Chances are, whether you’re an elementary school teacher or a corporate trainer, you’re using a Learning Management System (LMS). Many of us have been using LMS’s well before remote learning became normalized. Because we are where we are and the pace of innovation (and the adoption of said innovation) is unreal, the LMS has often become the center of the online learning experience. Though there are many tools and functions of the LMS, the LMS virtual classroom has become the poster child for full remote and distance learning as well as hybrid learning.
What is an LMS Virtual Classroom?
An LMS virtual classroom is a video conferencing platform specifically built for learning that integrates seamlessly within a learning management system.
The virtual classroom enables teachers and facilitators to engage their learners face-to-face as well as through unique sets of tools for learning and development such as breakout rooms, real-time assessment, and interactive whiteboards.
By integrating seamlessly with the LMS, an LMS virtual classroom provides a lot of added benefits:
- Single Sign-On (SSO) provides one-click access without the need to remember yet another password through industry standards such as SAML or LTI
- Browser-based LMS virtual classrooms maintain a consistent experience, opening directly in the LMS without the need to install and launch 3rd party applications
- Data and analytics flow through API hooks like xAPI or RestAPI so that the LMS remains the source of truth for all learning data. You can even have your session recordings automatically available for learners to watch VOD and get additional data from that!
Organizations that center their learning world around the LMS must be sure that the LMS virtual classroom they choose delivers the experience their learners have grown accustomed to.
How to Choose an LMS Virtual Classroom Platform for Your Own Needs
Just like most things today, it’s a buyer’s market. There are a lot of options when considering what is the best LMS virtual classroom for you and your school or company. Let’s unpack three things to consider as you start kicking the tires on a few solutions:
- Experience – Experience in the LMS virtual classroom is critical. Our learners are typically tech-savvy consumers that are accustomed to the best online experiences. We must be sure to deliver seamless learning experiences free from unnecessary burdens on our learners. Must-haves are SSO authentication to avoid multiple sign-ins and nice-to-haves are browser-based virtual classrooms that can be full branded to match your organization’s look and feel.
- Interactivity – It’s difficult to get people in the same room (physically and virtually). The power of having, real-time, virtual instructor-led training (VILT) is the ability to collaborate and actively engage with your learners. Encourage peer-to-peer interaction with breakout sessions, gain feedback with polls, assess understanding with live quizzes, and of course, get everyone on webcam and mic to have lively conversations.
- Multimedia – Choose an LMS virtual classroom that allows you to deliver a complete experience. You’ll want persistent rooms to set up ahead of time with content such as presentations, PDFs, and video. Remember, video is super engaging and interesting. Why not leverage it to captivate your learners that promote continued conversations?
Top 3 LMS Virtual Classroom Platforms
Since 3 seems to be the magical number, let’s explore my list of the best LMS virtual classrooms available today.
- Kaltura Virtual Classroom – What? This hardly seems impartial. Ok, it isn’t. I’m biased. I had my hand in making this list and I spent years helping design and build the Kaltura Virtual Classroom. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out this case study done in partnership with Stride. From the outset, we set out to deliver an engaging LMS virtual classroom that integrates seamlessly into any LMS, is completely browser-based, is fully brandable, and is chock-full of interactive, learning-first features.
- BigBlueButton – BigBlueButton is built for online classroom teaching with features such as the ability to share files and your desktop, interactive whiteboard, and up to 15 webcams that can broadcast at one time. BigBlueButton also integrates into most major learning management systems. BigBlueButton is not self-hosted which means that should you look to deploy BigBlueButton that you will need to set up the servers yourself or work with a 3rd party to help you deploy the relevant servers.
- Zoom – At this point, we all know about Zoom. Zoom is not exactly an LMS virtual classroom. Zoom is a video conferencing tool, but it can work for some instruction. Though it doesn’t have many of the tools that virtual classrooms have, it does offer breakout sessions, video chat, and polling. Zoom also offers the ability to integrate elements of their platform within the LMS though the experience does require launching the Zoom app which takes users out of the LMS.
How to Integrate Your LMS with a Virtual Classroom
There isn’t one-size-fits-all when integrating an LMS virtual classroom in your LMS. Some learning management systems have 3rd party application stores that allow you to select your LMS virtual classroom and have it immediately available in your LMS while others require a bunch of custom work.
