Designing Activities: Problems and Options

The following material is reprinted with some adaptations with permission of The Training Institute of the United States Training Office. The original material (available on the web) is linked at the end of this section.

To help course developers and instructors think differently—that is, to answer the question “What will work?”—this section provides examples of five activities as they would be presented in a resident classroom and potential problems and potential options for modifying each activity for video teletraining.

Some options are more desirable than others, given cost of materials and logistics. However, all options allow for each participant to have the same opportunity to participate in an activity, regardless of the location. No one site should have an advantage over another. Each site must be able to critique, evaluate, comment, and share responses. Unless an observer role is part of an activity, such as a role play or a group process exercise that has a designated observer, it is unacceptable for a remote site to be placed in the role of observer only.

Dart Game: To demonstrate differences in coaching and feedback, participants in a resident classroom are asked to participate in a dart game. The game is facilitated by the instructor, and participants are called upon to coach and give feedback to the dart thrower. The problem for the video classroom is how participants at remote sites can actively observe, coach, or provide feedback on the dart game when they are not in the same room. Capturing the person throwing the dart and the target on camera, given the target’s distance from the person, can also pose a problem.

Option 1: Focus the main camera on the person throwing the dart and the graphics camera on the target. After the dart hits the target, the image of the target (which does not need to be real time) can be sent in still mode to all sites. Thus, participants at any site can provide feedback on the dart’s proximity to the target.

Option 2: Provide a dart game for each site, and ask each site to conduct the activity, facilitating the activity from the instructor site. Logistically, this is more difficult than other options, but it can be done.

Option 3: Select another game that requires less distance, such as shooting marbles, so that the game can fit in the view of a single camera. Or select a different skill, such as drawing a picture. The drawing can be viewed in live mode under the graphics camera. The activity may change, but the learning objective remains the same.

Brainstorming: To come up with possible solutions to a problem, participants in the resident classroom are asked to brainstorm solutions individually and then in small groups. Solutions are to be written on flip chart paper, posted, and discussed with the entire class. The problem for video teletraining is that flip chart paper cannot be seen easily by remote sites, especially when posted. To think of options for redesign, consider the reasons flip chart paper is used in a resident classroom: to write large enough for all participants to see and to post for reference later.

Option 1: *Provide pads of light blue or yellow paper to the groups to write on (as this distributes light differently and will be easily viewed on a screen).* “Send” the groups’ brainstormed lists of solutions to other sites using the graphics camera. Since the lists are enlarged on the receiving monitor, the monitor acts as a flip chart; the lists also can be re-sent any time during class for further reference. The 8½- x 11-inch size also allows for copying and distribution to participants, eliminating the need for someone to retype the handwritten flip charts.

Option 2: For a point-to-point class, responses can be entered into the room’s computer and shared with the other room via the document conferencing system. All participants can receive a printed copy.

Icebreaker: Koosh Ball: To break the ice, participants in the resident classroom are grouped in teams and asked to toss a koosh ball around to members of their team, calling out the name of the person who is to catch the ball, until all team members have caught the ball. The activity is repeated, with each team trying to beat the fastest time. The problem for the video classroom is knowing when to stop the timer, since the instructor may not be able to see all teams. In a multipoint class, the noise generated from multiple sites could also cause rapid voice-activated switching.

Option 1: Select a participant or the remote site coordinator to be the “timekeeper” at each remote site. The timekeeper times the fastest team. Results are compared among sites, and all try to beat the lowest time. In a multipoint class, mute the microphones while the activity is conducted and reactivate to compare times.

Option 2: Ask that the person who receives the ball last on each team to call out that the team is finished (for example, “Team 2 is finished” or “Atlanta is finished”), and stop the time on the basis of the vocal signal. In a multipoint class, the first team to reactivate the muted microphones calls time.

Option 3: Design a different activity that allows teams to work together.

Observing Presentation Skills: To observe and provide feedback on a participant’s presentation skills, the presentation is videotaped and the instructor reviews the videotape with the participant in the resident classroom. Problems for the video classroom are being able to hear clearly—to check speech and diction—and observe facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal cues.

Option 1: Provide instruction and a demonstration during the class session. (The instructor and the design team determine the best camera angles and presenter placement so that all the presentation’s elements can be observed.) *Record each participant’s presentation either on the network or at the participant site using nonvideoconference equipment (*such as Youtube and a webcam). Meet later with the participant (by videoconference) to review the tape. The stream can be played on the videoconference system, or a copy can be emailed to the instructor.

Option 2: Provide instruction and a demonstration during the class session. *Rcord each participant outside the class (not using class time, unless the class needs to see each presentation as part of the learning experience). Review the streaming video with the participant in a videoconference. The tape can be transmitted, or separate copies can be viewed in Youtube with participants using the Youtube comment features to engage in feedback. Alternatively, you can embed a Youtube video into a Blackboard discussion board and complete this dialogue in Blackboard.

Option 3: Have a trained facilitator (possibly a former course participant or a known expert presenter) at each remote site to observe and critique. Each site conducts its presentations concurrently, critiqued by facilitator at the site. Meet again with participants and facilitators to compare results and debrief.

Brainteasers: To help participants think creatively, 10 brainteasers are posted on a wall and participants try to solve each one. The problem is obvious—participants at remote sites must be able to see the brainteasers.

Option 1: *The brainteasers in the participant guides that are emailed or uploaded to Blackboard forto remote sites, and allow a set time for completion.

Option 2: Prepare a graphic with each brainteaser written on it, and use the graphics camera to send the brainteasers to the remote sites, displaying them one at a time.

Option 3: Send copies of the brainteasers to each site, and ask the remote site coordinator to post them on the wall.

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