Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When to Use "Face Time" and When to Use Webinars and Virtual Meetings - Tip #171

Online learning affords learners more independence in learning content at their own pace. However, the need for expert guidance is still a critical factor in the learning process. An expert can read a learner’s performance and provide immediate feedback. A trainer’s expertise helps them see patterns that determine what the learner needs--things a computer just can’t do. Thus, "face time" with learners is more important in online learning than ever. But, it can also be easy to overdo.

"Face Time": Scarce Resource or Default?

"Face time" energizes online learning but only if used effectively. There’s such a thing as “hangout creep”--we know it better as “cognitive overload,” a failure of attention. There can be so many things going on during video face-to-face time that learners can get easily distracted. That’s why it’s essential to treat "face time" as something scarce and precious, and “balance it with something equally important: quiet heads-down time.”

Using “Face Time” Effectively

Preparation is key in making the most of your "face time" with learners. This means spending time to think about the training’s goals and what you want you and your learners to take away from your time together. So, ask yourself: What is the best use of face-to-face time in my online course?

A useful tactic is to provide resources ahead of time. This eliminates silent reading or the time used to go over a doc “together” over video. Learners can review the resources beforehand and you can use “face time” for something more valuable, like Q&A, experimentation, etc. This may sound familiar if you’ve come across the concept of “Flipped Classroom.”

What Zone are Your Learners In?

Source: Sam Kaner’s Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making

Group dynamics still apply when conducting “face time” with learners. So, it’s important to "read the room" and know what zone you’re in. The image above illustrates Sam Kaner’s five zones, also known as the Diamond of Participation.

Divergence Zone
This is the idea generation phase, characterized by learners being open to and sharing ideas. It’s where learners express multiple perspectives and divergent opinions.

Tip: Create a comfortable environment. Try using icebreaker questions or encourage learners to come early to play or familiarize with the webinar tools like chat or annotation tools.

Groan Zone
In the Divergence Zone, individuals shared their ideas. In the Groan Zone, learners struggle to integrate what they learn. Success here means the group generates new ideas as a whole.

Tip: Ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions or start curiosity conversations. Package them in fun mini-activities.

Convergence Zone
Whereas there was a lot of uncertainty and struggle in the Groan Zone, the Convergence Zone is where clarity builds, and meaning and decision making are made.

Tip: Use the whiteboard (or other tool) and allow learners to brainstorm. Encourage and guide them to arrive at their own conclusions or resolutions.


Francesca Burns. The Importance of “Face Time” in Teaching is Crucial. The New York Times The Opinion Pages Room for Debate, udpated June 27, 2014
Brie Anne Demkiw. Hangout Life. Automattic Design, February 13, 2018
Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps. Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology. John Wiley & Sons, 2008
Tip #100 - Spur Learning Through “Curiosity Conversations”
Tip #102 - Cognitive Tunnelling: How to Achieve Focus Through Stories
Tip #143 - How to Use questions to Immerse Larners in Your Lesson
Tip #150 - Using Intuitive and Deliberate Learning in Story Lessons
Sam Kaner. Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, 3rd Edition. Jossey-Bass, 2014
Tip #156 - Five Sure Ways to Prepare for High-Impact Webinars
Tip #159 - 21 Things To Do Before a Webinar
Tip #162 - How to Create Context-Setting Learning Objectives

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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