Online workshops rooted in evidence-based learning techniques.
A great workshop is less about the tools you use but more about why and how you use them.
I’ve run many interactive workshop sessions using Zoom in the past year: individual coaching calls, digital maths lessons for my students, and larger scale workshops on reflecting and goal setting.
If your target audience differs, don’t worry. When it comes to learning, human brains work in similar ways. Here’s how you create digital workshops on Zoom, rooted in evidence-based learning techniques.
Make Your Workshop as Direct as Possible
Learning in formal settings is often ineffective because it’s distant from the actual application.
Imagine you’re a frequent flier. Before every start, you watch the video of a flight attendant putting on the life vest. You watch the video again and again.
But as this study shows, actually putting on the inflatable life vest a single time would be more valuable than repeatedly watching another person doing it. You acquire true mastery by performing the procedure yourself.
Using the power of directness, ultralearner Scott Young mastered four languages within one year. He traveled to the respective country and forced himself to only speak in the foreign language.
Learning works best when you apply it. Hence, aim to include exercises as close to your desired outcome as possible.
What’s your workshop’s learning goal? Once you know what you want your learners to achieve, design exercises directly linked to that goal. Offer a bias towards action.
If you aren’t clear on your learning objective, none of this article will matter. Without learning goals, you’re choosing your gear without knowing whether you’re going on a surf trip or snowboarding.
How to do it:
Write down the learning goal. Then come up with activities that lead to the desired outcome.
If you’re a writing coach and want your participants to reach a broader audience, share headline writing insights. Then, make your learners come up with their own headlines.
If you’re a life coach and want your learners to unleash the power of visualization, make them write and record their own prompts to listen to them after the workshop.
The opportunities are manifold — once you know your what you’ll easily find your how. Focus on your true end-goal and pick a practice that’s as close to it as possible.
Include Testing as A Learning Tool
Many people shrug when they hear about testing as a learning tool. Their memories of tests as a measurement tool have taken their toll. But if done correctly, testing can improve the way we learn.
A study by learning researcher Roediger showed that testing has positive effects on long-term retention. In ‘Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning’ he writes:
“Testing helps calibrate our judgments of what we’ve learned. In virtually all areas of learning, you build better mastery when you use testing as a tool to identify and bring up your areas of weakness.”
Self-testing helps your learners overcome the illusion of knowledge. It shows whether they really understand the subject at hand. Plus, testing helps in identifying knowledge gaps and bringing weak areas to the light.
How to do it:
Instead of repeating your input a third time, use the time for a quick quiz. Kahoot or Zoom Polls will show whether your participants understand the new concepts.
If you’re hosting a series of workshops, you can also open each session with a quiz on the previous lesson. Even if they don’t get the right answer, the process facilitates remembering the correct answer.
During my math lessons, students loved to do low-stakes testing. They revised the material before our session as they wanted to win against their classmates.
I loved it, too. I gained insights into my student’s comprehension. Plus, this type of testing gave entry to meaningful questions.
Unlock the Power of Reflection
Brains don’t work like recording devices. We don’t absorb information and knowledge by consuming content. We store new concepts in terms of their meaning to our existing memory.
If you want your participants to remember what they learn, include them in the learning process. Let them interpret, connect, interrelate, or elaborate on new material.
To remember new concepts, your workshop participants not only need to know it but also to know how it relates to what they already know.
Reflection is an effective exercise to help learners connect new information to existing memories. Again, Roediger:
“Reflection can involve several cognitive activities that lead to stronger learning: retrieving knowledge and earlier training from memory, connecting these new experiences and visualizing and mentally rehearsing what you might do differently next time.”
How to do it:
Include reflective exercises after every learning unit. Chats are a great way to create a collaborative reflection experience. You can, for example, ask your learners to answer reflection questions like:
- What surprised you the most, and why?
- How does your new knowledge change the way you look at life?
- What’s one thing you will implement today?
- What might you need to learn for better mastery, or what strategies might you use the next time to get better results?
Be Aware of Zoom Fatigue
Did you ever wonder why you’re so tired after an online workshop?
In the book ‘Engaging Learners through Zoom,’ the author shares a study by Sacasas, director of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Technology:
“One of the reasons Zoom can be so exhausting is the additional focus needed during video communication to remain attentive to facial expressions, body langauge, and the subtleties of verbal language.”
That’s why learners need more focus on a video call than they need in an offline learning setting. It’s hard to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, or the voice pitch, via a screen.
Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy.
How to do it:
Ask participants to use speaker view. Explain that they’ll feel less tired once they’ve minimized their own window and the other participant’s faces. That way, your participants only have to see one individual, which simplifies non-verbal cue processing.
Attention and time are the most valuable resources of our time. Don’t waste your learner’s time. Don’t ever give an hour-long lecture using PowerPoint slides. Lengthy lectures without learner engagement are extremely boring and don’t lead to meaningful learning outcomes. Instead:
- Link your exercises as close as possible to your desired learning outcome.
- Use testing as a learning tool.
- Include reflection exercises to help learners remember what they learn.
- Help your learners overcome Zoom fatigue.