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Adapting to virtual conferencing [1]

"COVID's Impact on Education and Training — Survival Tips After decades of teaching, because of COVID-19, I am a student on online teaching tools. I had to learn three tools in two weeks. Without knowing them well, I started to use them to teach. Scary. An unprepared lecturer to conduct lessons online. How can I deliver a good lecture and ensure the students will learn well? My years of teaching experience in a classroom suddenly leave me blank. Since April 2020, I have been conducting lectures to students of RMIT University and University of London, working adults of Singapore Institute of Retail Studies, attendants to a Crisis Management Workshop, seniors and families to Silver Talks organised by the Singapore University of Social Sciences, People’s Association and Sport Singapore and members of Sunshine Seniors over an event “Dinner in the Air”. A total of over 50 hours online talk and chat in 6 weeks. What an experience! I have done online sharing and presentations during my corporate days. But not so frequently and varied in topics. Before I could do the online training starting in April, I need to learn 3 different online conference tools as different institutions use different softwares. It is by itself a challenge. After speaking to hundreds of people online in 6 weeks using different conference tools, I would like to share my experience and observations with people who need to be online. As the new normal will be delivering messages online. To be competent on online delivery, one needs to prepare oneself on three fronts, mentally, psychologically and technically. 1. Mentally - No Change. No Gain. Have you accepted the new normal of online delivery? Or are you still blaming the virus and complaining about the inconvenience of the switch? We can continue to accuse the world, the government and the virus while we reluctantly move online. With this mentality, the hurdle is so high that we might not be able to jump over it and take ourselves higher in the career growth. Only when we reframe ourselves to embrace the change and set our minds to learn and master this online skill would we be able to see the beauty of online and perform brilliantly on it. No change. No gain. 2. Psychologically - Losing Control to Creating Engagement Once we have mentally and cognitively adjusted, we need to manage our psyche and emotions. Conducting an online lecture conjures up different emotions different from a physical lecture. We talk alone for hours. I conducted 3-hour online lectures and I am going to deliver 7-hour full day lectures. We are talking to tens or even hundreds of people, but we are physically isolated and feel alone. Most of us are not DJ-trained. DJs talk for hours day in and day out. Before coming to Singapore, I worked for Radio Television Hong Kong. I know DJs. I know their work. In contrast, we are online immigrants. Some of us are the new kids on the block. Are our attendants listening? Are they learning? How to manage the emotions when nobody answers our questions? We are by ourselves. How to maintain a positive attitude with a high spirit to complete the lecture with flying colours? Do you know? Can you adapt? 3. Technically — Learn and Perform We can divide this discussion into hard and soft skills. For hard skills, it is straight forward. Learn the tool. I learnt 3 online conference tools in one week and used them in the following week to teach. It was tough. I reframe myself to create a narrative that these tools will help me shine and do a great job online which will be the new normal. Once I have mastered these tools, I can expand my training career in no time. Then I reinforce this perception with data which indicates that the market size of online education will reach US$315B by 2025 and for MOOC (Massive Online Open Course), over US$20.8B by 2023. A great potential. It is time to equip myself. Another set of hard skills is lighting and shooting environment. When we teach online, we are performing, not only teaching. It is essential for us to master the basics of 3-point lighting and basic camera shooting composition, design a basic set and ensure a quiet environment. This is to make us look good, sound good and perform well. We may want to purchase some lights, decorate a corner in the house and practise some sessions with friends to get feedback. The pointers are simple. Do not appear in the dark. Do not speak in the dark. Do not appear dull. For soft skills, how to engage attendants? How to incite participations? How to look after everybody on the call? In classroom management, we learn about using eye-contact and physical distance to engage students. How to replicate that online? How to use your voice? Do you know how to use your mic? When to stop for a break during the lecture? How many breaks? I normally let attendants in 5-10 minutes before the call depending on the class size. I play music while they are waiting. I put up a white board asking them to draw their emotions on how they feel today. I welcome and chat with them through the chat box. These are examples of my ice-breakers. When we start, I ask them whether they like my music. The answers are not important. This is simply a warm-up to the class. Then the lesson begins. We need to set ground rules and expectations. We need to prevent interruptions. We introduce a break in relation to the complexity of the content. If it is heavy, we allow more breaks. Otherwise we charge on. I use polls, Mentimeter and Kahoot to add fun and variety to engage the attendants. There are other education tools you can use."--Contributed by Ricky FM Law, as part of the "Documenting COVID-19 in Singapore" collection community call. This photograph shows a screenshot of a virtual dinner held during the circuit breaker period. During circuit breaker, in-person meetings were prohibited. On the screen are still shots of members of the "Sunshine seniors" who are meeting online over dinner. Description by Library staff.

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All rights reserved. Ricky FM Law, 2020

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