Roadmap to a Virtual Program provides framework when planning virtual education
Asking questions during the planning process and being intentional in the outcome can lead to virtual program success.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to increases in virtual programming for many organizations focused on education. While virtual programming can provide challenges due to increased screen time and the accessibility or understanding of technology by participants, virtual programming can provide some benefits including expanded audiences and increased access to content. It can allow for interaction between participants who might never have met or interacted before and for easier access to video, audio and even text files than in some in-person settings. For virtual programming content to be a success, however, it needs to be thoughtfully planned.
The Roadmap to a Virtual Program provides a framework and guiding questions to use when developing a virtual program. The key to a successful program is to start with intentional planning. The planning process for a virtual program should be similar to the planning process for a face-to-face program that involved hands-on learning and engagement with the content. Challenges arise when time is not taken to work through the planning process for virtual programs because facilitators think it is “just talking online.” In fact, approaching the virtual program as though it were face-to-face helps generate a thoughtful, engaging and interactive program for youth or adults.
When planning a program, the outcomes or objectives for the program should be determined first. What do you want participants to learn or take away from attending this program? Who is your target audience? Are you gearing the program towards older youth? Senior citizens? Families with small children? The answers to these questions will shape how many participants you want to attend, when the program is offered, what platform you use and how long the program should be. Consider their comfort level online, their attention span, the times or places they might most want to learn virtually, and what methods will create the best learning environment for participants.
Having extended learning and interactive features is helpful to the learning environment in the virtual setting, too. In person, you may have included hands-on activities, small group discussion, question and answer, and icebreakers. Consider ways to incorporate those same types of activities in your virtual setting using tools within your technology platform, creative changes in teaching approach to include video, audio or diverse speakers, and time for group or small group conversation. Utilize chat or open microphone opportunities with colleagues or trained volunteers helping to monitor and engage participants. These techniques help participants stay focused during the virtual presentation and enhances the learning experience.
Similar to your face-to-face program, practice your content in advance with all facilitators and arrive early to set up and make sure technology is working. Consider your clothing, video background and sound quality to demonstrate your most professional self. If programming with youth, make sure to ensure that youth safety and youth voice are considered in your program.
The Roadmap to a Virtual Program outlines many important questions to ask yourself in your planning process for before, during and after the program so your virtual program can be a success.
Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact 4-HCareerPrep@msu.edu.