Virtual classroom: a new form of live learning
Employers are making decisions around employees’ training needs post COVID-19 and many are concerned about bringing high numbers of people into a physical classroom. As a result, the pandemic appears to have pushed virtual classroom training to the forefront; it has allowed employees to keep learning during a time when meeting trainers in-person is not necessarily safe. In this blog, David Sharp explains the many benefits of virtual classrooms.
What is a virtual classroom?
Virtual learning has changed the face of education in so many ways. Developments in technology mean that trainers can now deliver training sessions over the internet that effectively replicate the in-person experience.
Where online training previously meant watching through pre-recorded video lessons, virtual classrooms are live, interactive, and engaging.
“Definitely the best delivered remote learning course I’ve come across in COVID times,” said Simon Holt of Voltalia, speaking of the IOSH training via virtual classroom delivered by International Workplace. “The elements presented made a good impact and made the course feel really relevant! I’ve recommended this to others in my team to get up to speed with H&S culture.”
A virtual classroom effectively brings trainers and students together, via the internet, on an online platform. Students log in to the virtual classroom at the time that the lesson is due to take place, via a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone connected to the internet.
This means training sessions can be accessed from any location with an internet connection, usually at home or at work.
The tutor will usually give the lesson live, providing students the opportunity to ask questions and participate just as they would during a face-to-face lesson.
A virtual classroom is essentially a video conferencing tool where instructors and participants engage with each other and with the learning material. The difference to ordinary video conferencing is that virtual classrooms can offer an added set of features. For example, virtual classroom software can allow instructors to:
- monitor student participation;
- use learning materials in the form of documents, slides or multimedia files;
- enhance training with screen-sharing and virtual whiteboard features;
- divide the participants into breakout rooms, which the instructor can join; and
- record the sessions.
There are two main types of virtual classrooms:
- Instructor-led or supervised virtual classrooms, which are most like traditional education in a physical classroom. The tutor carries out real-time lessons within a specific time and date.
- Unsupervised virtual classrooms in which students learn at their own pace. Learning material is provided, but the trainer only supervises as and when required.
Well-delivered training via virtual classroom offers the same high standard of in-person training alongside a number of additional benefits.
Safety during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has made continuing to carry out face-to-face training more challenging. Whilst the pandemic has forced many organisations and businesses to put things on hold, the training and development of staff doesn’t need to be one of them. Online training courses provide individuals with a safe way to continue learning and developing their skills and knowledge.
One of the most obvious benefits of virtual classroom training is how it can be conveniently fitted in with students’ home or work life. Virtual training sessions can be completed from either home, work or any other convenient location.
Without the location or time limitations of a traditional classroom setting, students have the freedom to learn and engage with peers, at a time and location that they will learn best.
In addition, travelling to attend training sessions can be stressful, expensive and time-consuming. Completing training in a virtual classroom eliminates the need to travel anywhere.
Travelling to attend a training session can take a full day and sometimes even require an overnight stay if the venue is a long distance away. Attending a training session remotely only requires students to take the length of the training session out of their day.
Cost efficiency and scalability
Online training can be a more cost-effective option than face-to-face learning; the training sessions themselves can be more affordable than in-person training as they accrue fewer overheads. For businesses and organisations, putting employees through online training sessions also means fewer expenses as face-to-face training may incur transport, accommodation, petrol and food.
An additional benefit of virtual classrooms is that a larger number of students can attend at any one time. Physical classrooms often limit seating to a maximum number. By contrast, virtual classrooms can accommodate higher numbers, allowing more students to attend classes at once. It is, however, still prudent to keep numbers at a manageable level.
Access for everyone, via any device
Students can connect to virtual classroom platforms from any device that can link to the internet, such as a laptop, tablet or smart phone. This type of flexibility enables students to access content, regardless of their location, across the globe.
It also makes training more accessible for those with disabilities who might struggle to attend a physical classroom session.
Participation and communication
Virtual classroom lessons can be as engaging and interactive as in-person sessions, allowing students to interact live with the trainer and participate in group activities.
An effective virtual classroom is one that makes use of multiple communication channels, such as online virtual meeting software, chat rooms, messaging, voice calls and conferencing options.
Perhaps most important, a virtual classroom ensures human connection, a vital element of classroom teaching that video-on-demand courses don’t have. In a virtual classroom, tutors interact with students in real time; students can voice their questions and interact with peers similarly to how they would in a regular classroom.
Digital whiteboards, file sharing, virtual meeting applications and chat boxes also facilitate collaborative learning between students.
Cloud-based facilities allow students and educators access to learning material 24/7.
Better customisation of lessons
Virtual classrooms make use of a range of media types to present knowledge so that a variety of student abilities and learning styles are catered to. These include videos, presentations, SlideShare, animations, digital whiteboards and webinars.
The ease of accessibility of an online learning platform gives learners the opportunity to take a break at certain times of the work day to undertake training. This allows employees to learn at various times of the day, a flexible solution that is not possible with physical classrooms.
Student progress tracking
Another major benefit of virtual classroom software is that tutors are able to track student progress. Trainers can consult data such as class attendance and student activity. They can track a participant’s progress, identify areas of difficulty and help the student learn.
The use of technology allows for instant feedback. If the virtual classroom is being used for compliance, or another type of learning topic that requires a test of knowledge, learners can get immediate feedback on how well they comprehended the information.
Developments in technology have enabled the creation of virtual classroom learning, allowing students to continue to learn in a world where physical classroom lessons are not currently a safe or viable option. But this isn’t just a temporary substitute while we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19; it has become a beneficial method of education that will continue to rise in popularity and use.
Speaking about his IOSH training by virtual classroom, delivered by International Workplace, Gerry Doherty of Savills said: “Initially I was unclear how effective an online course would be… however, the presenter (Jamie) was excellent and the course content structured well. It’s definitely a model that will work and allows an efficient delivery of training without the travel component, which makes it attractive.”
For more information on virtual classrooms and how International Workplace can help you deliver your training virtually, please click here.