I’m delivering a couple of presentations over the web today to quite large audiences. I always find these things a bit strange: it’s not that i’m nervous about what to say, but rather that it’s a bit strange getting no feedback. Presenting in a room is easy, you can see the audience, move your eyes around the room and see people nodding, smiling, drinking coffee or texting at the back. At least you have a vague feel for how it’s going. Online you have nothing, indeed, i often wonder if the line has gone dead and i’m just talking to myself… it wouldn’t be the first time i’ve delivered a ten minute monologue to a disconnected phone!
Interaction is important in communication and, for me, the lack of being able to see the audience is the hardest part of the whole thing. Online learning can present different challenges to different people: using forums is a good example. For some, communicating in text is easy, easier than conversation, for others it’s daunting. Some people spend hours composing and editing essays, others snap off responses on the move, typing on their phones. Different people thrive in different environments.
Well designed learning experiences will offer multiple channels for people to communicate through and support learners accordingly, although we will never catch everyone, which leads me to a really important aspect of e-learning.
We need to reach out to the silent people: the people who don’t engage. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of people actually speaking, typing, engaging that we fail to touch the others. Are they having problems with technology, with the subject, do they feel included or excluded, why aren’t they engaging and what can we do about it?
If we don’t ask the question, we’ll all just be speaking out into the void.