The Rise of Live Stream Online Classes
The prevalence of virtual classes has been on the rise even before today’s social distancing policies and shut downs. From telemedicine to telefitness, several wellness-focused practices have been moved to the online realm. With the continued interest from technology developers and company stakeholders, virtual classrooms are poised to become standard for content delivery in many industries.
Children are learning in online classrooms, and adults are having virtual work meetings. But, those are not the only age groups using live streaming technology. Though they may traditionally not be thought of as a tech-savvy group, growing numbers of senior citizens are on the Internet and using smartphones.
At televëda, our mission was always to help reduce social isolation for seniors by introducing them to interactive, live streaming technology. With the recent senior center shutdowns, we’ve fortunately been able to seamlessly provide our virtual programming for our communities. But, we’re continuously learning! Through our years of experience, we know that if you’re sharing virtual content online–especially with older adults–there are certain guidelines to follow to create a successful live stream class.
Best Practices for Creating Online Classes for Seniors
Video Set-up & Technology
With all face-to-face interaction simulated through web conferencing technology, visuals are key for one’s online class. No matter the audience, they should be clear and engaging. This means, don’t get too text-heavy, and make sure to include infographics, videos, and charts.
This is especially true when you have senior viewers, who may have vision problems. Lots of little text quickly appearing on a screen won’t be a great presentation, and could lead to discouragement of your older audience.
Make sure you prioritize your set-up as well. Invest in a sturdy tripod that will hold your recording equipment in place, whether it be a camera or your phone. A standard shooting distance will keep the distance between the camera to your body to be at around 10 feet.
Have a clean and clear background (this may also mean getting a green screen or solid background to put up) and remove any personal items from view. Small tip: solid color clothing usually works better on camera than busy patterns, especially if you have lots of visuals in your presentation.
Lots of natural light will give you the best filming result, so try to teach your classes during the brightest daylight hours, and make sure you know if the lighting will change as you go through your classes. Note: keep this natural light in front of you or to your side to prevent glares, and avoid overheld artificial light. If you do feel like you need some extra lighting, consider investing in ring lights that will brighten up your space from where your camera is recording.
Most importantly: Be sure that the video is working correctly for both you and your audience! Older adults usually have less experience with technology, so make sure they’re comfortable using the platform at the beginning of your session.
With web conferencing software, users can participate by video, audio, or both, and it may be your job to help new users out as they adjust to the technology. Check in with them to make sure they can see you and your presentation well, and make adjustments accordingly. This is important for both your experience, and theirs.
Audio Quality & Hardware
Audio quality is of equally high priority when doing any live class, but especially for senior citizens. Your viewers may be hard of hearing, so again, make sure they can hear you clearly and consistently. This may mean that you mute all the viewers as you present, and those with questions can raise their hands.
For the best results, work in a quiet room. If you’re in your home, this means limiting background noise (TVs, doorbells, dishwashers) and notifying the people you live with when you’re recording. If you’re at a studio or office, this will probably be easier to manage, but be aware of your neighbors.
If possible, invest in a microphone. You’ll be able to be heard over any additional audio that’s included in your class, and it allows you to speak in a normal tone throughout the session, rather than shouting. For the hard of hearing, a microphone can make the experience, but it will help audiences no matter their age. Note: if your microphone is attached to your person, make sure it’s interference-free by keeping it away from hair or clothes.
This next one is important: keep your speakers and microphones away from each other. Even two microphones don’t play well together! When they’re too close, you’ll get “audio feedback,” or that squealing, screeching sound. You’ve heard that before, right? It’s awful!
These signals can bounce off reflective surfaces like walls and elevator doors, and then get you stuck in a feedback loop. So, keep your hardware separated, and try adding soft materials outside the view of the camera, such as pillows or blankets, to help with prevention.
Small note: be sure to turn on “Do Not Disturb” on whatever phone or laptop you are using during the class, and set it to “no interruptions” i.e. not even from repeated callers. If using a laptop, you can also disable FaceTime and Messages during your presentation.
The Best Online Class Teaching Style
Virtual classes are an amazing asset, but sometimes it can be tough to beat in-person interactions. That’s why it’s incredibly important to make your class engaging, exciting, and personalized. Keep your energy high, because often you’re the only person your viewers are engaging with, especially if the audience is muted. Make eye contact with the camera, and use participants’ names if you know them.
Check in with your audience throughout the class to make sure they’re getting the best experience, and so they can be more engaged. televëda made our live stream platform specifically so older viewers can interact. Even before Covid related shut downs, social isolation was a huge issue for seniors. Your virtual class may be some of the only social interaction they are getting that day or week, so make sure they are involved in the class.
Also, know that though starting on time is appreciated, be aware that some users may join late. Using the first few moments as an introduction and troubleshooting session not only sets the tone for the class, but also allows any stragglers to join. Some of your elderly audience may have some issues getting started, so patience and encouragement is always beneficial.
Last, but not least: Test, Test, Test!
Live stream classes depend on technology to be successful: there’s no way around it. Doing a dress rehearsal will help you troubleshoot any issues you run into before the actual live class. Ask a friend or colleague to join virtually to make sure you solve any problems coming from the viewer’s end as well.
Even if you’re comfortable with the web conferencing technology you’re using, your users may not be, particularly if they have less experience online. Make sure to review any questions before you start, and be aware that technical issues may flair up during your session.
If that’s the case, just relax and stay calm. Most problems can be solved with critical thinking and patience, and it’s important to be flexible with your programming in order to deal with any unforeseen situations. Check out this link for some great “debugging” help.
If you allow comments, make sure to check them the first few minutes of your class. If viewers are having issues, they’ll most likely let you know, and you can solve it right then. Don’t be afraid to continually check in with them as well. Besides adding engagement, it will help you solve problems as they come up, and shows your audience you care about their experience.
Even before a test run, check your internet bandwidth to ensure it has the capability to host you and an audience. Remember: the higher the upload speed, the better. If your upload speed isn’t great, make sure you’re using an ethernet cable, and not Wifi for your virtual class. Some tests we suggest for our community partners are below, but you can always Google “internet speed test” for other options.
Live Streaming Virtual Classes: an Incredible Resource for Senior Citizens
Live stream and virtual classes provide endless opportunities for both instructors and learners. Plus, your content can be recorded and used later, sent to individuals who couldn’t make the live stream, or even used as marketing content.
There of course can be technical issues, but following these guidelines will help you run a successful virtual class for seniors. Depending on your organization size or what you can afford, it’s incredibly helpful if you have a production team. At televëda, we recognize that, which is why when we onboard new instructors, we offer our tech and production moderators, so the instructors can focus solely on teaching and engaging their class.
Any questions? Know a senior that would benefit from our trying our classes? Contact us at [email protected], or this short contact form, and we’ll get back to you right away. If you want more information on how to create the best experience with online classes for the elderly, read more on everything you need to know before connecting seniors online, and live stream safety practices for seniors.