Teaching can be a very stressful profession. Not only must you be interesting and engaging at all times, but your day tends to be long and exhausting; you are consistently assessed on measures—such as student performance and test scores—that are out of your control; and you do not always have the support or resources you need to be successful.
These issues are challenging for all teachers—those who teach in a face-to-face classroom, as well as those who teach online in a virtual classroom.
In fact, stress and anxiety are the leading reason for teachers taking time off work—or leaving the profession all together. But stress and anxiety do not have to negatively affect your teaching experience. Below are several ways that virtual trainers can tackle these issues:
1. Before delivering VILT, practice makes perfect
Before giving a virtual instructor-led training (VILT) class, instructors should plan to attend several VILT courses (as students) taught by experienced virtual instructors. This will give new instructors valuable insight into how the best instructors manage their VILT class, navigate through the curriculum and keep students engaged. It also gives new instructors ideas on how they would teach their VILT courses better.
All new instructors should run practice classes. It’s recommended that instructors give at least 3 practice classes (to colleagues or family members) before “going live.” After each practice class, the mock students should provide the instructor with feedback. Practicing with family or colleagues allows instructors to ask for specific feedback from a trusted audience. Instructors also should play the role of a student to become familiar with the various virtual training tools that students can access in a virtual training environment.
Once instructors feel ready to teach an actual class, they should begin slowly with new techniques. This enables instructors to see what works for them—and for students. Do not be afraid to ask students about their preferences and expectations along the way. Remember it can take a few classes to fine tune the content and materials.
2. Consider class size and duration
Given the number of students and time in a course, instructors must be realistic about what can be accomplished. Large and fast-track classes don’t give instructors the time to provide individualized teaching to students, and makes Q&A next to impossible. Consequently, adjust expectations accordingly and consider how to foster engagement and communication within an online classroom. For example, utilizing Breakout Groups can be an effective way to increase engagement. Having this planned out in advance will reduce stress levels during the class.
3. Use icebreakers so students know who else is in the online classroom
Icebreakers are an effective way of kicking off an online classroom. A fun and interactive activity, they help students get to know each other by introducing their background to classmates. It also helps instructors to understand who their audience is—whether they’re executives, managers or technical staff. This, in turn, helps to reduce instructor anxiety by giving the instructor an idea of who they are teaching—thus tailoring their training delivery accordingly. Additionally, icebreakers help students buy into the idea of working together. Here are samples of popular icebreakers.
4. Rely on an assistant instructor
Many instructors include an assistant instructor or producer during their VILT courses. Assistant instructors enable the primary instructor to focus on delivering the course content, while the assistant instructor can focus on troubleshooting any technical issues that students encounter or assisting students with questions related to their virtual training lab.
5. Get comfortable with the VILT software
Because teaching in the virtual classroom requires specific skills, it is imperative for instructors to know how to use the VILT software and have a deep understanding of the virtual training environment. When instructors feel comfortable with the VILT software, they are more likely to change activities and switch the class between lectures, virtual training labs, demonstrations, breakout groups and Q&A.
6. Allow students to learn through participation
Students learn through participation. Participation enhances learning by increasing engagement; helping students retain information; confirming what they have learned; providing clarification of prior learning; and deepening an understanding via hands-on and application-based learning opportunities. In addition, these activities take some of the teaching burden off instructors, which reduces teaching anxiety.
For example, the “Case Studies” method gives students a case study to solve in real-time. Case studies are scenarios that apply concepts learned in class to real-life situations. Typically, they involve problem solving, links to course readings/source materials and class discussions—and in the case of virtual training software, the case studies exercise can be capped-off with a hands-on, virtual training lab. Guiding questions lead students through the activity. The questions should analyze the process that students take in solving the case study, as well as the solution. Sample questions include:
- What is the situation? What questions do you have?
- What problem(s) need to be solved?
- What are some solution strategies?
- Evaluate pros/cons and underlying assumptions of these strategies.
- What criteria will you use to evaluate your solution?
After discussing each question with the class, instructors can give students a hands-on, virtual training lab. This allows students to apply the answers to questions 1 to 5 in a real-life environment.
In addition to the case study method, virtual training labs are also highly effective in providing hands-on participation. Because learning by doing has been proven to create a much higher knowledge retention than just listening and watching, ReadyTech’s virtual training labs help students achieve performance fluency. By incorporating virtual training labs into a VILT course, instructors can help students become high performers by replicating realistic situations that teach students the skills they need when they are finally working on the actual software back at their desks.
While stress and anxiety are common for some instructors, there are concrete ways to manage these issues. By incorporating the ideas in this blog to an instructor’s preparation regiment, instructors can improve their teaching methods, while keeping stress and anxiety at bay. After all, isn’t a positive teaching experience the end goal for all instructors?