What is a Virtual Classroom? All You Need to Know About Teaching Virtually

March 29, 2024 | By: Extramarks

What is a Virtual Classroom?

The educational space has undergone several changes over the last few years. The teaching-learning process has advanced by leaps and bounds, integrating technology into teaching, making lessons more personalised, accommodating different students’ needs and learning styles in curriculum planning, and introducing the virtual classroom.

The virtual classroom system gained more prominence after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, which turned these online classrooms from a want to a need for schools and educators. In this article, we shall explore what a virtual classroom is, its various features and advantages, and how to set one up in your school or educational establishment so that you can seamlessly transition into teaching virtually. Let us now dive deep into this topic and learn about something very relevant to the education system in India today.

What is a Virtual Classroom?

A virtual classroom is an online environment where students and teachers engage in learning activities, interact, and collaborate remotely using various digital tools such as video conferencing, chat, and virtual whiteboards.

Features of Virtual Classroom

Now that we have understood the basic concept of a virtual classroom, let now take a look at its various focal features of a virtual classroom that set it a class apart.

Features of Virtual Classroom

  • Interface for Video Calling: This is the main visual and interactive portion of a virtual classroom. Both teachers and students can interact with each other, with the teacher’s window being displayed prominently as they are the ones explaining concepts, and then opening the floor for questions and answers where students can speak up and ask doubts. The teacher moderates this, and can even record the meeting if required.
  • Interactive Whiteboard: This is the virtual blackboard, where all the study material is displayed for students to read alongside the teacher’s explanation. This is the modern-day equivalent of a blackboard and textbook! Students can even take notes on this interactive whiteboard and collaborate on projects together. Think of it as a shared learning source, which makes the material extra accessible for students.
  • Sharing Files: Such features allow students to upload and share files and assignments for peer reviews and projects and with the teacher as well. This feature aids the information-sharing process and helps create a hassle-free conduit for exchange.
  • Chat Boxes: All programs that help you teach virtually come with chat-enabled systems. Students can use chat boxes to communicate with the teacher and fellow peers, share ideas, ask questions, and participate in discussions.
  • Quizzing Features: All virtual classrooms come with several interactive and engaging polls and quizzing features that help the teacher judge the conceptual and analytical understanding of the students. These features help the teacher gauge the levels of information retention, and how to alter the teacher modules and patterns to aid students’ learning process better.

Apart from these, a few virtual classroom programs also have many additional smart features, which are listed below.

  • Virtual reality (VR):  Virtual reality, or VR, is a computer-generated simulation that alters the user’s perception of reality and allows them to interact with a three-dimensional environment. Virtual reality in education is used due to its immersive and experiential nature, accessibility, multi-sensory approach, and safe training environment, which makes it ideal for learning. Schools and educators strive to create memorable events that make it easy for students to remember and understand what they learn. Virtual reality is ideal for creating such experiences that students can retain forever, at a lower cost as compared to traditional trips.
  • Augmented reality (AR): Augmented reality superimposes virtual elements on existing environments using cameras, sensors, processing, projection, and reflection. AR can superimpose sound, videos, and graphics onto a current environment. Cameras and sensors detect an image’s depth and calculate the distance between two objects before superimposing digital content atop the user’s view. Then, projection and reflection add virtual information to the view. Augmented reality in education can be achieved by using commonly available hardware such as smartphone cameras or laptops. Educators can use AR to incorporate interactive elements into the classroom curriculum.
  • Gamification: Gamification in e-learning is all about making education more exciting by adding game-like elements and video game design to the learning experience. The idea is to get students interested and motivated to learn and achieve more. Gamification in education is an age-old concept, but it has different contexts and methodologies when you are teaching virtually.

Advantages of Virtual Classroom

When you are making the comparison of a traditional classroom vs a virtual classroom, the latter offers a range of advantages for educators, transforming how they approach teaching and interact with students.

