9 Ways you can manage a virtual classroom with remote learners

Being a strong leader is a central part of managing a virtual classroom. You need to guide discussions, resolve conflicts, and set boundaries for virtual class behavior for the training session to be successful.

Here are some techniques and strategies that will help you manage your online classroom like a seasoned professional. Follow these practices, and you’ll find that participants are better engaged and walk away with new skills they can use on the job right away.

9 Tips for managing your virtual classroom

1. Set a schedule for yourself and participants

Developing a structure is important for yourself and for the learners. Setting a schedule is a good way to make sure everyone completes their work on time. It also will help you have enough time to address questions, check assignments, and make updates.

Here are some tips for setting a helpful schedule:

  • Before the course begins, add time into your calendar for administrative duties. Every other day works well.
  • Set expectations upfront by telling learners when course assignments are due.
  • Send regular updates and reminders to keep participants on track.

2. Build anticipation for the course

Treat your training launch with some showmanship. Deliver some teasers ahead of schedule that let participants know something exciting is coming up. Here are some examples you can borrow:

  • Post notices on your internal messaging board well in advance.
  • Give a sneak peek by showing some highlights for the course or releasing the first introduction assignment early.
  • Ask your internal influencers for help by asking supervisors, leadership, or other respected individuals to send reminders.

3. Set virtual class rules

When an online cohort comes together, set ground rules. If you’re doing a live web session, do this at the same time you tell people to go on mute if they’re not speaking. It sets the tone and gives everyone a shared framework for group learning.

Setting ground rules can clarify what is acceptable or not acceptable at your online training session. Some cultures might feel comfortable taking calls or asking questions any time—others don’t. Some people find online training intimidating, so this can help them understand what you expect.

4. Encourage a team effort.

The physical distance in online learning groups can makes it hard for spur-of-the-moment collaboration to happen. Not everything needs to be a group project, but you can increase collaboration with encouraging exchanges, questions, and even brainstorming sessions. This helps your team work together.

5. Get learners participating right away.

It’s easy to disappear in a virtual classroom because no one is watching your chair. Prevent this from happening by setting the tone for participation. Ask remote learners to log in early, tell them to introduce themselves to others, and encourage questions frequently to keep the course lively.

Here are some ways to ask for feedback from participants, including:

  • A forum designed for general thoughts
  • A survey at the end of the course
  • Polls throughout the training. For example, ask how relevant they think information is or how long it took them to complete a module.
  • Asking for thumbs-up or thumbs-down emojis on your team chat channel
  • Direct questions about how the material relates to their work

Read more about ways to build participation in remote training here.

6. Use a conversational tone.

Tone matters. The way your words come across to the person reading them will make a difference to the way people believe and trust you as a course administrator.

Finding the right balance between personable and professional can make the difference between a lively class and a disengaged one. A conversational tone is best, but make sure to respect the adult learners who are in your course. Sometimes instructional text can come across as condescending.

7. Address conflict immediately.

When you work with a virtual classroom made up of people who have their own sources of stress, insecurities,  and sensibilities, conflict will occasionally happen. Upholding control in your virtual classroom is vital to successful facilitation. 

Here are some common ways that conflicts happen and some communication tips you can do to ease negative tension before it disrupts the classroom too much.

Conflict between two participants: If students engage in disrespectful or combative conversation, first acknowledge the confrontation:

“Louisa and Devon, I can see that you have differing views on this topic. Thank you for beginning a lively discussion.”

Then, ask the students to discuss the matter with you offline:

“I’m happy to discuss this matter with you offline via phone or email so we may resolve the situation outside of the public forum.”

This type of response lets you re-establish control over the situation and help to diffuse the building tension.

8. Remember cultural competency in the classroom.

If any cross-cultural communication issues crop up, be gentle when you address them. Rather than correcting people publicly or addressing them from the position of authority, turn communication gaffes into learning experiences.

Ask participants questions that allow everyone to explore their preconceived notions about a topic or individual. Use the discussion to explore deeper issues within the course and its contents, especially among students who disagree or argue about a particular topic. You might ask people to share what the cultural norm is for them in a training session, and use that as a starting point in your virtual classroom.

9. Chunk material for easy learning.

The average person can stay focused and engaged for 45 to 60 minutes before they need a break. Think about the meetings you’ve attended, and how long you’ve been able to sit in your seat without your mind wandering or needing to stretch your legs. The same applies to virtual classroom settings.

