Published on:
March 12, 2021

A Guide to Virtual Classrooms

A virtual classroom is a digital learning environment where instructors and learners connect online in real-time.

A virtual classroom is a digital learning environment where teachers and learners connect online in real-time. Virtual classrooms use video conferencing, screen sharing, and online whiteboards to allow instructors to hold live lectures, virtual office hours, and discussions with learners in an interactive setting.


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Virtual Classrooms

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Virtual Classrooms

A virtual classroom is a shared online space where tutors and learners work together simultaneously. Learning content is usually presented in different formats. Also, training involves various collaborative and individual activities.

Virtual classrooms are online spaces that share similar features to brick-and-mortar classrooms. They provide an environment that ensures human connection. Instructors and learners can interact in real-time. This allows students to ask questions and connect with their peers in ways similar to a traditional classroom setup, albeit over the internet.

These platforms are scalable and can accommodate a large number of learners. Traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms have a definite capacity for learners. This allows each student to sit comfortably and have enough comfort. In contrast, virtual classrooms use virtual solutions that have higher learner capacities. Consequently, the participation rates are enhanced.

Courses offered via virtual classrooms are accommodative and do not compromise on the delivery and impact of education. To add, classroom sessions can be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous learning takes place when the teachers and learners are all logged in at the same time.

Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, takes place when the teachers and learners log in at their preferred times. In this type, users can access pre-recorded components such as presentations, videos, and lecture slides to facilitate learning.

A virtual classroom conducted in a synchronous fashion adds value to online learning by addressing the learner’s needs with regards to social interaction and psychological safety. Also, they create a new standard in learning that is above and beyond traditional methods of learning.

Additionally, virtual classrooms offer plenty of opportunities, especially, when combined with learning management systems, or when combined with traditional modes of training. When compared to traditional methods of learning, virtual classrooms offer instant feedback, instructor-learner interaction, and activities that increase participation and motivation. In turn, relationships between instructors and learners are strengthened which leads to a sense of community.

In a virtual classroom, the teacher or instructor has the important role of guiding the learners and also supports them during group activities and discussions.

Virtual classrooms have become a common mode of training in today’s fast-paced digital world. The global online education market is projected to reach US$350 billion by 2025. In fact, in a recent survey, it was reported that 85% of students prefer a virtual classroom setup to a traditional face-to-face classroom setup.

Virtual classrooms allow learners to pursue their training while working a job or carrying out other personal activities. Indeed, it eliminates additional costs of travel and accommodation. Such a mode of training, through the use of virtual platforms, mimics face-to-face interactions.

In the corporate scene, leaders are concerned about the fast-changing business environment. Indeed, it is characterized by rapid innovation which calls for modern training methods. Hence, virtual classrooms present an ideal solution for high-impact learning and distance education programs.

Virtual Classrooms and Democratization of Learning

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Virtual Classrooms and Democratization of Learning

Virtual classrooms allow learners from different parts of the world to attend classes regardless of their location. Indeed, they supplement existing educational structures or can be used as the main structures of education to impart knowledge.

These classrooms promote democratic and inclusive learning which also helps to reduce the costs of traditional educational courses and certifications. In times such as the COVID-19 period, virtual classrooms have provided access to learning to thousands of global learners.

Virtual Classroom versus eLearning

eLearning (electronic learning) is a type of online training where instructors and learners join and complete classroom activities at their own pace, on their own schedule.

On the other hand, a virtual classroom is a type of online learning where instructors and learners mostly hold live sessions. Learners are also allowed to ask questions and chat with their classmates.

Hence, the main difference between the two is that virtual classrooms are more interactive.

Other distinguishing characteristics include the following.

Virtual classrooms:

  • Learning is delivered through software, the internet, or both.
  • Learners have remote access to instructors and content.
  • Can be used inside or outside of an educational institution.
  • Can be used in a self-paced format or live web-conferencing between instructors and learners.
  • Instructors and learners can interact with each other online.

eLearning:

  • Uses digital tools for learning and teaching. Technology facilitates learning.
  • Can be used online or in a classroom setup.
  • Learners have unlimited access to learning content.
  • Learners can take courses from instructors but only interact with them online.
  • The programs, course completion, and certificates are handled online.

