6 Things we learned about ‘Going Virtual’

The truth about virtual engagement


September, 2020

This year Miami Ad School Toronto has shifted all programs to a virtual learning environment. We have worked tirelessly to create a virtual space, which can really help our students and network grow. To say it’s been an easy transition would be an understatement. We need to admit that while all of this is great, online won’t replace in person learning. There is something about in person that just hits differently. It might be the vibe of the space, or that reassuring smile from across the room. We get it, we miss it too. However, you can still get an incredible experience and an education virtually.

Taking a look back to day one; we spoke to students, instructors, team members and discovered a few truths about online learning. Here are 6 things we’ve discovered since going virtual.

Technology is not a bandaid

The virtual world is a different realm, and not a temporary shift. This could be the new normal, and everyone should put their best foot forward.  Although technology is great, it has to be the right tech and used for the right things. At Miami Ad we didn’t just stick to the first one we discovered; it was a careful selection of accessibility, functionality, and ease of use. We also took the extra step to ensure our choice of platforms are aligned with the industry standards. If this is the future of the workplace, isn’t it better that students get a head start on using them? Right now we are using Slack, Miro, Trello, Tandem, & Gsuite to make it easier for students, instructors and our team to share files, ideas, & collaborate in real time too. 

The instructors have used the zoom platform to encourage discussion and keep lessons engaging. I’ve also been using Slack a lot to keep in touch with my fellow students and ask questions or follow up on assignments.
– Mnrupe, Copywriting Student


Your voice is heard

Equal share of voice means more engagement and active listening. We all have that one coworker or classmate who dominates team meetings, making it hard to get a word in. Now with video conference calling, it’s easier to ensure your ideas are being given equal consideration. Welcome the digital talking stick! We found that online learning allows you to be listened to, encourages participation and active listening. Many platforms will only allow one speaker at a time; so for those who like to ramble, maybe it’s time you mute the mic and let your teammates shine. We noticed that student participation increased during online lectures because of this.

Engaging with the instructor over breakout rooms in Zoom provides you the same attention you expect in-person, and I’ve even found certain in-class discussions to be facilitated better with things like the side chat, where students can send links and comment without interrupting instruction.
– Andronicus, Art Direction Student

Although technology is great, it has to be the right tech and used for the right things.

Although technology is great, it has to be the right tech and used for the right things.

You can’t just wing it

Adaptability and preparation is key. Your plans can always go sideways, and it’s important to anticipate potential mishaps and have back ups in place. We worked closely with students to ensure they are properly prepared, get tutorials, & we moderated the classes to provide tech relief for any issues. We advised students to strive to be extra prepared to present something, and always practice first! That natural charisma may have helped you get through a few in person presentations but it might not translate as well virtually. We suggest keeping that camera on, and being a bit more animated when responding. We made it mandatory for students to show their faces in class lectures, and the participation soared. Instructors felt great about teaching and were able to respond to the class in a more organic way. 

For some reason, having a legit mic makes others respect your opinions more.
– Daniel, Art Direction Student

Creativity isn’t hindered

You can’t blame the tech if you encounter a bit of a dry run of ideas. You can still create a masterpiece. Our students took to the challenge and still came out on top. The level of quality and originality were unprecedented. We are proud to say that our students swept up a few awards all while working remotely. To aid in their creativity, we give them extra resources, one on one mentorship, and a lot of motivation. 

Online learning has allowed me to turn what would be my commute time into productive time – which adds up to give me more flexibility.
– Ryan, Art Direction Student

The beauty of being online is that people are more flexible in this environment.

The beauty of being online is that people are more flexible in this environment.

Community gets a little bigger

It may have felt like you were becoming isolated at first, but the reality is quite the opposite. Suddenly your classrooms get a little bigger, and you can connect with everyone around the world. The beauty of being online is that people are more flexible in this environment. We have an instructor teaching from New York and we host weekly mentorship/coffee chats with industry professionals. This wasn’t a possibility for us before. Take advantage of this time, and reach out to those that inspire you.

“The most exciting part of taking a class is meeting new people, learning new things, and interacting in person.  I just couldn’t see how that experience could be replicated online.  Although it’s not the same, I will say that I have been surprised about how close it has been.” 
– Sabesh, Creative Strategy

Take time to be kind 

It’s easy to get frustrated and lose patience. We will all encounter tech difficulties, loss of internet connection, or general bad timing. We may even have someone on our screen who isn’t up to date with the latest software and less experienced using key platforms. There are a million ways to lose our cool, but we need to take time to be kind. Try to remember that there is a human being on the other end, and everyone deserves patience and respect. If you can, try connecting with someone and discuss topics outside of work, or offer to teach them a thing or two. Don’t say things to each other you wouldn’t have the guts to say in person.

For any digital native that’s comfortable with online collaboration, I think it’s a no-brainer that online learning will naturally feel like a second home.
– Andronicus, Art Direction Student

Overall it’s been a success!

In these few short months we have hosted 3 full time programs, 2 bootcamps, 8 individual classes, corporate training, and 2 live clients. In addition our students have earned top placements in global competitions.

This Fall season we are continuing to provide our regular programs: Strategy & Planning bootcamp, Social & Content bootcamp, Art Direction, Copywriting, and Creative Strategy Online. What is exciting is that for the first time we are also offering Single Creative Classes and Single Modules from the Bootcamps

If you are interested check out our virtual platform functions,  and be sure to take a tour of our virtual space to get a glimpse of how interactive and collaborative Miami Ad School Toronto Online is!

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