Confined virtual classes: balancing feelings of helplessness and fatigue, how to endure over time?

During the lockdown, the General Directorate of Higher Education and Professional Integration focused on a pedagogical continuity plan. We can also observe an enthusiastic surge from trainers and educators. Databases containing various tools or tips for virtual classes were shared extensively. This surge is directed towards Digital Learning, attempting to fill the void of physical presence: the "Panic Learning" was born.

Indeed, rethinking one's pedagogy to adapt it to the digital realm within a few days, alone in one's corner, can be very exhausting. It's even discouraging for some and a mission impossible for others. If you don't do it, you feel guilty compared to your LinkedIn colleagues who have already embarked on something. You read and reread the (very factual) resources provided by the government. Panic sets in. You need to produce.

Before embarking on anything, do it intelligently and, most importantly, calmly.

Creating digital content in haste has only revealed the pedagogical gaps of some. Indeed, some trainers have been very "top-down" in their approach. They are now caught in a cycle of massive pedagogical production without rhyme or reason. And this won't add any value for the learners; there will be nothing left.

Furthermore, in the collective consciousness, we think that Digital Learning allows us to "take it easy." Some believe that it involves giving students or learners some material to work on remotely: that's completely false. This material needs to be worked on together, with assistance and increased availability to respond to each individual.

Many, in recent times, came to the realization on a Friday night, stating that the 2.0 pedagogy was tiring (including creating resources and virtual classes). Creating virtual classes is not easy; you need a couple of tricks to make it simpler. Not only do you need to rethink your pedagogical scenarios and adapt them for distance learning, but it also requires a significant cognitive load to engage and stay attentive to your audience.

Tip #1: Don't endure, but positively embrace the 2.0 pedagogy

What reduces fatigue is partly the notion of enjoyment. Let's not fool ourselves, learning requires effort, but it's easier when it's fun. Don't limit yourself to the small rectangle you find yourself in on the screen.

Change your posture. Who said that just because we're behind a screen, we must absolutely remain seated on a chair statically? Don't hesitate to stand up, move, engage in activities beyond the visual field (like drawing, for example). Maybe even dance or play with your voice for the more audacious. Rely on what you enjoy doing and on your natural instincts. Challenge conventions. What goes beyond the framework stays in memory. (No pun intended.)


Tip #2: Ration the learners

The second tip is not to overload your virtual class session with too many items: the brain, if overloaded, won't keep up. Having shorter sessions with 2 to 3 items is more than sufficient. During the lockdown, everyone was already cognitively overloaded due to the circumstances. Comprehensive courses weren't the right strategy. Some students were disheartened by distance learning during this crisis. But there's still time to show them that distance learning can bring a lot to them!

Tip #3: Cultivate a spirit of collaboration

Leave the virtual room at the disposal of your learners, don't disconnect it once the session is over. This will give them the opportunity to exchange among themselves. Many unclear or foggy concepts might become clearer this way. Tutoring will naturally emerge. They will help each other after the virtual classes, like a support group in a library sharing tips. This will help you deal with the dual fatigue of rethinking your classes for distance learning and being available to your audience.

There are many solutions to access these virtual rooms; it's up to you to choose.

Tip #4: Explore new ground

Don't try to make the virtual class as faithful as possible to the in-person one at all costs. There are "comforting" activities that you won't find in the distance learning setting (like group work, subgroup work). Our routine is already "broken," so why not finish the job?

Let's be clear, the top-down pedagogy in the virtual class is what we turn to for comfort. Commenting on a PowerPoint for an hour doesn't show encouraging results. Also, consider giving your learners a bit more freedom during this period. They could, for example, help you co-create this virtual class, as if it were a ping-pong ball.

If virtual is not your cup of tea, think that it probably is theirs.

Don't hesitate to launch small weekly challenges for your group, take advantage of Friday afternoons to discuss the results and "choose a winner."

Tip #5: Communicate

Regularly assess their expectations and create a sharing moment during which you'll have the opportunity to gather feedback on the courses you provide. In 2.0 pedagogy, you'll learn just as much as they do. Furthermore, these interaction moments reduce fatigue.

Tip #6: Gather resources from the web

Don't hesitate to get ideas from other trainers on the web! Numerous websites exist and can offer you interesting pedagogical scenarios. There's something for everyone. Also, draw inspiration from existing educational videos. We have written an article about French MOOCs with technical advice. Maybe this will help you see things more clearly: 7 TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL CLASS! — Live Session

A small sports metaphor:

Finally, the virtual class and the creation of digital content are like a good old sports training. The more you train, the more you progress, and the more you manage to endure the effort.

As you've understood from this article, feeling helpless and tired is quite normal when we're asked to adapt to a new way of teaching in just a few days/weeks (especially since this is a profession in itself).

Producing less is not a problem; focus on quality. The real challenge here is to build something that will endure, that will be useful for both you and your learners. This way, you can keep some of your virtual practices in-person, practices you might not even have thought of if this situation hadn't occurred.

*Article inspired by the exchange in Episode 05: How to Endure Over Time? – ILDI International Learning & Development Institute

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