Virtual Classroom versus Distance Learning

Distance learning is the education of learners who are not always physically present in a brick-and-mortar educational institution. Traditionally, this mode of training involved correspondence where students corresponded with their teachers via mail. Today, distance learning is fully online.

Virtual learning offers in-person interaction between an instructor and a learner. In contrast, distance learning offers no such interaction. However, for distance learning, students rely on digital forms of communication such as video calls, messaging apps, and discussion boards.

To add, virtual classrooms are used in combination with other in-person training methods. It is a supplemental method of training. On the contrary, distance learning is a method of training that is used solely. It is not used as a supplemental mode of learning.


Types of Virtual Classrooms

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Types of Virtual Classrooms

Virtual classrooms are highly-customizable. They may form the backbone of an entire course or feature as an add-on in a course. Therefore, they may be tweaked to suit your organization’s needs. Here are the common types:

Fully Online

This type does not allow face-to-face offline interactions. Courses can be synchronous or asynchronous.

Enriched Virtual Classrooms

For this type, the majority of courses are delivered online. Only a few offline components are used. Such components include face-to-face meetings with instructors or collaborative sessions with other peers over important assignments or theses.

Rotation

This type combines both virtual and offline classrooms which are rotated according to a schedule. In many cases, most of the learning takes place online while face-to-face sessions only take place to reinforce what was taught online.

Flexible

In this type, the virtual classroom remains open and available for learners to access learning material at their own convenience. Mostly, it is encouraged that learning takes place in small groups. The virtual classrooms are left open for reference in case a learner wants to refresh what they were taught.

Mix-and-Match

This model allows the learners to choose the method of learning that works best for them. It is a combination of digital learning methods and can be institution-governed or student-led. Indeed, this method is designed for learners to gain maximum knowledge.

Advantages of Virtual Classrooms Over Instructor-Led Training (ILT)

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Advantages of Virtual Classrooms Over Instructor-Led Training (ILT)

Highly-Interactive

Virtual classrooms utilize multiple communication channels such as chat rooms, messaging, voice calls, and virtual meeting software. These diverse options allow different learners with different preferences to benefit. In turn, the learning interaction levels are enhanced.

Collaboration

Features of virtual learning (discussed in a later section in this article) including digital whiteboards, virtual meeting applications, file sharing, and chats facilitate collaboration between learners and instructors.

Virtual classroom collaboration mimics real-time physical classrooms. It also reinforces learned material leading to greater knowledge retention.

Student-Focused Learning

Virtual classrooms focus on real-time learner education, unlike pre-recorded video sessions which are highly instructor-led and teacher-centric. Students can ask questions, discuss topics in real-time, and get clarifications for concepts.

Comfortable Learning

With virtual classrooms, learning feels less robotic. Undoubtedly, human interaction in learning is vital. Virtual classrooms enable learners to interact with peers and instructors without compromise. This is done at the learner’s most preferred and comfortable setting.

Variety of Content Types

Virtual classrooms use a range of content types to present knowledge that is catered to different learners’ styles of learning. These include presentations, videos, slides, animations, webinars, and digital whiteboards.

Anytime Peer Support

ILT gives learners the opportunity to interact with other peers and their instructors. However, when they leave the site of the training, all that stops. A virtual classroom offers anytime peer support that helps learners to identify limiting behaviors and other challenges from afar.

Besides, learners can address issues on the spot instead of waiting for the next ILT session.

Launch Remote and Risk-Free Training Programs

Social and physical distancing especially during the COVID-19 period has become an ordinary thing. Learning has not been spared and no other time in recent history has it necessitated educators to launch remote training programs than during this pandemic.

ILT programs have been affected since it is a challenge to gather teams in one location. Fortunately, elearning has a solution. Virtual classroom software allows learners and instructors to interact without the risk of contagion.

To add, learners and instructors don’t have to worry about sanitization, social and physical distancing, wearing gloves, and other COVID-19 prevention guidelines.

