6 golden rules for impactful online learning

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis that immobilized the globe in early in 2020, the use of online learning skyrocketed. From kindergarten to university, active learners from around the world had to change the way they learn in a matter of days. In the month of March alone the leading video conferencing platform Zoom saw a 225% increase in the number of connections and their data usage rose by an overwhelming 877%. 


PLACE’s shift to online learning happened to coincide with the onset of COVID-19. Although the online element was already included in the curriculum design for 2020, the learning and design team had to ramp up production for an earlier than expected launch of our online learning space and remote training for the Emerging Leaders program. After three weeks of intensive prototyping, the first online challenge was launched on April 7th. Although not perfect (what is?), we would like to share our key insights from our experience in online learning.

6 golden rules for impactful online learning

Make it human 

Don’t forget there are humans on the other side of those screens! When designing your online class or workshop, make time for natural biorhythms and include them in your sequencing. Make moments to stretch, to take a break, to look away from the screen, etc. During our three hour online-challenges, we find moments to dance (don’t believe us – check out the video!), to lead collective stretches and for participants to break away and rest their minds (and eyes). These moments don’t take away from learning, they enrich them.  

Keep it real

Learning happens best when it anticipates real-world interactions and expectations. Despite the removal from a physical environment and personal contact, we have included opportunities for Catalysts to have live interactions and feedback from experts on their performance and outputs. For example, during our first online challenge, narrative strategist, Julie Hosler, gave her expert advice on the personal introduction videos made by the Catalysts during the challenge. Her expert advice not only ensures the learning outputs are up to industry standards but brings an added element that pushes the presence of performance of the Catalysts to the next level.

Make the journey count

Remote working and collaboration are essential skills for the future of work. Although post-coronavirus many offices will resume in-person work, the trend for remote working will only continue to be accelerated. When students learn online they gain intrinsic knowledge and skills that they can apply to remote collaboration in future professional settings. Our recommendation to all teachers and facilitators – make them aware of this inherent skill gain and have them track their comfort and growth in regards to digital tools. Regardless of where the student is from, mastering these skills will give them a boost towards where they want to go! 

Flip the classroom

Our online learning is two-part – one part knowledge gain, one part application – both essential in skill acquisition. For knowledge gain, we created the PLACE learning space, where Catalysts can access on-demand content at their own rhythm. Not looking to reinvent the wheel, the learning space is compiled of leading tools and resources that are readily available on the internet, curated for the specific learning objective of each step of the program. Catalysts consult the on-demand content prior to the online challenges – interactive sessions where they produce outputs (ex. Video CVs, pitch decks etc.) linked to their learning with the support of facilitators and experts. By separating the two parts of learning we have been able to ensure that the challenges are fast-paced and results-oriented. 

Sharpen your tools

Prior to launching our first online challenge, PLACE’s learning and design team were all hands on deck. At PLACE, we use Zoom, primarily for the quality of image, simplicity of connection and the use of the break out rooms. Although the tool is relatively simple to master, creating an immersive and an exciting learning experience on it is another story. Prior to launching the first online challenge, our team and the PLACE Crew spent three weeks and countless hours prototyping content delivery and sequencing. The result? A rocking experience that pops off the screen.

Forget the one to many ratio

In order to keep learners engaged, we allocate a 1:4 facilitator to learner ratio in our online challenges. This is largely enabled by the PLACE Crew, former participants of PLACE programs who are trained in intercultural and innovation facilitation. The PLACE Crew members guide the Catalysts through the exercises, act as a sounding board for brainstorming and keep an eye out for moments when extra support from the PLACE team is needed. Through the use of Zoom breakout rooms and an active WhatsApp group chat (notifications off please!), we have been able to maintain the same level of group oversight that we had during in-person training in the past. 

Are you interested in experiencing one of PLACE’s online challenges live? We are always looking for experts to join in the learning experience. Get in touch with us here to find more.