The most effective online lessons are broken into chunks to make it easy to work through them. Building modules of 30 minutes to 45 minutes are a good guideline to keep people motivated.

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Take your traditional learning program online

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Making Your Traditional Learning Program Virtual

Remote learning is here to stay. Virtual training will surely continue, even when in-person options become available after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic lessens. The reasons are clear. A remote learning program is a useful, cost-effective way of giving your staff new skills or refreshing ones they already have. Plus, it’s safer than sitting in a conference room with dozens of other people.

RAND Corporation recently announced the same findings in a report about students returning (or not returning) to the classroom.

It’s a trend that’s been happening anyway. Market researchers have said that online education will climb to $350 billion by 2025.

Online learning has a lower cost.

This should make your decision to invest in online professional development easier–even for the skeptics in your agency. Online learning is much more affordable than traditional in-person courses.

Even after investing in developing new courses, organizations like yours still can avoid paying for travel and accommodations. You might not see savings in year one, but years two, three, and onward will be much less.

How to start an online learning program.

The difficult part is in the execution. Most training programs for healthcare teams offer live instruction, and converting those training materials into an online format is about as easy is it is to move from a house you’ve lived in for decades.

Begin with blended learning.

An easy way to begin adopting an e-learning model is not to convert everything online at once. Keep a portion of your in-person training exactly how it is, and adopt a blended-learning strategy.
Blended learning mixes the best of training delivery methods to suit different people’s learning needs and different subject matter. In other words, you can pick and choose what you train for in-person and what you train for online.

One benefit is that a live session allows for participants to meet each other and make connections with instructors and classmates that result in better retention. It can also be helpful for delivering material that’s better suited to in-person instruction.

For example, you might provide online diversity training to your team. Then, on completion, you can build on what was in the remote course with material that meets your agency’s goals, demographics, departments, or other factors.

Another example is from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Patient Navigation Online Course. It includes a 10-week online element that begins and ends with face-to-face teaching. The instructors cover such topics as communication techniques in the group, which gives participants a chance to try out newfound skills in a live setting. Other topics, such as documentation skills, convert easily to an online format.

Keep your online training program focused.

Many health-based organizations new to online learning fall into the trap of thinking they have to give learners everything that they previously included with in-person training. Not everything in the trainer’s toolkit needs to be delivered online.

Too many reading assignments and activities can take up a lot of time. Learners spend more time in the online course than applying their new job skills. Information overload can also be overwhelming, and some learners will lose focus and simply give up, even if the training is part of their job requirement.

Program administrators should remember to have faith that employees will learn on the job. The reason you present them with theories and tools is so they can apply them in a work setting.

Set up a system where supervisors or coaches can guide recent participants through using those foundational skills on the job. Make sure they’re acquainted with all the training materials so they know what to evaluate for knowledge-gain.

Questions to answer before starting an online professional development project.

When you’re getting ready to make the decision to launch an e-learning program, run through these questions as part of your needs assessment.

  • What are your agency’s or program’s goals?
  • What are your learners’ schedules like?
  • What’s your budget for the next five years?
  • Is the topic foundational or does it require practice in the field?
  • Do your employees have past experience with remote training?
  • Is your workforce all in one place or spread out geographically?

Follow these tips, and you’ll find that switch to e-learning will result in a group of people curious and excited about a new learning format. If you think a blended approach works for you, read more about what it takes to start a blended learning program.

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Try These 3 Simple Ways to Boost Cultural Competency in Online Learning

Healthcare agencies understand why cultural competency is important among their patients and clients. But too few prioritize cultural competency with their professional development and training.

Remote training is the new standard for bringing skills to staff. In a time when sitting in a conference room is limited or not possible with physical distancing, distance learning has enabled employers to train new staff and upskill others.

But a rising population of online learners doesn’t necessarily mean that all training can meet the needs of culturally diverse learners. Sometimes training programs or courses are simply a document passed around, or a recorded Zoom session. A trainer might take the time to research the group and their cultural needs if they’re doing an on-site session, yet they skip right over possible differences when they’re delivering something online.

For any online learning environment, here are three ways to boost cultural competency and success rate in your online learning—no matter where you are.

1. Find out who the learners are, including cultural background.

Understanding the differences among staff members will make the experience of online learning more enriching for all. Cross-cultural communication is not only about considering demographic information about each participant. It also means being conscious of how their role within their organization or society at large will impact what they say and how they say it.

