As educational technology advances, we’re beginning to see more and more of the components of a traditional learning environment migrated to and integrated within the online learning experience.
We recently introduced a new Classroom page to WP Courseware, so it seems like a good time to take a look at some of the essential features of a virtual classroom which can help to provide effective learning experiences which replicate traditional classroom environments…at least as much as is possible.
Archived Lessons and Resources
When our WP Courseware users implement virtual classrooms, we typically see them introducing a live training component through the use of interactive webinars. However, learning comprehension and retention rates for live online lessons are generally lower than having the same learning experience in a physical classroom.
With this being the case, it’s essential that any live sessions presented are made available for students to review at any time in the future when they take initiative to dig deeper into concepts and reinforce their knowledge. Fortunately, most webinar solutions make it very easy to record live sessions and either embed them into a web page or simply link to them if they’re hosted by the webinar service itself.
WP Courseware also makes organizing these past sessions that you presented in your virtual classroom very simple as well. We’ve seen a number of our users conduct almost all of their initial training in a live environment and then embed those sessions into course units for students to access down the road.
Office Hours Outside of the Virtual Classroom
Again, learning retention rates generally tend to be lower online when compared to offline classroom environments. There are a number of ways to improve these numbers and we’ve written about some of those in the past.
However, this fact makes it critical that instructor(s) routinely make themselves available to answer questions outside of live sessions. Some students aren’t comfortable raising a question during a live sessions. Sometimes a question doesn’t come to them until after the session is over. And sometimes instructors may choose not to allow Q&A during live sessions in order to keep the presentation focused and progressing.
In any case, it’s imperative to give learners an option for submitting questions outside of your virtual classroom. This can be through the use of a discussion forum, a chat plugin, a Facebook group, or simply email.
Classroom Management Functionality
As previously mentioned, how instructors interact with students within a virtual classroom and how they allow students to communicate are both factors which will influence your decision when choosing a platform to use to create a virtual classroom experience.
We generally recommend outlining how your live learning sessions will work to help you understand the features which are nonnegotiable as you begin evaluating different webinar or software packages. Some of the available options include mind-numbing feature lists or product comparison matrices, so knowing what functionality is “must have” will allow you to make a decision more efficiently.
For example, when we decided to implement our monthly live Office Hours sessions where our customers can drop by and ask us questions, we had an idea of how we wanted that to work. We needed the ability for all of our presenters to appear on the screen simultaneously, we needed screen sharing capabilities for technical demonstrations, we wanted participants to be able to chat with presenters, and we wanted students to be able to “raise their hand” and submit a question to be answered by us live. With these requirements in mind, our search was really quite simple and we settled on Zoom pretty quickly as it offered all of these features at a very competitive price.
If you have any other recommendations or experiences you’d like to share based on your own implementation of a virtual classroom, please feel free to share them in the comments below!