Virtual classroom for group learning and knowledge management

The virtual classroom (v-room) is still regarded mainly as a tool for conducting lectures, seminars and educational video conferences. Its use is accompanied by a number of myths, one of which says: "Virtual class participants are mostly passive. The maximum that such a class is capable of is to allow remote listeners to ask a question to the host and get an improvised answer." Of course, within the framework of the DO, the virtual classroom is indispensable as a tool for conducting traditional and conversational lectures, classical training seminars, the value of which, however, it is pointless to gloss over.

The absolute advantage of traditional monologue lectures and seminars in the v-room is the possibility of conducting them to an almost unlimited quantitative and geographical audience. The audience of a virtual lecture can be hundreds or even thousands of people at the same time.

Are virtual classes suitable for conducting active training that is relevant today, moreover, full-fledged trainings, group and mutual learning? And even for knowledge management?

Today, we have already accumulated some experience in conducting classes in a virtual classroom, which allows us to answer this question in the affirmative. In the v-room, it is possible to conduct group interviews and round tables, brainstorming sessions and collective case studies, to teach decision-making, to conduct discussions and workshops of the future, to teach using the project method, etc. In these conditions, the host is assigned the role of a coach. The use of training and facilitation technologies, adapted or specially created for training in a virtual classroom, allows you to maximize the use of its educational potential.

Work "in the format of" on-line meetings

By meeting, we will understand communication events, primarily in the form of oral communication, between several participants united by one goal. The presence of such a goal, the discussion of a common communication problem, a single topic of conversation allows us to talk about group interaction. The external proximity of such interaction to an ordinary meeting or meeting implicitly ensures the acquisition of business communication skills by the trainees.

In general terms, a typical group work of trainees or experts in a virtual classroom has several formative goals. These goals can be hierarchically organized: achieving a higher-level goal implies completing the tasks of the previous levels. Thus, depending on the route of achieving such goals, we can receive different forms of educational group interaction.

Forms of group interaction in a virtual classroom:

1. Purpose: Fact-finding;
Interaction content: Collecting facts, describing them;
Form of interaction: Group interview;

2. Objective: To identify assessments and opinions about facts;
Interaction content: Expressing subjective opinions about the collected facts, their assessment (diagnosis);
Form of interaction: Interview-discussion;

3. Goal: Producing ideas (finding solutions);
Interaction content: Collective search for multiple solutions to a specific problem;
Form of interaction: Brainstorming;

4. Purpose: Decision-making;
The content of the interaction: Making a certain decision that satisfies all participants;
Form of interaction: Decision-making.

The highest (№4) form includes all the previous ones, brainstorming (№3) also requires preliminary identification of the subject of discussion of the facts (№1) and their assessment (№2). Thus, the basic forms of group classes in the v-room are hierarchically organized. To achieve proper group dynamics and assimilation of the content of the training material, provide feedback to the coach and monitor the progress of communication, from 4 to 12 people should participate in such sessions, the optimal number of 4-8 participants, including the host and his assistant.

The empirically established duration of the training session in the virtual classroom is from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Of course, the more complex the type of interaction, the more time it will take. Because of this, a small number of questions should be discussed in one virtual session, and it is best to limit yourself to one, which fits perfectly into the practice of training. In addition, several virtual sessions can be held consecutively on the same training topic, for example, the first of them will be devoted to a group interview and the assessment of facts or opinions discussed (interview-discussion). The second session can be devoted to the production of ideas (brainstorming), and the third to decision-making.

When is an event appropriate?

A group virtual interview within the framework of corporate training or knowledge management should be conducted at the very beginning of the training in order to find out the individual motives of the participants, their practical expectations from the consideration of a particular material, identify difficulties, the basic level of training, and form individual goals for interaction. Relatively short-term interviews will also be effective for getting feedback from employees about the information provided to them in person or remotely.

Brainstorming will be effective when solving a real production problem or its virtual simulation within the framework of corporate training. Here it is important to ensure that as many ideas as possible are expressed and collected about a single conditional or real problem. In the process of such an exchange, conditions are laid for mutual learning: each of the participants can compare their position with someone else's, enrich themselves with knowledge of alternative solutions, clarify or change their point of view.

Group decision - making on the v-room platform should be based on the group assessment of the discussed facts obtained during the interview-discussion. Otherwise, it is unlikely to be possible to discard some decisions and combine others to reach a consensus. As a result, the results of the communication will "hang in the air" and it is unlikely that a program of future practical actions will be developed.

The experience of conducting virtual sessions in all the forms mentioned above shows that the v-room is a tool that allows for effective group interaction in both corporate and open learning formats, as well as in universities. This is evidenced by the feedback of their participants, including several dozen distance learning specialists from five CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Pakistan, France, Estonia and South Korea.

In the near future, we intend to continue testing the capabilities of v-room for conducting role-playing games, solving cases, implementing training elements based on the project method, as well as jointly creating and editing multimedia content.