Improved Flexibility

An effective virtual classroom platform makes training quick and convenient. Learners can attend synchronous programs from the comfort of their homes. They can also take self-paced programs depending on their daily schedules.

Hence, virtual classrooms are flexible and adaptable. 

Digital Job Aids

Virtual classrooms help to supplement learner knowledge. Hence, you can incorporate digital resources that help to bridge knowledge gaps. In the corporate scene, such knowledge helps to improve employee performance.

Digital job aids don’t necessarily have to be long demo videos. Instead, you can, for instance, incorporate 2-minute videos to help employees identify personal areas of improvement. Such digital job aids can also be used by instructors in their curricula. For example, they can refer learners to resource links where more information can be obtained.

Immediate Online Training Feedback

One instructor can’t teach a large group. Hence, learners always do not get much-needed one-on-one sessions. Virtual classroom software facilitates immediate feedback. This feedback can come from remote instructors, experienced peers, or from asynchronous activities.

For instance, learners can participate in branching scenarios that are related to a topic being taught. After such a session, the learner can get personalized recommendations and performance reviews.

In turn, learners can evaluate their decisions and behaviors right away when the subject matter is still fresh in their minds, and there is still time to make meaningful change.

Virtual Classroom Main Features

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Virtual Classroom Main Features

When looking for a virtual classroom solution, consider the following features:

1. Interactivity

Similar to a physical classroom, learners want to interact with their instructors and their peers. Ideally, they want to share their ideas during those times in their discussions when those ideas are most important. They should be able to express themselves verbally and see how other participants feel about the issues being discussed.

Virtual classrooms should provide users with ways of alerting their learners when they want to ask questions. Additionally, users should be able to contribute to what goes on the team whiteboard during their classroom sessions. They should also be able to use emoticons to express their emotions.

2. Screen Sharing

Your virtual classroom software should include a screen sharing feature where instructors can show learners how to troubleshoot issues in real-time. This is especially ideal for task walkthroughs and software demos. You should also have the option to record your screen for future reference.

3. Highly-Scalable

Most virtual classroom platforms are built with the assumption that users will automatically be on a broadband connection. In reality, this is not the case. Your virtual classroom solution should have the following:

  • It should work even over low bandwidths.
  • Vibrant VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) that can serve a large audience.
  • IP audio and video with full IP multicast support for core features.
  • Other technologies that enhance scalability in a network that is not fully multicast enabled.
  • Reliable deployments that can serve national and international audiences.
  • Remote satellites and real-time Cloud to support multiple languages across the globe.

4. Content Management

An effective virtual classroom should do more than just share PowerPoint slides. It should bring slides, whiteboards, applications, websites, polls, surveys, recordings, and assessments into a single, clearly defined agenda.

Great classroom content should not be left to a single instructor or leader. Instead, it should be available for all to benefit. Everyone should be granted access and allowed to repackage or reuse it to its fullest.

5. Mobile User Support

Your virtual classroom solution should be as flexible and mobile as your users. Look out for the following:

  • Accessible on a mobile phone.
  • Ease of interactivity during classroom sessions.
  • Ease of playback for recorded content.
  • Ease of participation especially for VoIP.

6. Easy-to-Administer Classes

Your chosen virtual classroom solution should come with a tool that has an agenda builder. This feature allows you to import content before classroom sessions start. You should also be able to identify content properties and organize content sequences.

The platform should allow adding placeholders for web, apps, and whiteboard sharing. To add, you should have the ability to create tests, polls, evaluations, and surveys. These assist in measuring opinions, learning, and progress. Moreover, your virtual classroom should provide breakout rooms where learners can do collaborative activities.

7. High-Quality Voice and Video

Voice and video both need to work on your network. VoIP is a popular choice for most organizations. However, poor sound quality makes users opt for other alternatives. In the case you are using VoIP, it should be clear even if your users are working in low bandwidth locations.

When selecting your virtual classroom solution, you should conduct sound and video tests in various locations. This ensures that whatever results you get are representative of what your users will experience in real life.