Understanding who is completing the training is the first step in knowing how to respect cultural differences. It happens that this is also a good strategy for making sure that your online courses are effective.

Once you know who the learners are, you can choose or develop courses that meet their unique needs. Do they need multilingual support? Should they be able to take courses between client visits? Do they need literacy support before taking a course? Make those changes.

Then, when training starts, ask managers and trainers to put themselves in the shoes of each other before completing training. What kinds of challenges could culturally or ethnically diverse learners face in taking a course? This small request can build up valuable empathy among your team. That boosts relationships that will show in the working day.

2. Set virtual meeting rules.

When the group comes together, set ground rules. Do this at the same time you tell people to go on mute if they’re not speaking. It sets the tone and gives everyone a shared framework for group learning.

Setting ground rules can clarify what is acceptable or not acceptable at your online training session. Some cultures might feel comfortable taking calls or asking questions any time—others don’t. Some people find online training intimidating, so this can help them understand what you expect.

If any cross-cultural communication issues crop up, be gentle when you address them. Rather than correcting people publicly or addressing them from the position of authority, turn communication gaffes into learning experiences.

Ask participants questions that allow everyone to explore their preconceived notions about a topic or individual. Use the discussion to explore deeper issues within the course and its contents, especially among students who disagree or argue about a particular topic. You might ask people to share what the cultural norm is for them in a training session, and use that as a starting point.

3. Create ways for learners to share personal stories.

Virtual training can feel isolating. Without making an attempt to engage learners, elearning can make it too easy for administrators to assume everyone feels the same way.

Find some ways to encourage learners to tell their own stories with each other. Sharing cultural diversity is easier when everyone can describe specifically their own norms. This also pushes collaborative learning, which is a great way to push learning performance and better retention.

Sparking these conversations can happen in many formats. Most discussions in the course occur in the forums, in breakout rooms, or in team chat platforms. Other tools in learning systems let administrators reach out to participants privately, especially in a case when a student seems to struggle with a concept or deadline. Use Private Journals, personal email, and in extreme cases telephone or personal meeting. Here are some more ideas for improving communication in training.

Although the course itself is online, the people in it are real. Taking the time to make a personal connection can make all the difference in the ultimate resolution.

How to make training less time consuming

How to Train Remote Staff in Less Time

Online training can be a life-saver. This is especially true when in-person options for staff are cancelled, and also when it’s hard to get people in one room together to learn. For people learning and delivering training, being able to learn new skills demands being able to take online courses. This might be a short-term fix for some organizations, but it will likely be the new norm for many others.

The benefits of remote learning are many. However, one common complaint is that it takes too long. Some people think it takes a long time to develop an online curriculum, and some people think it takes too long to complete the training.

A time-sink can have negative results on your program and result in lackluster remote learners. If you can’t get your new workers up to speed, or upskill existing employees, in a reasonable amount of time, your agency will feel the effects. Poorly trained people can’t do their job. Some staff members will make an attempt to do a job assignment, but they won’t do it correctly. At worst, they do slap-dash work. At best, they think they’re doing the right thing, but don’t understand. Either way, if they skim over long training, they will miss important skills.

It’s hard to apply a single rule to the wide variety of online courses. But it’s worth examining ways to either lessen the effects of time-consuming training, or at least manage expectations so everyone on your team knows how much time to make in their schedule. These changes let you train remote staff in less time and can make training feel easier and less intimidating.

Tips To Train Remote Staff in Less Time

  1. Track training time.
  2. Give staff enough time to learn.
  3. Set a deadline.
  4. Document processes for training later.
  5. Avoid multitasking.
  6. Answer questions ahead of time.
  7. Upskill rather than train from scratch.
  8. Set expectations that training does take time.

1. Track training time.

Before you make any changes to your training selection, make sure it really is taking an unexpected amount of time. It might just feel like it’s taking a long time. Boring or confusing courses are just as hard to sit through as a bad movie. They might not, however, take an inappropriate amount of time to complete. Have your staff track when they started and ended.

A tracker helps train remote staff in less time by being more organized

2. Give staff enough time to learn.

Some learners look at training as one more thing they have to add to their to-do list. Make sure they have enough time for training by making room in their schedule. An online course is far more flexible than an in-person training. Learners can do a bit of work when they have the time, break away to work with a client, and then come back to finish up. If 10 p.m. is a better time to work, they can work at 10 p.m. There’s no travel time.

