Virtual learning has been a core component of education for over 20 years. It hasn’t been the center of discussion, but it’s had a significant presence from learning management systems (LMS) to virtual classrooms and everything in between. Because of renewed focus on distance learning, remote teaching and now hybrid learning, virtual learning within schools and higher education has taken a more prominent role in shaping how, when, and where students learn.
- What is a virtual learning
- What makes a virtual learning environment
- The main benefits of virtual learning nowadays
- How does VLE actually improve learning
- Is there a difference between virtual & online learning
- Pros & cons of virtual vs frontal / old school learning
- Kaltura’s various virtual learning solutions
- Future of education via virtual learning
What is Virtual Learning
Virtual learning refers to web-based or digital applications or software that enhance or extend the education experience. Unlike distance education, virtual learning does not replace or replicate the traditional classroom. Instead, virtual learning is the digital space where learning takes place in remote, hybrid, and even traditional learning environments.
For example, teachers may offer on-demand video courses within an LMS in a flipped classroom or simply to enhance traditional face-to-face instruction. They may use that same video course accompanied by assessments as a complete self-directed, remote class. Either way, virtual learning is being used as the backbone to deliver the material.
What Makes a Virtual Learning Environment
A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a platform comprised of educational technologies to author, deliver, and engage with course content. VLEs may include homegrown tools, but most provide the ability to easily integrate with other educational technologies using standard methods such as learning tools interoperability (LTI). A virtual learning environment will typically include:
- Student Administration – VLEs hold a lot of student data such as projects and assignments, grades, engagement, and PII information. Administrators need to control and manage access to this information.
- Communication – Students and teachers can communicate through a variety of standard electronic methods such as text messaging, emails, bulletin boards, threaded forums, commenting, and even voice and video chat.
- Collaboration – Tools such as collaborative notes or document editors provide the ability for students to work together in peer groups.
- Content Management Systems (CMS) – A CMS enables the sharing of documents and files easily from within the VLE. Students can upload work, download assignments, and access course material.
- Virtual Classrooms – Virtual classrooms provide opportunities for the teacher to get face-to-face with students as well as for students to see other students. Teachers can use this time as a replacement for an in-person class or even enhance the in-person class as open office hours or workshops.
- Course Management & Delivery – Teachers can build out their online course environment that includes curriculum, schedules, video courses, assessments, live classes, and more. Many VLEs provide simple authoring tools such as lecture capture and video quizzes to assist teachers in content creation for their courses.
- Assessments – Assessments are critical in information retention. VLEs provide opportunities to deliver quizzes and other assessment activities.
The Main Benefits of Virtual Learning Nowadays
Schools have already benefited from virtual learning in optimizing student management and centralizing digital educational experiences. Virtual learning was often looked at as an extension of a student’s learning experience that was nice to have, but not a priority for many school districts. Now, we see that virtual learning is a necessity. It enhances a student’s learning experience and adds resilience to our schools.
For example, if brick-and-mortar schools must close, then they can lean on their virtual learning environment to keep students actively learning without disruption. School resilience, a kind of disaster recovery like SaaS companies plan for, is critical to ensure that students don’t fall behind. As we saw in a previous blog post (These 5 Features Changed the Way I Teach Online Forever), the impacts of long-term disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on students, “Research from a July 2021 McKinsey & Company report found that on average students experienced a learning loss of 5 months in Math and 4 months in reading.” An active VLE can act as a school-in-a-box to ensure class continuity.
Virtual learning is even going after snow days! The Atlantic found that “40 percent of school districts have replaced traditional snow days with remote-learning days.” This was largely made possible by onboarding and scaling virtual learning environments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, there are other benefits to virtual learning so let’s see how virtual learning can improve learning.
How Does VLE Improve Learning
A key criterion for bringing technology into the classroom is to improve learning. As we mentioned above, school resilience is certainly an improvement for ensuring learning continuity. By maintaining that, students are less likely to fall behind during school closures. Virtual learning helps students achieve academic success in other ways as well:
- Instant Feedback – Feedback is important to learning. Providing relevant feedback to students on what they are doing correctly and what they are doing incorrectly helps them learn. Timing is also important for feedback. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that groups given instant feedback vs delayed feedback experienced a larger gain in performance. VLEs provide channels for instant or less delayed feedback. This is possible through chat widgets and assessment tools that utilize artificial intelligence or even the opportunity to connect in sessions with teachers and peers.
