Virtual Learning Hands-on Approach for Adult Learners

August 16, 2023

Although the virtual learning platform has been around for some time in our educational system, it is still unchartered territory for many.  Teachers and educators alike found themselves devising lessons and assignments that warranted an incorporation of a more creative method of delivery.  How do you produce classes that are engaging, student applied, and active on a virtual agenda?  These three components must be fashioned into your virtual lessons if you want to keep your students motivated and increase learning potential.  Remember, the students are also navigating this new frontier and “boldly going where no man has gone before” scenario.  

Designing an innovative lesson and executing it are two entirely different modes of dispensing.  You can write a curriculum that features bells and whistles that are excellent on paper.  However, the implementation of the detailed information, to make it stimulating for the senses of your student population, can be a challenging task.  You have to learn strategies and techniques that will combat such conditions with an approach that does not neglect the varying learning styles of your students.  

The lesson should be focused around a “student-centered” representation to virtual learning by way of active involvement on the premise of both student AND instructor.  Are you, the instructor, consciously joining in the learning process?  Meaning, are you explicitly connecting with your students in the excitement of learning?  I use the term, “explicitly” because the landscape is virtual, hence, visual.  When you are in a physical classroom, there are a myriad of appendences that one can rely on to enhance the learning process.  In a virtual environment, the teacher is at the mercy of exploring avenues that are designed to engage all the senses.  We have to become more inventive, colorful and aware…at all times.  That classroom then becomes a portal of imagination and ingenuity.

First, adult learners are a population that have certain characteristics that must be realized by the instructor.  For instance, adult learners prefer a sense of direction, they're goal- oriented, they rather learn by doing instead of class lectures, they are results-oriented, and most enjoy the comradery of a learning community where they can have open discussions and ask questions.  Based on these characteristics, the lessons should be meaningful and relevant in nature and the information should be given in a variety of ways.  Additionally, I have found that adult learners bring a wealth of knowledge to the table - with that in mind, the activities should lend opportunities to associate new material with prior knowledge or past experiences.  I love having round-table or open discussions. Most importantly, your lessons must be relevant. It must connect with the real-world and what is happening all around us. Why? In short, I have found that for students to become engulfed in a classroom, the lesson has to have some significance to their lives and what they can relate to.

Here are some examples of lessons I've implemented, based on the title of this blog and information shared:

I teach adult ESOL classes. My instruction is content based, meaning that I teach English through content.  For example, we started our class during Daylight Saving Time.  Our lesson was centered on that.  The students were learning English as they became knowledgeable about the history of DST.  We did vocabulary, reading, writing and listening.  I had them write the vocabulary words into their notebook and we did a review sheet. For our listening, I had them listen and watch a video by Cyndi Lauper - "Time After Time."  I'd pause the video throughout and the students had to fill-in the words that they heard.  We also talked about Cyndi Lauper and her musical biography - the students had to take turns reading aloud.  This is called "Content-Based" learning.   The use of digital tools were incorporated throughout the lesson for constant visual effects. Digital tools are programs, websites or any other online resources that can make lessons more comprehensible. Many can be accessed in web browsers without needing to be downloaded. For example, a short music video or a movie clip adds dimension to what you are teaching. It is, however, important that these choices are aligned with the objective. I frequent Power Point slides in all my lessons with pictures and bold letters. I make it vibrant and I use emojis for fun.

For community, I broke my students up into groups.  We were upon the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I showed them my recipe for cranberry sauce.  They watched a video on how to make cornbread.  For a hands-on assignment, each group had to come up with a "recipe" and introduce it to the class.  I gave them a specific outline that had to be followed and the recipe was to be short in length.  The outline was as follows...(1) Name of recipe (2) Ingredients and (3) Step-by-step instructions.  That lesson was meaningful and relevant for the holiday season we were in at the time and they utilized effective speaking skills.  

In my ESOL class, I always begin with vocabulary.  Introducing new words increases the student's word power and language competency.  An activity that required hands-on motivation was centered on the Christmas Holiday.  Consequently, everyone in this class celebrated Christmas.  Of course, we discussed the origin of Christmas and typical vocabulary words associated with it.  One of the vocabulary words was "ornament."  I instructed the students to make a Christmas ornament.  Not just any ornament, but a specific ornament that I gave them to make. I made one first. This lesson was called, "Following Directions."  It was VERY easy and they could use plain paper, crayons and scissors.  It is essential to try and use material that is readily available around the house or one can get from a local drug or dollar store. The project was an eight petal flower.  I chose this exercise because I knew that some students were home with their children because of COVID and this activity would lend itself to the parents possibly making the Christmas Flower with them.  It was beautiful and the students enjoyed the project immensely.

To sum things up, virtual lesson planning (for any age group) makes your classroom a cyber-stage and you, the teacher, an implicit performer. The students are now taking on the additional role of active audience. This "audience" is not there just to listen and be entertained, but they must be a participating component. Your lesson designing should make every effort to integrate an interactive setting where both teacher and student are actively immersed. For more "Solutions" on how to make this happen, you can send me an email and I can assist you with creating ideas that captivate and are inventive in presentation.