In the past several months, with the crisis of COVID-19, much of the activity that used to take place in “physical” space has been replaced with digital technologies. This is evidenced by the extreme increases in usage of various learning technologies.
One of the tools that has been deployed rapidly is the virtual classroom, to replace the face-to-face physical classes that can no longer happen, or must occur with reduced learner density. This made the choice of virtual classroom a critical one for not just distance-only courses, but for all of higher, secondary, and even primary education.
What is a Virtual Classroom?
A virtual classroom is a service that allows a number of users to gather in the same virtual space, where the participants are able to see and hear each other, and where some of the users have extra “instructor” permissions so that they can manage the class effectively for purposes of teaching. Ideally – as we will cover below – there are also a number of features that will allow for richer, more interactive types of exchanges between participants.
In a pinch, it’s possible to use an ordinary web conferencing tool (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) as a virtual classroom. But there are a few special considerations to keep in mind which can make the difference between a basic web conference and a great interactive learning experience.
What Are the Most Important Features of a Virtual Classroom?
There are some features which, so to speak, are “inside” the walls of the virtual room, and some that are “outside” of the room.
Inside of the room, it’s important to have the ability:
- for the instructor to individually turn on/off the microphone and camera of individual participants, in case one user is having technical problems such as feedback, or is disruptive to the class
- for the instructor to display documents, such as PDFs, slide decks, or videos with full resolution
- for the instructor to share screen, to show something that is happening on his/her desktop
- for the instructor to turn on a whiteboard, where they can post pictures, illustrate answers to problems, or mark up a presentation (such as a document) that they are reviewing
- for the instructor to temporarily turn on any of these tools (whiteboard, screen share, etc.) for any of the students; including allowing them to work collaboratively on the whiteboard so they can work together on how to solve a problem
- for any work product done in the room (document mark-ups, etc) to be preserved for later use
- to record the session for later viewing
- to deliver polls and quizzes during the session, to keep students active and involved
- to divide students into breakout rooms for group work; and the possibility to sit in on any breakout room at will or when requested
Outside of the room, it’s important to have the ability:
- for students to enter the room not only with a URL but also by clicking on a button in their LMS.
- to automatically publish the class recordings into the LMS. This is critical for students who may miss a session; relying on the instructor to keep track of the recording URL is unreliable.
- to search for, as well as view, the recordings of virtual class sessions, including searching the transcripts of those sessions for a particular topic.
- to aggregate data from the room that shows who was in attendance, for how long, how long they paid attention, and what they did in the room (chat activity, whiteboard activity, etc.)
And in general, it’s important that the virtual classroom respect whatever security and data privacy regulations apply in your area. This caused some problems for certain tools in early 2020.
Why is Kaltura’s Virtual Classroom the best solution for e-Learning?
The Kaltura Virtual Classroom is not simply a web conferencing tool which is being used as a virtual classroom; it’s built specifically for to be used as a virtual classroom. This means that:
- it understands the full lifecycle of a virtual classroom experience – from the time a user launches it (often right from their LMS or other learning context), through the in-class experience, all the way through to the publishing and search of recordings.
- it is built to allow the teacher maximum control of the classroom and the tools that the participants can access
- it has a built-in content management system, so that the teacher can pre-load all needed documents
- it persists over time, so objects in a virtual classroom can remain from session to session
- it has a number of interactive features, to drive active participation in the class
- it’s built with the latest technologies for maximum security
We believe that, as schools transition from an “emergency” mode of moving online, deploying the tools that are easiest and most ready to hand, that they will begin to adopt tools over time that are more specifically suited to the needs of a virtual classroom — and we invite you to take a look at the Kaltura Virtual Classroom and what it can offer.
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