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607 Beyond VILT: Design Dynamic Learning Communities in a Remote Workspace

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Thursday, April 13

Tracks: Instructional Design

How many instructional designers receive learning requests from stakeholders who already have a specific solution in mind? How often is that solution a VILT session? Quick poll: How many of you have participated in a VILT and walked away thinking, “WOW”? Yes, a VILT brings together a group of learners working in remote environments, but it does not replicate the classroom learning experience. Interaction with the instructor and peers is limited. Someone has to monitor the chat thread and participants, if the VILT is designed for participants to speak. The instructor is typically not a subject matter expert. They’re reading a script and presenting a PowerPoint deck someone else designed for them.

It is easy for learners to disengage from a VILT. Learners get credit for attending whether they engage or not. We can do better, and there is research that tells us exactly how. If you’re in the L&D space, you’ve likely heard about social learning, cohort-based learning, communities of practice, or some element of group learning experiences. We often talk about creating more opportunities for social learning in our learning experience and instructional design, but have you ever wondered why that is so important? Why are some learners so eager to get back in the classroom after two-plus years of remote learning? The answer is simple. We learn best when we learn with (and from) others.

In this session, you’ll learn about the community of inquiry, a learning model that makes a bold claim: When you design a learning experience in which the three pillars of content, social presence, and instructor presence are equally represented, you create the ideal environment for knowledge transfer. You’ll learn more about each of those three pillars, but particularly instructor and social presence. We’ll review Dale’s Cone of Learning and what that tells us about social learning. We’ll dissect VILT: what it is, what it should be, and how it became the de facto replacement for classroom learning. Once we have that down, we’ll talk about cohort-based learning, and how, if designed properly, you can come close to replicating a classroom learning experience and create the ideal learning environment that Garrison modeled. We’ll examine a few case studies and talk about best practices for designing a cohort-based learning experience built on the foundation of the community of inquiry model and educational technology platforms that specialize in creating these types of learning experiences. If your organization has the budget, they’re fantastic. However, you can design a solid cohort-based learning experience with Zoom, Storyline, or Captivate, or even good old PowerPoint. I’ll teach you a few tricks of the trade and creative ways to use what you have to ramp up your teacher or social presence in a learning environment. You’ll leave with a new perspective on social learning and a clear design model that will help you create the ideal environment for dynamic learning that will promote knowledge transfer and make a lasting impression on your learners.

In this session you will learn:

  • Why social learning is an important consideration in instructional design
  • How the community of inquiry model applies to learning experience design
  • About best practices for designing learning with the community of inquiry in mind
  • How Dale’s Cone of Learning relates to social learning
  • What is meant by content, social presence, and teacher presence in a learning environment
  • What VILT is, what it’s meant to be, and how it’s being overutilized in instructional design
  • How cohort-based learning can come close to replicating a classroom experience.

Technology discussed:

NovoEd, Zoom, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Teams

Melissa Bero Cummings

Manager, Global Learning Experience Design


Well-seasoned in learning and development across multiple industries, Melissa Bero Cummings has a proven track record in the design of dynamic educational initiatives. She has designed major learning interventions at FedEx Freight, FedEx Ground, and 3M, combining knowledge and expertise with innovative thinking, and has received awards for her work. She holds a master of science from the University of Memphis in instruction and curriculum leadership, with a specialization in instructional design and technology. She also holds a bachelor’s and master’s from Jacksonville State University, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Concordia University Chicago, pursuing a PhD in educational technology leadership.