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.
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:
- Demonstrate using Share Web Browser
- Practice using Share Web Content to let learners try it on their own, doing a lot of troubleshooting to get people comfortable
- Scavenger Hunt to assess and provide a challenge
- 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.
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.
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:
- Key Steps to Preparing Great Synchronous Interactions
- Four Steps to Effective Virtual Classroom Training
- Tips for Effective Webinars
- Tips For Making Virtual Classroom Sessions More Interactive