- Personalized Learning – Virtual learning has allowed for great personalization in learning. Underperforming students aren’t necessarily underperforming because the material is too difficult. The methods of teaching are impactful. Some students have anxieties that prevent them from learning in a classroom setting or they have challenges with following the teacher at the pace the teacher is moving. Virtual learning provides flexibility. Students can direct their learning through on-demand courses, move at a pace comfortable for them, and review as much as they need. AI can measure their progress and recommend specific course material or learning paths and teachers can more easily track student progress.
- Mentoring, Tutoring, and Coaching – Virtual learning environments can provide direct connections to mentors and tutors. Consider online shopping. If you have a question, then you can launch a chat window with a support person and they can help you. Similar tools exist in VLEs for students to connect with tutors or mentors that are helping many students with quick questions or bigger problems. Tutors can schedule virtual classroom time with groups of students to discuss the class and address open questions. Virtual learning provides more opportunities to get additional facetime with students.
Is There a Difference Between Virtual & Online Learning
The truth is many folks use the terms virtual learning and online learning interchangeably. It’s not wrong, but there is a nuance between the two. Online learning occurs when education takes place over the internet. Classic examples of online learning are remote and distance learning. There are virtual schools where all learning takes place online – they have replaced the classroom completely. Virtual learning does not replace the classroom. Instead, it extends it. Examples of virtual learning include connecting remote experts into the class to present their work, video courses to complete as assignments or various online interactivities like educational games and quizzes.
Pros & Cons of Virtual vs Frontal / Old School Learning
When some of us hear about virtual learning, we might immediately think of remote classrooms where we never see our students. As we mentioned, that’s not the case. Virtual learning is not meant to replace classroom instruction. Instead, the goal is to enhance classroom instruction through online experiences. It is not “this or that”. It’s “this and that”.
It is worth mentioning an important challenge around peppering in online experiences or even making them more central to learning. Equity. Virtual learning requires students to have a laptop or computer and a strong internet connection. If they don’t, then they won’t be able to participate. By 2020, Statista found that 13% of Americans don’t have access to household computers and the FCC found that 6% don’t have access to fixed broadband to meet minimum thresholds. Though that sounds relatively impressive, that does mean millions of our most vulnerable populations are at risk of falling further behind.
Kaltura’s Various Virtual Learning Solutions
Kaltura education solutions are virtual learning solutions. Kaltura integrates seamlessly into all major learning management systems as well as custom virtual learning environments to provide a rich set of video tools that enhance teaching and learning online:
- Video Content Management System – Organize school videos in one central place to safely manage and distribute them through Kaltura’s Video Content Management System. Videos can be uploaded, recorded classes, or videos created using Kaltura video authoring tools. Students can use advanced search and discovery features to find any video by metadata mapping, slide content, or captioned video.
- Accessibility – Kaltura is committed to enhancing the learning of students of all abilities. Learn more about Kaltura accessibility. Kaltura REACH services include human and automatic captioning, transcription, translation, in-video search, and more.
- Virtual Classroom – Video conferencing tools are not virtual classrooms. Kaltura virtual classrooms are purpose-built to help teachers deliver engaging face-to-face instruction online through collaborative tools like quizzes, polls, breakout rooms, and sharing high-quality video as content. Rooms are persistent which allows teachers to prepare their rooms ahead of time to make the most out of their time with their students.
- Authoring Tools – Tools like lecture capture make it easy to create powerful videos for students to watch on their own time. Teachers can easily add quizzes to their videos to measure understanding and ensure students are watching the content.
Future of Education via Virtual Learning
Virtual learning is becoming more integral to schools at all levels. Not only do they help schools organize and manage students, but they provide many tools for improving student learning outcomes. Additionally, as we mentioned above, schools are far more concerned about resilience in the face of disruptions and are looking to virtual learning environments to minimize their impact. Schools will continue to invest heavily in educational technology. Edsurge found 2020 had record investment in educational technology and trends point to that continuing. There has been little doubt that schools would continue to invest in virtual learning to help connect curriculum with the modern world. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst to quicken adoption.
As we have seen with many trends in education, it is an exciting, albeit anxious time to be a teacher and even a student. What’s important to remember is that virtual learning is not replacing the classroom. It is an online component to enhance and extend the classroom. There is room for creativity. There is room for building stronger connections with students. There is room to shape how virtual learning will be used in your classroom rather than the other way around.
Empower your students with virtual learning… With Kaltura’s Video Cloud Platform for Education.