Additionally, you should forecast what will happen if the number of your users grows. Indeed, high-quality voice and video is a delicate balance between fidelity/resolution. Hence, settle for a solution that uses the latest open-based-standard technologies such as H.264 scalable video coding.

8. Reliability and Performance

You should look for virtual classroom software that is able to keep both live and recorded sessions up. It should also be able to detect network solutions before they affect the user’s experience.

Most users often overlook the performance of recorded sessions when choosing a virtual classroom solution. However, low-quality recordings will not appeal to audiences. Besides, learners should be allowed to take quizzes and tests as part of the recorded sessions in case they missed classes.

9. Social Learning

Virtual classrooms are not just about facilitating online classes and eliminating travel. Your virtual classroom solution should integrate with various social networks. Therefore, look for a solution that makes classroom sessions, whether live or recorded, accessible to everyone.

To add, your virtual classroom platform should allow users to comment on a session, tag it, rate it, and share it with their peers. Also, it should allow you to leverage gamification techniques to enhance user engagement.

10. Advanced Security

Unauthorized access to classroom sessions and learning content poses a great risk. There are sensitive classroom sessions and learning content that require high levels of security. 

Accordingly, you should be able to restrict classroom attendance to specific authorized users. This helps to keep out hackers, uninvited participants, and unauthorized users.

To add, classroom leaders should be able to remove unwanted users at any time. After any event has ended, they should know who was logged in, when, and for how long.

11. Secure File Sharing

Your virtual classroom solution should come with a two-way sharing system. This allows seamless collaboration and enables the sharing of assignments, projects, and reports on one single learning platform.

12. Real-Time Instant Messaging

A reliable virtual classroom solution should have messaging features to accommodate bandwidths without compromising communications. Learners should be able to communicate with their peers and instructors on matters that don’t need voice or video calls.

13. Digital Whiteboard

Digital whiteboards permit content display, annotations, marking, and vivid explanations. For instance, such can be used by students who want to present or project a thesis to their peers or instructor during their classroom sessions.

Digital whiteboards are best suited for touchscreen devices.

14. Third-Party Integration

Some virtual classroom software need to be augmented with additional features. The seamless integration of third-party solutions allows knowledge providers to leverage existing systems and expand their use for the benefit of the learners.

15. Repository

Your virtual classroom software should come with a centralized repository where non-administrative users can access recorded sessions. Having a solution that allows you to manage, share, and reuse virtual classroom sessions is critical for the success of your training programs.

16. Customizable Reporting

An advantage of virtual classrooms is that they collect Big Data. They collect users’ progress at every stage of their training. For instance, they collect assessment scores and branching scenario outcomes.

Your virtual classroom platform should feature customizable reporting. This includes user groups, delivery preferences, and performance behavior metrics.

17. Vendor Support

You need a virtual classroom solution that aligns with your team talents and tech expertise. Hence, support is vital for smooth training operations. For instance, your vendor should provide phone support during business hours.

Experienced teams should also get online support. Therefore, survey your employees and find out how much assistance they need. A support safety net is always important.

Virtual Classroom Rules and Expectations

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Classroom rules entail all those things that learners should not do. Expectations, on the other hand, communicate the desired behavior by encouraging responsibility.

Below are virtual classroom rules that should be adhered to by all learners:

  1. Always come to class early.
  2. Learners should sign in with their full names.
  3. Choose a quiet place that is free of distractions. Cell phones, TVs, etc should be turned off. You should also exit all other computer applications that you are not using.
  4. Learners should dress appropriately since a virtual classroom is still a classroom setting.
  5. Mute your microphone during class sessions to avoid distracting other learners.
  6. Learners should be respectful to each other.
  7. When your class is over you should exit by closing your window.
  8. Avoid multitasking during class.
  9. Avoid negative feedback on other learner’s works and comments.
  10. No bullying other learners in chats.
  11. Learners should avoid vulgarity such as cursing, vulgar language, and inappropriate gestures.
  12. No smoking or drinking during classroom sessions.
  13. Always complete and submit assignments on time.

