What is a virtual classroom?
A virtual classroom is a synchronous online learning environment that facilitates real-time remote education and training. It typically involves using digital platforms or software that simulate a traditional classroom setting, allowing students and teachers to interact and engage in real-time from anywhere with an internet connection. Virtual classrooms can be used for a wide range of educational purposes, including K-12 education, higher education, professional development, and lifelong learning.
They often feature tools such as:
- Synchronous audio, video, and screen sharing
- Public and private chat functionality
- Sharing of presentations and videos
- Collaborative whiteboards to facilitate communication
- Engagement tools for the teachers, such as polls, emojis, and raised hands
- Breakout rooms for group collaboration
Benefits of using virtual classrooms
Access from anywhere, at any time, allowing flexible schedules and learning opportunities.
Provides access to education for people who may not be able to attend traditional classrooms due to physical, geographic, or other barriers.
Integration between an LMS and a virtual classroom enhances learners engagement through providing easy access to an environment where learners and educators can engage with each other. Educators can customise, launch, and manage recordings to their LMS.
A personalised learning experiences tailored to individual student needs and learning styles.
Foster collaboration between students and teachers from diverse backgrounds and locations.
Video conferencing vs Virtual classrooms
Video conferencing and virtual classrooms are related but distinct modes of online communication.
Video conferencing is typically used for meetings, presentations, and other workplace-related tasks, but it offers limited built-in tools for applied learning, leaving educators or trainers to rely on third-party tools and websites to deliver learning. This leads to time loss, more logins for students, less learner engagement, limited learner data analytics, and decreased learner outcomes.
On the other hand, a virtual classroom is specifically designed to improve learner engagement and outcomes. It offers a range of tools and features that support teaching and learning, such as breakout rooms, interactive whiteboards, and quizzes and polls.
You can read more about the differences between video conferencing and virtual classrooms in this blog.
Structure of the virtual classroomThe virtual classroom is a structured environment to help educators bring focus to the learning material, and help students actively engage with learning concepts. Students who engage with the content and instruction during a virtual class will learn more, as active learning is far more effective than passive learning. As such, the structure of an effective virtual class focuses on maximising the time for applied learning and feedback. Unlike a video conference, which may just be one long meeting, an effective virtual class has four distinct segments, each contributing towards learning online. For more details on the structure of effective virtual classes, see the course Delivering Effective Virtual Classrooms in Moodle Academy.
Applied Learning: Polls, surveys, and breakout rooms
Virtual classrooms offer a range of features that enable teachers to create an interactive and engaging online learning environment.
- Chat rooms allow students to ask questions and engage in discussion.
- Polling provides a way to do formative assessment to determine if students are learning. Based on the results of the polls, teaching can be adjusted in the moment..
- Breakout rooms enable small group discussions and activities, which promote collaboration and peer learning and build upon the pedagogy of Social Constructivism, the foundation on which Moodle is built.
These features not only enhance student engagement, but also help to build a sense of community within the virtual classroom.
Choosing the right platform for your online classes
When choosing an online learning platform to host a virtual classroom, there are several key factors to consider to ensure that the platform meets your specific needs:
- Ease of use: Ensure it’s user-friendly for both teachers and students.
- Functionality: Look for interactive whiteboards, video conferencing, screen sharing, file sharing, and messaging features.
- Customisation: The platform should allow branding and integration with other tools to match specific needs.
- Security: Prioritise robust security to protect data and prevent unauthorized access.
- Scalability: Ensure the platform can easily add or remove users, courses, or features as needed.
- Support: Seek reliable technical support for resolving any issues during virtual classroom sessions.
- Cost-effectiveness: Look for a platform with transparent pricing that aligns with the organization’s budget.
- Integration: Verify the platform’s compatibility with other teaching and learning tools, like learning management systems or student information systems.
BigBlueButton: A virtual classroom solution
Tutoom: Digital classroom
Find out more about Moodle Certified Integrations
Looking for Google Classroom alternatives?
While Google Classroom and other similar software tools have become popular choices for educators and learners alike, they may not maximise learner engagement and outcomes.. Some common issues may include limited functionality or difficulty in customising the platform to suit individual learning or teaching styles. Additionally, the software’s available resources or tools may restrict some educators.
For those seeking a more flexible and customisable solution, Moodle’s virtual learning solutions and Moodle Certified Integrations, BigBlueButton and Tutoom are worth exploring.
Looking for Microsoft Teams alternatives or Zoom alternatives?
Microsoft Teams primarily serves as a business-focused collaborative environment, lacking extensive built-in tools for engagement and applied learning, which may not be ideal for younger learners. Similarly, Zoom emphasizes webcams and screen sharing, but it falls short in offering a range of active learning experiences that purpose-built virtual classrooms like BigBlueButton or Tutoom can provide.
The limited effectiveness of classes taught via Teams and Zoom during COVID-19 stems from the fact that sharing screens alone doesn’t promote active learning. For optimal learning outcomes, it’s essential to choose a virtual classroom designed around pedagogy, focusing on fostering active engagement rather than being solely geared towards business meetings. Moreover, virtual classrooms grant teachers the flexibility to manage video feeds, creating a conducive learning environment where students can focus on the lesson without unnecessary distractions while allowing educators to gain better insights into their reactions.