump around to different parts of the course to view reports both in the gradebook and in the quiz itself. This required a bit more troubleshooting live and some prep to let people practice before the scavenger hunt, but it was feasible with this small group.

I followed this general progression:

  1. Demonstrate using Share Web Browser
  2. Practice using Share Web Content to let learners try it on their own, doing a lot of troubleshooting to get people comfortable
  3. Scavenger Hunt to assess and provide a challenge
  4. Review the scavenger hunt questions to debrief

Larger Group Scavenger Hunt

When I did similar training for another group of over 20 people, some of whom were less technically adept, I didn’t want to let everyone go off on their own in the live site. Therefore, I used screenshots of the reports and shared my browser so everyone stayed together.

I used a compressed process for this larger group, skipping the practice.

Lessons Learned

The learners in both groups loved this. I got a lot of positive feedback. Even in the first group where learners had individual practice, the scavenger hunt pointed out places where they didn’t know the tool as well as they thought.

I set a timer for the scavenger hunt to provide a little extra incentive and get people competing a bit. The total time was based on how long it took me to do the tasks, which was a mistake. I should have doubled that time; it wasn’t anywhere near enough for learners doing these tasks for their first or second time. The idea of a time limit was good, but the timing itself was way off.

This technique worked effectively because I was teaching a skill focused on finding information. This wouldn’t have worked as well for every training, but I think I could adapt it for other situations. However, when I have the “Share Web Content” tool available, I’ve found I can simply do a lot of practice with smaller groups that way and skip the scavenger hunt. I wonder if I should revisit this as an instant assessment tool more often though.

Further Reading

Last spring, I had a great discussion with Ellen Behrens on what kind of training works effectively in webinars. The discussion started with her statement that webinars should be used to “provide information rather than teach someone how to DO something.” I disagreed; I think you can teach skills with webinars if you plan the interactions correctly. These scavenger hunts were a personal test for myself to see if I could put into practice what I’d argued. Here’s the discussion and Ellen’s detailed response to my questions:

More information on creating interactive synchronous training:

7 thoughts on “Synchronous Software Scavenger Hunts

  1. Excellent suggestions; I think they could be employed in a higher ed setting as well.

    I work at the Crummer Graduate School at Rollins College and our faculty members are forever looking for ways to engage learners in synchronous online sessions. Many instructors have abandoned such sessions altogether, out of frustration with the “passive learner” syndrome you described.

    We began to see this frustration diminish when we starting toying with simple things such as polling (we use Adobe Connect). I plan to show your post to faculty members; I hope it will spark some new ideas.

    • I could certainly see some higher ed applications for this. For a composition class, post an essay or excerpt and ask scavenger hunt questions about the the grammar, structure, etc. For literature, about characters, plot, etc.

      Actually, anything that could be created as a “find the mistakes” exercise could probably be done like this, with a few adaptations.

      If your faculty come up with any great ideas, I’d love to hear them myself. I’m always looking for other inspiration.

  2. Christy — Great idea! Thanks for posting this and for continuing to stretch our ideas and practices when it comes to using synchronous learning systems for online training. Hoping others will share their ideas for scavenger hunts and other possibilities!

  3. Pingback: A Followup, an Update, and More Helpful Links « aLearning Blog

  4. Hi Christy! I love your idea of a scavenger hunt as part of a training exercise. I have to do training for Program Directors at the college I work at for a new LMS we’re rolling out this summer. I was thinking of using your idea of the Scavenger hunt but modifying it so it could be done in a face-to-face setting highlighting certain components that the LMS does well. What do you think? I like the idea of thinking out of the box and engaging the Directors in a more collaborative training exercise.

    • Are you teaching in a computer lab, or in an environment where all the learners will have laptops with them? If they have computers and access to the LMS, you could certainly do a scavenger hunt that way.

      If they don’t have access to computers to try out and practice what they’re learning, then overall you’re really mostly only going to be able to improve awareness of the new system. You can’t really improve skills or change behaviors without practice.

      If they don’t have computers, you might be able to print screenshots of the LMS and use that for a scavenger hunt. It would be better than nothing, but still far removed from actually using the technology. It could be engaging, but I’m not sure if it would really give you good results.

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