Besides these rules, learners are also expected to do the following:

  1. Actively participate in class.
  2. Listen actively.
  3. Ask and answer questions where appropriate.
  4. Learners should take turns when participating in daily classroom discussions.
  5. Learners should work independently or in groups when assigned.
  6. Make sure your device is charged.

How to Design a Virtual Classroom

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Designing a virtual classroom involves conceiving, planning, designing, implementing, and maintaining the system. Below are the steps you should follow in designing an effective virtual classroom program.

1. Needs Assessment

The purpose of this step is to find out if a virtual classroom is needed and the necessary infrastructure to support it. A needs assessment explores the current state of conditions, the systems available, and the desired output.

With such information in place, you will find out the needs and the gaps that need to be bridged. Below are some questions that can help you while conducting your needs assessment.

  • Are there remote students for your courses?

This all boils down to simple economics. If there is enough supply for a product or service, it is justifiable to produce the product or service. Hence, if there are enough students for your courses, your organization will find it viable (in terms of time, money, and resources) to have virtual classrooms in place.

  • Will they be able to access your courses?

eLearning relies on the assumption that learners have access to a computer and the internet. The costs of such equipment and services must be assessed in advance.

  • Is there interest from your organization to support the initiative?

Definitely, a virtual classroom is a big task that requires the support of your organization. Such support includes time allocation, funding, technical resources, and well-trained staff. Besides, the management must also show interest in the cause.

  • Are there procedures and administrative policies in place?

Creating a new web-based course or implementing an existing one requires changes in some procedures and administrative policies. These include registration, fees, admission, requirements for different courses among others.

2. Estimate Development Costs, Effort, and Implementation

This step will help to make clear the true estimate of developing a virtual classroom. First, you need to find out how long it will take to develop the virtual classroom. It is always good practice to work with estimates. You can achieve this by quantifying each stage of the detailed implementation plan.

You also need to find out the technological tools required and their costs. These include both hardware and software. Please keep in mind that there is a minimum set of requirements for the tools. 

Besides, ensure that there is enough personnel with the required technical know-how to manage a virtual classroom. Your organization should also be in a position to pay these individuals.

3. Plan the Virtual Classroom

Start by developing a list of educational goals. If you encounter any difficulties coming up with such a list, it is a sign that the initiative will not be viable. Once you have the goals written down, specify how to achieve them.

Note that not all goals will be achieved. In the case that you fail to meet all your objectives, ensure that you have a fallback plan to cushion you against possible negative effects. If you can anticipate such shortcomings, you will be better prepared in case you don’t meet all the goals.

To add, in elearning, there are different ways of achieving the same objective. For instance, communication between instructors and learners can be done via email, live chat, audio, or video conferencing.

4. Design the Virtual Classroom

The above three steps are pedagogical aspects of the design process. The actual design of the virtual classroom must now begin. Here are some points to consider:

  • Ensure HTML pages containing courses are organized in a way that is easy to navigate, consistent, and reduces the amount of effort required to maintain them. The final outcome should be user-friendly with no navigation challenges.
  • Your HTML pages should also have a constant feel. This will help your learners to identify more with your content thereby increasing their engagement. It also boosts your organization’s branding. Such a design is also good for aesthetic and functional purposes.
  • Before adding any item to a page, explore what impact it may have on aspects such as site load speeds, hardware requirements, the need for special plugins among others.

5. Prepare and Distribute Contents

First, you need to consider the authoring tool that you will use. It is advisable to compare and evaluate the available options before settling on a set of tools. Also, ensure that the authoring tool that you choose is compatible with your virtual classroom platform.

You also need to establish how you will create, import and edit images. You have the option of scanning printed pictures, taking your own images with a digital camera, or buying high-quality images related to a certain subject. You also have a variety of editing and processing software such as Adobe PhotoShop and CorelDRAW. The final product should be saved as JPEG, PNG, and other popular formats, and should be directly included in the HTML pages.

You should also find out how you will create, import, and edit sounds. Remember, the higher the quality of audio, the better. Here, you can use your own recorded sounds or have someone record your classroom sessions for you.