  • Access to Resources: In virtual classrooms, teachers have access to a wealth of digital resources at their fingertips. From educational videos and simulations to online textbooks and interactive multimedia content, educators can enrich their lessons and engage students in ways that were not possible in traditional classrooms. In a virtual classroom, teachers can access all the information available online at the click of a button. This means access to an online encyclopaedia of learning resources in the form of videos, simulations, games, research papers, documentaries, etc., which wouldn’t be possible in a traditional classroom.
  • Easy Admin Work: Often, virtual classroom systems have smart features that help teachers handle simple administrative tasks like enrolment, scheduling, and making grade-tracking reports and progress graphs so that educators can free up precious time and devote that to giving their students a more personalised teaching-learning experience. This is especially beneficial in classrooms where the student-teacher ratio is high. These features also help administrators gain insight into student retention and absorption, which in turn will help them alter the curriculum and teaching pattern if needed.
  • Regular Feedback and Assessment: Various tools allow educators to provide immediate feedback and assess student understanding through quizzes, polls, and collaborative activities. When teaching virtually, you have access to various tools that help you give real-time feedback and help you conduct immediate assessments to gain a better understanding of student retention and progress through polls, quizzes, group projects, presentations, etc.
  • Interactive Activities and Helpful Tools: Virtual learning platforms offer several engaging and interactive tools and gamified activities to increase student interest and collaboration. Such tools include interactive whiteboards, breakout rooms, daily quizzes, polls, etc.
  • Access to Professional Resources for Teacher Training: A classroom that employs virtual learning will also have some perks for educators! Teachers often get access to online resources, like webinars, seminars, courses, etc., when their institute purchases a subscription to a virtual smart classroom program.

Extramarks Smart Class Plus

How to Create a Virtual Classroom:

Now that we have understood the various features and advantages of virtual classroom setups, let us look at some helpful tips and steps to keep in mind when trying to make the shift from a traditional classroom to a virtual one.

  1. Make Sure Your Workspace is Prepared: Before you integrate an online classroom into your teaching process, make sure that you are fully equipped to harness that resource. Invest in high-quality cameras, headphones, a small portable headset for clear audio, or even a stand for your computer to keep it at eye level!! Try to locate a space where you can peacefully conduct lessons, essentially in an environment that is neither too distracting nor too dull.
  2. Equip Your Students with the Tools for Success: Before you even start teaching, you should hand your students the reigns of control over their learning process. Provide your students access to learning materials, pre-recorded videos, lectures and homework quizzes beforehand, so that they can familiarise themselves with the subject matter. Additionally, this will help students learn at their own pace as students with learning disabilities will be able to go through information beforehand and note down any doubts to be taken up in classroom discussions.
  3. Outline Your Goals and Vision: A virtual classroom requires a similar level of motivation as a traditional classroom, if not more! So, to keep the students engaged consistently, let them be a part of setting the vision, mission, goals, and general standards of the classroom. This can also include deciding appropriate rewards for tiny achievements, which will help students remain consistently encouraged to work harder in class and will create a positive learning environment.
  4. Consider Using Interactive Tools and Plugins: Most interactive virtual learning programs come equipped with several interactive tools and plug-ins that help enhance the learning experience, such as smart interactive whiteboards, in-chat messaging options, screen-sharing features, annotative tools, real-time messaging options, etc. If your virtual classroom system does not have some of these features, then consider downloading accessible software that helps elevate your teaching-learning experience, and make it as comfortable and engaging as possible.
  5. Leverage Your School’s LMS: Just like a virtual learning program exists to help the students, teachers require some help with teaching too! As an educator, you should leverage the maximum benefits you can from your institution’s learning management system (LMS) to harness quite a few tools to help with your requirements as an educator. Anything from assignment feedback to student grading and progress mapping, to online chats and video and audio conferencing, are usually supported by LMSs’. These tools make your job as a teacher easier and simplify your mundane tasks, making it easier for you to focus more energy on the development of your wards.
  6. Define Class Policies: Always set clear expectations, rules and class policies regarding conduct, punishment, standards of work, ethics, and general decorum. Setting clear standards beforehand helps the students understand the policies of the classroom and will help you maintain peace and a positive and collaborative environment in your online classroom.
  7. Conduct a Demo Class Before You Start: Always conduct a demo class before you fully integrate and start using your virtual classroom and its various tools. Doing this ensures that you can spot any discrepancies in the way the material is being presented and accessed, and whether there are no glitches or bugs in the program, and it is understandable and easy for the students to operate and understand.

In conclusion, virtual classrooms offer a dynamic and flexible approach to education, enabling students and educators to connect and collaborate regardless of geographical barriers. With the continuous advancement of technology and the growing demand for remote learning solutions, virtual classrooms are poised to play an increasingly integral role in shaping the future of education. By harnessing the power of digital tools and fostering a supportive online learning community, virtual classrooms hold the potential to enhance accessibility, engagement, and overall educational outcomes for learners worldwide.

Last Updated on May 13, 2024

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