3. Set a deadline.

Any time is often no time. If someone can push a deadline for completing a course into the future, they might never complete it. It also takes time to keep snoozing training, or not setting aside enough time to do it. So offer your staff a limitation on when they can finish a course, and they’ll find a way to fit it in.

A deadline can be a one-time event (“Complete the HIPAA compliance training by 5 p.m. Friday”) or ongoing events. In this case, you can give mini-deadlines to your staff. For example, they should complete module one by Wednesday, module two by Monday, etc. Structure can really be a time-saver and a big motivator for professional development.

4. Document processes for training later.

Taking a course in the moment is great, but having the training when you need it can be even better. People learn best when they can apply the skills at the right time. So provide training up front, and then later, when it comes time to use those skills, support your staff’s knowledge with added information.

The way you do this is to document everything, so that you have process and procedure documents that are at-hand when they’re needed. Document whenever you can, save what you create, make it available to the right people, and you’ll find you train remote staff in less time.

5. Avoid multitasking.

Multitasking is a way to do several tasks badly at once. It might feel productive to try to do two tasks at the same time, or switch between two tasks in quick succession. But https://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask. We’re not made to do two things at once. Many psychological studies have showed that the brain doesn’t work this way and actually slows down task completion.

So when your staff is learning, make sure they’re learning. Discourage texting, phone calls, discussions, and working on completing training while doing other jobs. It will speed everything up.

6. Answer questions ahead of time.

Create the best condition for your learners by predicting the questions they might ask and answer them ahead of time. That way, neither of you need to waste time asking and answering obvious questions. For example:

  • Send a supplies list in advance, such as headphones, notebook, computer
  • How much time they can expect to spend on a course
  • Access information, including login, password, and whitelisting to avoid spam
  • Requirements for their job that you know happen on a regular basis

Add these items along with any others to a notebook or a document that you circulate every single time you instruct your team to complete a training. Also encourage learners to ask questions whenever they have them so you can add to your document.

7. Upskill rather than train from scratch.

Upskilling means to train your workers at a higher level and with updated skills to meet best practices, guidelines, and requirements. Upskilling isn’t training from scratch. It’s the practice of training often to keep up with protocols. Upskilling can also be quicker than training with a brand new course. You’re not reteaching, you’re customizing training so it meets new skills quickly.

8. Set expectations that training does take time.

Online training can be a time-saver in many ways, but it does take time. Factor in such issues as traveling, staying in a hotel, or waiting to check in at an event means that remote learning lets you train staff in less time. However, learners still need to sit in front of the course and complete it. Online training isn’t easier and it’s not a breeze. So make sure your learners know what to expect by telling them they should take training seriously and put the appropriate amount of time into learning.

Sometimes, just knowing how long something will take makes it go by that much quicker.


Program manager researching funding resources

27 Funding Resources for Healthcare Projects

Getting funding to kick off a healthcare program can be one of the biggest challenges. Another common challenge is finding a way to secure long-term funding resources to make the program sustainable. And sometimes, allocating the resources obtained is a challenge in itself.

The irony is that healthcare initiatives aim to reduce overall healthcare spending. And they do so while improving outcomes. But the reality is securing funding resources is hard. The competition for grants, staffing cuts, and declining spending make it tough for programs to work.

Finding funding isn’t always straightforward, so it can pay to think crooked. Think creatively about funding, because it really is out there. Here are some of the best tips that program leaders from states around the US shared and brainstormed.

Funding Resources for Healthcare Projects

Types of Funding Categories

Before starting on a grant-seeking expedition, it pays to understand the terminology around different kinds of funding. Spend some time with a glossary. This could help you structure projects that fit in areas you might not have considered. For example:

  • seed funding
  • place-based funding
  • capacity-building
  • supporting the non-profit sector

General Funding Sources

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Funding Announcements

AHRQ publishes regular grant announcements via email. These grants focus on “supporting research to improve the quality, effectiveness, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness of health care.”

Applying for Grants to Support Rural Health Projects, Rural Health Information Hub

RHIhub is a font of helpful information. This guide is an A to Z on getting funding. It’s targeted at rural health projects, but applicable widely. It has resources, helpful organizations, opportunities, and models.

Candid Newsletters

Candid, a merger of the Foundation Center and GuideStar, publishes helpful newsletters focused on fundraising, boards, best practices, and more. The Candid Newsletters, including the Funding Watches, are monthly newsletters summarizing news in subject-based philanthropy, links to resources, funding opportunities for individuals and organizations, and job listings. There are also a selection of regional newsletters and the useful RFP Bulletin.