6. Activate Communication

Communication between the instructors and the learners is vital. It can be implemented in two ways; synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous communication allows the instructors and the learners to exchange ideas, thoughts, and comments in real-time. Asynchronous communication is not real-time and can take the form of e-mail and recorded voice chats.

You should be clear as to the educational goals that need to be achieved using your preferred communication tools. You will have a variety of communication tools ranging from basic email to sophisticated video conferencing tools.

Whichever tools you choose, assess the costs, requirements, and effectiveness.

7. Implement Student Assessment Methods

You also need to come up with a list of assessment tools that you need for your virtual classroom programs. These may be in the form of quizzes, assessments, and open book exams. Find out if your authoring tool has inbuilt assessment creation capabilities.

The evaluation method that will be used for these tests should also be established. Self-review, peer review, levels of participation in discussions, and instructor-evaluated scripts are a few examples.

Cheating should also be considered and how to avoid it. Some possible solutions include giving time frames to complete individual questions and providing one question at a time to prevent the learners from knowing all the questions at once.

To add, you need to establish how assessments will be submitted, graded, and returned to students. Submission of tests can take the form of pressing a ‘submit’ button or attaching a file to an email. Grading depends on the nature of the assignment. Also, you can choose to send results back to the students during class time or through system-generated reports.

8. Implement Class Management Procedures

Class management entails the clerical and administrative tasks that ensure the smooth running of the virtual classroom. For instance, the instructors need to know the exact list of items they need to track. These include time-tabling, student tracking, and assignment management.

9. Set up the Virtual Classroom

Creating a virtual classroom is a technical process that should be taken care of by personnel with the required know-how. Start by selecting your operating system of choice. Other software components such as web server and mail server will depend on the underlying operating system.

Next, you should be clear on what you need to install and configure. You should also know how you will protect your virtual classroom contents. The installation, configuration, and security aspects of a virtual classroom should be the task of technical support teams.

10. Maintain and Update the System Regularly

Your virtual classroom requires maintenance and updates to keep it running. Software and hardware upgrades should be done on a regular basis. You should have provisions for these tasks in terms of the technical consequences of upgrades as well as their costs.

Content backups are an equally important aspect. You need to shield your organization in case of data loss, hacking, or destruction of equipment. Here, you need to consider issues such as when to backup, who is responsible for backups, the frequency of backups among others.

Your virtual classroom’s website should also be regularly updated. This helps to keep it fresh with relevant information to ensure that your users keep coming back.

How to Create a Virtual Classroom

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How to Create a Virtual Classroom

When setting up a virtual classroom, the emphasis should be on designing an environment that will have meaningful and engaging learning experiences. The following four steps will guide you, the educator, on how to make a virtual classroom.

  1. Prepare Your Work-at-Home Space

For educators, a designated workspace is important since it helps them to stay productive. It also helps them to eliminate distractions that may interfere with student learning. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a home office. You can retrofit an existing room into one.

You can consider investing in equipment such as professional headsets, high-quality cameras, and whiteboards to give a professional appeal to your training. However, if you are strained in terms of resources, simple adjustments such as moving to a well-lit, clutter-free room for live-streamed sessions or using book stacks to raise your webcam can make a huge difference.

  1. Test Your Equipment Before Your Sessions

You should anticipate any technical issues that you and your learners may encounter during classroom sessions. These include videos not being well embedded, presentations not playing, or microphones not working.

Once you are aware of such challenges, it will be easier for you to find solutions early. If you decide to rely on your virtual classroom vendor’s technical support, your classroom sessions will be affected since such support is not always guaranteed immediately.

You can conduct audio and video tests on your devices and on other devices that your learners might be using. Also, a run-through of lessons before live streaming of classes can help to minimize troubleshooting throughout the session. In turn, you will feel more prepared and confident.

  1. Set Classroom Rules, Expectations, Goals, and Routines

Despite the absence of learners in a physical classroom, educators still need to set clear expectations for their classes. Establishing norms and goals with students has been proven to establish ownership of learning by students. In turn, this fosters a productive learning environment.

