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3 Ways Virtual Classrooms Can Address Physical Classroom Challenges

3 Ways Virtual Classrooms Can Address Physical Classroom Challenges

January 05, 2022
Student Success
Student Engagement
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During the pandemic, our world changed. In what now seems like the blink of an eye, almost every educational institution shifted to online learning. In most cases, instructors used video conferencing systems to host these new, virtual classes.

For many, the transition to online learning did not go smoothly. While online learning systems enabled millions of students to continue their education when physical classrooms closed, instructors were challenged to adapt their teaching methods for online delivery. With minimal formal training in using online tools, they struggled to use video conferencing systems that were designed more for boardrooms than for classrooms. While there have been innovations to these conferencing systems, they must evolve further to truly become effective teaching tools.

Looking at the future of virtual classrooms, there are advantages that should be exploited to benefit faculty and students.

1. Virtual Classrooms Provide Faculty With More Data

The virtual classroom should be deeply integrated with the learning management system (LMS), which already has a rich set of data describing students. Such integration should provide a unified view of students’ performance in both asynchronous and synchronous classes.

This integration should be available to the instructor before, during, and after the online class. For example, many LMS solutions use analytics to indicate at-risk students who have missing or late assignments. This information should be available to the instructor during the live class to guide them on which students would benefit most from encouragement or a few moments of one-on-one coaching.

In a similar manner, a student’s performance in the live class should be accessible within the LMS. For example, for programs that require accreditation, demonstrating compliance that students have completed the curriculum in both the physical and online classroom would help schools argue that students have fully completed the required course material and participated in the required online classes.

2. Virtual Classrooms Facilitate Student Participation

The virtual classroom should cater to students as much as instructors. Participation plays a huge role in a student’s ability to engage in and learn material. But participation in the physical classroom is a struggle for many students, especially those who are uncomfortable raising their hands in a crowd.

In virtual classrooms or in hybrid class situations, there are more ways for students to participate without raising their hands: chats, shared documents, polls, etc. What’s more, for students who have commitments that might take them away from the physical classroom, they can join the virtual classroom from almost anywhere. In hybrid classes, students can attend and participate from their computer or smartphone.

In providing a level playing field for all students, regardless of their location, the virtual classroom can leverage this connectivity to engage even the shyest students in learning.

3. Virtual Classrooms Are Recordable

The benefit of virtual classes is that they are recorded and there is untapped potential in using the recordings. The virtual classroom should make it easy for students to review bite-sized content from the recordings, and to retrieve the specific content that might help them complete assignments.

As students interact with the recordings, the data of their interaction—as you may guess—should go back into the LMS to inform the instructor on whether students watched (or rewatched) parts of the lecture. Recording lessons also opens possibilities for reflective exercises, where students can return to previous lessons at the end of the semester and view the lesson through a new lens.

The Road Ahead for Virtual Classrooms

Virtual classrooms may still be in the early stages of maturity. Still, many believe that teaching online will not replace the experience of teaching a live class—the mediums are very different, and each medium has its strengths and weaknesses.

The evolution of the virtual classroom should be grounded in pedagogy, exploit the strengths of the medium, leverage analytics, and actively assist the instructor in teaching the class as a whole and coaching students as individuals. The future of virtual classroom systems should empower instructors to provide remote students a high-quality online learning experience, no matter where they are in the world.

This guest blog is authored by Fred Dixon, the CEO of Blindside Networks. Blindside Networks is the company that created BigBlueButton, a virtual classroom system that is focused on helping teachers teach and learners learn.

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