At the very least, you’ll want to make sure that the LMS virtual classroom you select has integration options either by having open APIs for custom implementations or by supporting standards such as Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). Most major learning management systems support LTI which enables you to easily make your virtual classrooms available through the LMS as external tools that trainers and learners can access directly through the LMS without requiring another sign-in.
It is also important to consider what you want with the integration. Typically, you’ll want to have the following:
- User provisioning – create users on the fly
- User authentication – users can access securely through SSO
- Room or class provisioning – create contextual virtual classrooms as needed
- Recordings – make sure your recordings are returned and viewable in the LMS after the session instead of requiring the facilitator to jump through workflow hoops to share them.
- Data and analytics – hook up endpoints to easily pass back virtual class data such as attendance, chat history, quiz and poll responses, attention metrics, and more.
Remember, regardless of the LMS and integration path selected, you want your users to access contextual virtual classrooms directly through the LMS without the need for additional sign-ins. You also want to be able to leverage all the key virtual classroom offerings such as getting that important engagement data and related session recordings without a bunch of manual steps in between. Everything needs to be easy and automatic.
Kaltura Virtual Classroom Solution
I host a lot of sessions showing off the capabilities of the Kaltura Virtual Classroom. The best way to get a deep dive into the solution is to check out this recorded webinar that even shows some examples of the integrated LMS virtual classroom.
The Kaltura Virtual Classroom has been built from the ground up as a tool for education and training. I’ll highlight some key features that many of our education and enterprise customers enjoy:
- Browser-based and brandable – The virtual classroom can be customized to match your organization’s look & feel as well as be seamlessly integrated into your preferred learning portal. This means that your learners never have to leave your learning environment to join your virtual classes.
- Persistent rooms – Facilitators can prepare their rooms ahead of time by uploading content like PDFs, presentations, and videos and ordering them in a playlist. The playlist becomes a sort of content agenda for the training session. Preparation features like that enable you to create rich, multimedia experiences that flow like a well-produced television show.
- Interactive tools – Kaltura virtual classroom promotes engagement first. After all, why have a bunch of learners join you live if they’re just expected to watch passively? Utilize tools like quizzing for real-time assessment, poll for feedback, advanced breakout room features such as prepopulated content and permissions for directed breakout room activities, interactive whiteboards and file annotations, collaborative notes, and more.
- Classroom management features – Facilitators have a lot of options to set up the virtual classroom as they need it such as configurating room modes like webinar or virtual classroom. They also have a host of moderator features to give or revoke permissions at a global or individual level.
Beyond the tools and features designed specifically to make virtual instructor-led training more effective, Kaltura Virtual Classroom is one part of the Kaltura Video Cloud. Our vision is a 360-degree view of video in education – from foundational level information delivered through video on demand (VOD), collaborative and engaging virtual classrooms that leverage video, broadcasted town halls to reach the entire organization, interactive video for additional engagement, and robust sets of data that is available through industry-wide standards.
When speaking about scaling your training and education, we’re often talking about video on demand. VOD is great at providing learning at the point of need, but if we rely only on self-directed learning then we lose a core component of learning that is peer-to-peer and peer-educator engagement. The amazing thing about LMS virtual classrooms is that they provide opportunities for every learner to communicate, collaborate, and engage one another.
We have to consider the experience. Today’s learners are fickle. They know what they like and they certainly know what they don’t like. With that in mind, we must account for their journey in our learning platform. If the LMS is the center of our learning world, then our LMS virtual classroom must seamlessly integrate within that environment. We cannot force learners to sign into the LMS only to push them outside of the LMS into some other strange environment.
Learners aren’t the only users we’re supporting. We also have to take into account the experience of our instructional designers and facilitators. We cannot bog them down unnecessarily with additional workflows. We need to make their lives easier. The virtual classroom must provide them the ability to set up their session, manage and host their session, and easily retrieve the relevant data and recordings from their session.
Consider your organization’s needs:
- What’s important to your VILT sessions?
- What kind of activities do your facilitators expect to do?
- How are you measuring the success of your programs?
- What LMS are you using and what integration options do you require?
Unpack the essence of what you’re trying to achieve and you’re going to find the right LMS virtual classroom for your organization.
Start your own LMS Virtual Classroom… With Kaltura!