Although online learning has experienced a steady increase over the past decade, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that undeniably spurred its meteoric rise around the world. Schools raced to shutter their doors to keep people safe, and classroom teachers had only days to start teaching virtually, most with little to no training ahead of time.
If there’s only one lesson that was learned from it all, it’s that with the proper tools and training, virtual learning can be a very effective means of instruction. But without them, it can seem like chaos to everyone involved.
And a virtual classroom is perhaps the most important tool an online teacher needs to have to provide a great learning experience for students.
Virtual classrooms are live learning environments where students and teachers synchronously engage with the curriculum materials and each other.
There are many benefits to a virtual classroom including:
- Accessing class from anywhere
- Teaching & learning in a virtual environment with multiple hands-on activity tools
- Social learning and social connectivity
- Opportunities to learn collaboratively
- Small-group breakout rooms
- High levels of engagement
- In-class assessments with immediate results by student
- Analytics to understand the learning behaviors and performance of students
Virtual classrooms should be designed specifically to take into account the needs of both the educator and the students which explains why it’s so important to use a virtual classroom software and not a business meeting product.
Here’s where the problem lies in not choosing the right learning technology. Web conferencing systems were built with large corporate meetings in mind — not student classrooms and learning.
Web conferencing systems may work fine for streaming lectures or slideshow presentations to adults around the world, but they’re missing several key ingredients needed for students to learn effectively.
For instance, web conferencing systems are not set up for teachers to actively engage the students, activity-based or project-based learning, individualized small group projects and virtual, secure testing.
Instead, students become passive listeners with limited access to engagement, one of which is text chatting their answers to the entire class vs having the ability to provide information to just the teacher.
Teachers using web conferencing software are not able to easily move students into break-out rooms for small-group collaboration with different educational content or assignments. The only option, if available, is to present the same material to all students at the same time diminishing the opportunity to let student groups focus on different projects for better learning results.
Additionally, while some web conferencing systems allow for limited polling to the students for informal assessments, they do not provide customizable quiz and assessment capabilities that’s important to gauge knowledge transfer and understanding.
Let’s face it, you wouldn’t use a hammer to paint a wall. Virtual classrooms are specifically designed for teaching and learning. For the best results, teachers prefer to use a virtual learning environment that offers differentiated learning to engage all students during class.
To understand a bit more about how virtual classroom technology can offer differentiated learning focused on high levels of student engagement, check out Jigsaw Interactive at www.jigsawinteractive.com.