Just like in-person classrooms differ from teacher to teacher, building to building, and state to state, so too do virtual classroom environments. In fact, the setup of your virtual classroom can literally make or break the school year for you and your students. Since all virtual classrooms are not created equal, it’s more important than ever that school districts provide the resources and training necessary so teachers and students have the best learning experience possible.
It may seem obvious, but the most effective virtual classrooms utilize technology specifically designed for that purpose. In a typical classroom setting, you wouldn’t spend an entire day emailing photocopied worksheets to your students, talking to them one at a time on the phone, or letting all the groups in class talk over each other. By the same token, you shouldn’t use technology designed for corporations’ meeting needs.
Many school districts, and virtual schools, continue to use technology that was designed for video conferencing and meetings.
Students will not receive the best education using email, conference calls, or corporate video conferencing software instead of virtual classroom software that’s focused on learning through immersive and engaging activity tools. Corporate software has its place in corporate settings, but classrooms need software that was intentionally created to mimic the normal interactions that take place in the classroom in a virtual learning environment.
To be an effective educational tool, virtual classroom software must include the following:
- Individualized and inclusive tools
- Interactive, hands-on assignments
- Ability to work with the teacher while learning is taking place
- Small group break out rooms that can be customized by student project
- In-class assessments with real-time results to the teacher
- Engagement and learning analytics that define what each student does
When any of the items above are not present during a virtual class, it impacts the learning experience for students and leaves the teacher wondering what students have done or learned.
Without the ability to let students individualize their learning, through technology tools, everyone is forced to learn the same way, which we all know doesn’t work. Learning styles is as unique as every student so giving them the option to work through the information in a way that suits their style optimizes attention, learning and retention.
Without interactive, hands-on assignments, students tend to get bored and engagement falls dramatically. Without the ability to work with the teacher during class, teachers lose the opportunity to coach and lead students through real-time activities and discussions
Without small group rooms, students can’t benefit from the peer to peer activities and reviews. The safety of working with peers makes learning more fun and opens a dialogue that teachers often can’t. It also teaches critical thinking and project-based learning that is so important in the workforce.
Finally, with learning analytics being collected in real-time, teachers have no way of knowing who’s paying attention, who’s learning and what information may need to be re-reviewed. All virtual classrooms are not created equal because the technologies being used are not equal. Many schools are using corporate- based tools in an attempt to be a classroom for kids but these tools are not focused on learning.