You can create PDF files containing these guidelines to share on your virtual classroom platform.

  1. Make Communication and Survey Tools Available

Since face-to-face communications are impossible in a virtual classroom setup, open communication lines are important. These channels help to keep learners informed on the latest news, events, and other relevant information.

Additionally, by using text messages, phone calls, and emails, educators can post information such as class updates and scheduled one-on-one sessions.

Communication and survey tools also make it possible to gather feedback from learners. Feedback will assist you in identifying areas of improvement. Educators can also ask questions about their learners’ online learning experiences.

Such tools help you collect valuable data such as how long students are taking to complete courses and what times they do their online school work. This data can be used to adjust content and assist you on how to prepare and deliver future courses.

Questions to Ask When Looking for a Virtual Classroom

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With several well-regarded virtual classroom software vendors in the market, it can be hard for you to decide which one will sell you the solution you are looking for. The following questions can help you make that decision.

  1. What is Your Type of eLearning?

The type of elearning, whether hands-on or presentation-based, will determine the class size. Also, the tools that your virtual classroom will need will be different for different elearning types. For instance, a webinar might require interactive tools such as polls and questions. Such extra tools should be considered when choosing a virtual classroom solution.

  1. What is the Technical Infrastructure Available?

You need to consider if you will launch your virtual classrooms from an office with reliable internet, or from your home where the network connection might not be as good. You also need to factor in if you need to integrate your virtual classroom with other software.

  1. Are You a Solo Instructor or Will Need a Producer?

If you have a large audience, multitasking will be part of your job. For instance, you need to switch between live streaming, whiteboards, and breakout rooms. With proper preparation, you should be able to do all these by yourself.

A producer will come in handy if these tasks are overwhelming for you. However, what happens if you don’t have the resources to hire one. In this case, some virtual classroom platforms allow you to create multiple screens in advance. They automate some processes making it easier for you.

  1. What are Your Learners’ Technical Skills?

A virtual classroom environment should be comfortable for your learners. They need to understand the platform and use it to their benefit. Hence, if they are tech-savvy you can choose a virtual classroom platform that has advanced features such as breakout rooms, private chats, and a ‘raise your hand’ function.

On the other hand, if they are not comfortable with tech features, you can opt for a solution with fewer technical details. Besides, you can always teach them how to use these features.

  1. What Virtual Classroom Features Will You Be Using?

The format and size of a virtual classroom will determine the features that you can use. If you are conducting different types of elearning, you definitely need a robust platform. However, if all you need is a webinar, a simple virtual classroom solution will do.

Tips to Choose the Best Virtual Classroom Software

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Tips to Choose the Best Virtual Classroom Software

Similar to other Learning and Development (L&D) investments, your chosen virtual classroom software should give you maximum value for money. When there are so many options, it is not such an easy task considering you may not have so much time.

You may be looking for a virtual classroom platform that has certain features and at a certain price range. You also don’t want to compromise either of these. In this case, how do you find a virtual classroom LMS that comes with most, if not all features, that you want without exceeding your budget?

Importantly, how can you identify a virtual classroom solution that offers the best ROI (Return on Investment)? Below are some tips to guide you.

Set a Realistic Budget

You need an accurate budget and not an estimate. This will help to avoid overspending and ensure that other departments in your organization don’t pay the price. The budget should include virtual classroom software acquisition and setup fees.

You should also consider instructor fees, course content development expenses, and ongoing maintenance costs.

Gather Learner Feedback

Surveying your audience will help you identify pain points. Gathering feedback will help you know what your learners like or dislike about your training. Such information will help you identify a virtual classroom solution that suits their needs.

Evaluate Your eLearning Strategy

Evaluate your learners’ online training performance and outline your training goals and objectives. You will gain valuable information regarding where your training programs may be falling short. With such data, you will be in a better position to find out how your new virtual classroom solution can bridge these gaps.

For instance, you may need a solution that has video conferencing analytics not currently present in your existing online training program.