Council on Foundations

The Council on Foundations is a philanthropic network and nonprofit leadership association of grantmaking foundations and corporations. You can scan through members to find out who is giving grants on the Council on Foundations website. The membership directory is for members only. But the website is still full of references and keywords that can help in your search.

Grantmakers in Health

Grantmakers in Health is a networking group for funders that reveals trends and directions in grantmaking. The site provides announcements of grant funding, such as “The Well Being Trust, a national foundation dedicated to advancing the mental, social, and spiritual health of the nation, recently announced new grant funding for twenty-six initiatives as part of their California Mental Health and Wellness Initiative.”

NIH Grants & Funding

NIH offers funding resources for many types of grants, contracts, and even programs that help repay loans for researchers. Learn about these programs, as well as about NIH’s budget process, grant funding strategies, and policies, and more. Many AHRQ opportunities appear under NIH.

NNLM offers funding resources for projects that improve access to health information, increase engagement with research and data, and expand professional knowledge. They also support outreach projects aimed to promote awareness and the use of NLM resources in local communities. It includes many funding opportunities you might not think of, such as grants for holding training in libraries.

National Network of Libraries of Medicine

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) is a collaboration of members with the shared goal of advancing medicine and improving public health by giving health professionals access to biomedical information and improving individuals’ access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health. It’s comprised of academic health sciences libraries, hospital, pharmaceutical, and other special biomedical libraries, public libraries, information centers, and community-based organizations.

COVID-19 Grants and Funding

The coronavirus is creating some funding opportunities meant to offset the disruption caused by the virus. According to an article by Moss Adams, “Large sums have been designated for health care industry purposes. The federal agencies will award the funds directly to health care providers as well as to states or state agencies, which will then pass the funds to hospitals and provider recipients.”

Some funding opportunities include FEMA public assistance awards, Community Health Center (FQHC) Grants, telehealth grants, and a helpful grant Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants from the Department of Agriculture Utilities Programs useful for any organization trying out online training for the first time.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Grant Opportunities and Guidance, HHS.gov

The Health and Human Services page contains general information on grants related to COVID-19. Look specifically at the section labeled “Coronavirus Grants Information from across HHS” for direct links to several other agencies.

Private Donors

Many agencies make a habit of looking at the general funding sources listed above. But they ignore many private sources of funding that are less well-publicized. Some examples are:

Unexpected Departments and Sectors

Think outside of public health for funding other than or connected to health, like science, transportation, or other areas dedicated to social determinants of health. Note to examine your buzzwords, neutralize them, and learn the buzzwords in other sectors.

Some ideas:

  • Department of Transportation and Highway Safety, which wants to use community health workers to promote the use of car seats.
  • Reproductive Health provides funding to boost maternal health programs.
  • Partnering with doula organizations for post-partum maternal health?
  • Departments of Housing, e.g., Healthy Homes, Housing Trust Fund
  • CitizenScience, which works largely in technology and environments but also in population health (Smoke Sense is a project that aims to understand the extent to which exposure to wildland fire smoke affects health and productivity, as well as inform health risk communication strategies that protect public health during smoke days. SONYC is a smart cities initiative focused on developing a cyber-physical system (CPS) for the monitoring, analysis, and mitigation of urban noise pollution. GoViral is a free and real-time online Cold & Flu surveillance system administered by researchers at New York University. Participants will get a Do-It-Yourself flu saliva collection system that they can keep and use at home if they are feeling sick.)
  • Keep looking for federal, but also state and community funding sources.


Partners can help share the load and also open up possibilities for new grants. Some examples:

  • Indian Health grant for diabetes
  • Good Health and Wellness (Indian) – careful of duplicating efforts
  • CHRs
  • EMS (guiding CHWs to getting certified in CPR and First Aid)
  • Gaming Commissions often need to spend their money on communities

Strategy Idea: Mixing Funding Streams

Lastly, think about strategy when looking for funding resources. Remember that funding seeds funding. Funders look at successful programs that have already received money as potential sources for additional funding. They want their investment to succeed.

Sometimes you can increase funding if you tell one funder that you’ve received funding from another. They can provide a matching grant for the same cause.

Disclaimer: This article is a basic resource and is not comprehensive. We’ll continue to update it to add more information as funding opportunities become available or change.