If you’re like me, when you’re designing a course you’re probably pretty focussed on mapping out the content. What education do I need to provide? What are the learning objectives and planned learning outcomes? What do people need to do and practice to achieve them? What elements of audience engagement can I use?

But do you ever think beyond the content development? 

In our webinar: How to Rapidly Transition Your Classroom Education to Online Learning, we tackle how to give your students what they need and what they want by looking at four areas – Education, Activities, Connection, and Communication.

Your Learner


Of course, your learners are looking for education. This is why they are enrolled in your class or program. And we know that people learn by doing. So whether you are creating classroom education or online education, learners want activities that allow them to put the information and their skills into play. We also know that activities are a cornerstone for audience engagement.

Your learners also need good communication from you more than ever before during these turbulent times. And if you are rapidly transitioning to an online learning environment, then great communication is going to be a key ingredient to successfully rolling out your online learning.

But something that you may not realize is that your learners are also looking for a sense of connection. Connection with other people and connections to how the information that they are learning applies in their world.


Providing Your Students with Connection in a Virtual Learning Environment

People crave connection, and it is a key element that helps people learn. 

There are two components to Connection: (1) Community, and (2) Collaboration.

connection community collaboration

Your educational programs should provide opportunities for connection through community building and collaboration, for both your students and your colleagues. This combination can provide a rich opportunity for social learning.

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling from others.”

Albert Bandura, Psychologist, and Researcher of Education.


Creating Connection In Class

If you are teaching synchronous virtual classes (live classes using a video conferencing tool), you can provide your students with connection during class time by:

  • Encouraging people to turn on their camera
  • Creating opportunities for group discussions
  • Getting people to unmute and talk one at a time
  • Encouraging students to use the chat functionality to communicate with you and the other students
  • Using virtual whiteboards and breakout rooms

Wait, what??? Be on camera? Are you kidding? Ok, I know, I know. It might take some work and convincing to get your students to be on camera. People love to hide in a live virtual classroom, but having people on camera can significantly enhance the virtual classroom experience.

It helps you as the instructor to see how people are reacting to the education, your stories, and your hilarious jokes. It also builds a sense of connection with the students helping them to build trusting relationships with each other.

learners on camera

Breakout rooms are a great feature of virtual classroom technology. Remember all of those group exercises that you used to do in your in-person classes? You can still do a lot of them using breakout rooms! Breakout Rooms allow you to split your video meeting into multiple separate sessions. The meeting host (that’s you, the instructor) can choose how to split the participants into these separate sessions. The instructor can also bounce around to the different groups and check in with students.

Typically, breakout room participants have full audio, video and screen share capabilities allowing them to effectively collaborate with their teammates. When you decide that time is up for the group activity, you simply end the breakout rooms and everyone is returned to the main session.

Creating Connection Outside of Class

Outside of class, you should also provide a way for people to connect and collaborate. Sometimes this is where the best connecting happens because people might feel more comfortable sharing in this environment. 

You can set up opportunities for connection through discussion groups such as a private Facebook Group or using Slack.

Have a channel for student discussion and also have a channel for your colleagues to discuss what’s working, challenges, and solutions. All those challenges and frustrations that you have been having? Well, your colleagues are probably having the same problems and they may have found a solution! I highly recommend that you have a mechanism in your organization for everyone to share and get help from their peers.

Not sure what to try? Do a poll and ask your students and colleagues what method they would prefer. Just pick something and give it a try!

A key to a successful discussion group is maintaining a positive, supportive, and problem-solving environment. Members of our Learn to Flourish Academy have access to our private Facebook group where they can share what they are working on, and ask questions and get support, not just from the experts but also from an incredible peer network. It works because people feel safe and valued.

When creating a discussion forum, make sure that the rules of engagement are clear so that the group remains useful for all members. It’s important that you set the culture and the tone for the group.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Dr. Brene Brown

The importance of connection in your learning program is just one of the topics that we covered in the webinar: How to Rapidly Transition Your Classroom Education to Online Learning. If you are an educator who needs to change your in-person classes to online education then you are invited to watch the full webinar here.

How do you incorporate connection into your learning programs? We would love to hear from you!

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