Exploring Virtual Classroom

Exploring Virtual Classroom

Read Time: 7 minutes, 38 seconds

Posted on Wed, May 27 2020

Teaching and learning remotely isn’t a new concept, it has been around since the 1900’s. However, the advances in technology has made it more popular especially with the birth of the internet. The internet has made a lot of things possible including online learning; which is an education that takes place over the internet. With the advent of online learning, education has evolved and adapting to new learning styles through flexibility and convenience of virtual classrooms.

In this article, we’ll share what a virtual classroom is, the types of virtual classroom, benefits and challenges associated with virtual classroom.

What is a virtual classroom?

A virtual classroom is a teaching and learning environment where participants can interact, communicate, view and discuss presentations, and engage with learning resources all in an online setting. The medium can be through a video conferencing application that allows multiple participants to be connected at the same time or through an online platform/portal where participants can login to via the internet irrespective of their location.

A virtual classroom provides an opportunity for distance education to students remotely by means of web-based online learning programs. It also provides the instructors (teachers) with innovative teaching tools to teach virtually from anywhere at any time, irrespective of the geographical area, through online classes and courses.

Types of virtual classroom

Supervised (Synchronous) virtual classroom

This type of virtual classroom conforms more to a traditional classroom definition. There is at least one active instructor (teacher) present and lesson are taught in real time at a specific time and date, with the students being in attendance virtually through a video conferencing application. Here, students and teachers can truly interact and actively participate in class.

Unsupervised (Asynchronous) virtual classroom

This virtual classroom is characterized by ready-made learning materials that students can follow without the aid of an instructor (a teacher), essentially a self-paced lesson or course where assessments can be automated after every activity. This is the most common form of virtual classroom, where students just watch a pre-recorded video lesson or read a PowerPoint presentation or access other learning materials made available by the teacher. This type of virtual classroom does not always need an active teacher to supervise students; in this setting, students can proceed at their own pace, with the instructor (teacher) only around to evaluate the students.

Benefits of virtual classroom

Here are some of the benefits of virtual classroom.

  1. Virtual classroom removes the limitation of time and location, making it convenient for learners to study at a time they best learn or fits their schedule.
  2. It eliminates the distance barrier completely, making it possible to teach and learn from anywhere
  3. It helps sharpen the digital skill of teachers and learners. The more they engage, they more they become confident at using digital tools.
  4. Learners get instant feedback on Test/Exam taken, since it is taken online.
  5. It allows institutions (schools) to create an online library of contents that the learners can access to support their learning.
  6. It gives room for teachers to breakdown lessons into short interactive modules that learners can repeat if needed. This brings about maximum learning experience of the part of the learners.

Challenges associated with virtual classroom

As interesting and exciting as virtual classroom is, here are some challenges that should be of concern.

  1. The lack of digital skills or poor digital skill can lead to a frustrating experience on the part of the teachers and learners. For example, some teachers find it difficult to prepare study materials in electronic formats. This and many more may require the need for an IT support to facilitate the training of teachers.
  2. Virtual classroom relies heavily on software and the internet, which can malfunction at any time. In some places with poor internet connectivity, the experience can be very frustrating especially when having a real-time class via video conferencing software.
  3. Not all courses, subjects or topics can be taught in a virtual classroom setting as some might require face-to-face interaction or field work.

With virtual classroom, teaching and learning can cross borders and overcome time, geographic and other kind of restrictions. Looking at the benefits of virtual classroom, it should almost be a mandatory part of any institution. To get the best out of virtual classroom, there is a need for balance. i.e. both the supervised and unsupervised approach should be implemented.

Also, a Web-based Course Management Systems or Learning management Systems that incorporate digital reading materials, podcasts (recorded sessions for electronic listening or viewing at the student’s leisure), e-mail, threaded (linked) discussion forums, chat rooms, and test-taking functionality would enable an immersive learning and teaching experience.

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