Use Online Directories

Online directories are helpful resources since they show user ratings and reviews of top-performing virtual classrooms. Information such as usefulness, customer experience, satisfaction scores, and summary statements are good indicators of a product’s track record.

Use Social Networks to Get Suggestions

There are online forums and social media groups where you can get virtual classroom buying tips. Within these platforms, you can ask for recommendations based on price range, size of your organization, intended use, and other details. Members in these platforms will help you to narrow down to a few viable solutions that you can consider.

Submit Requests for Proposals (RFP) to Vendors

RFPs to vendors will give you detailed information based on your virtual classroom’s use case. The vendors will send proposals with information regarding product benefits and costs. Once you receive the proposals, you can narrow down your choices.

The only drawback is that RFPs are time-consuming since you must draft a request and wait for responses. However, it is a more personalized approach since the vendors will have all the details about your preferred solution. Consequently, they will recommend a platform that suits your organization’s needs.

What is the Best Virtual Classroom Software?

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When choosing a virtual classroom software for your organization, the solution needs to fit your budget and work as advertised. There are other considerations to make such as whether the platform will help you teach your learners effectively, which platform is the easiest to use, or which virtual classroom software will make learning and teaching fun.

Fortunately, it is just a matter of choice in today’s digital environment. The virtual classroom software market is a buyer’s market.

To begin with, you need to consider the features listed above and narrow them down to the most basic that you need for your elearning needs. Your budget also plays a crucial part since you don’t want a solution that will weigh heavily on your organization’s expenses.

To add, what might be termed best by another company might not necessarily reflect what your organization wants. Every business is unique and has different needs that should be addressed.

Based on our research, here are a few picks for some of the best virtual classroom software in the market.

  • Blackboard Collaborate

This is a one-click solution that comes with an inbuilt collaboration tool. It is designed for institutions that need personalized, flexible, and more engaging learning. It also offers online, blended, and mobile learning experiences.

  •  Schoology

Schoology offers 100% online learning and blended learning environments. As part of their PowerSchool Unified Classroom solution, this platform ensures that all learners have access to the same quality of learning regardless of their economic statuses, special needs and other circumstances.

  • Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect uses virtual learning at its very best. Its versatile design helps to deliver stellar virtual experiences for vast audiences. Your training, webinars and meetings will enhance your training beyond the ordinary.

  • Edsby

This cloud-based elearning and data solution is specifically built for K-12 learning. It features the latest web and mobile technologies to connect instructors, learners and parents thus complementing traditional learning instruction. Edsby all comes with social learning, analytics, assessments and reporting, course planning, and collaboration.

Tovuti is ranked as the #1 Learning Management System. To add, Tovuti has its own virtual classroom that allows students to engage in real time with each other and an instructor.

It allows users to share webcams and screens, as well as upload presentations. Users can also write on the whiteboard and participate in breakout rooms as well. Moreover, they can raise their hands and use emoticons to let instructors know how they are doing.

  • Google Classroom

This collaboration tool allows instructors to create assignments, gather feedback, share information, and assess progress. The platform also offers LMS Integration (LTI), file sharing, reporting and analytics, session recording, and polls/voting.

  • BigBlueButton

This is an open-source web conferencing platform that features two-way audio and video, chat, slides and screen sharing. Besides, there are multiuser live whiteboards, screen sharing and users can be polled. Moreover learners can meet together in breakout rooms and are allowed to use emojis.

  • Cisco Webex Meetings

Cisco Webex Meetings is the world’s favorite conferencing service for enterprises. It allows you to collaborate and connect securely, easily and reliably. You can meet with your teams securely with integrated audio, video, and content sharing on any device.

It also comes with smart features such as Webex Assistant and People Insights. These are artificial intelligence functionalities that automate meeting tasks thereby enhancing your relationships.

  • Zoom

Zoom is the most common conferencing tool in the market. It helps you bring your teams together in a secure and frictionless environment. The platform offers easy, reliable, and features innovative video.

With Zoom you can use chat, voice, webinars, and video meetings all in one unified platform.

  • LearnCube

This is a virtual classroom solution specifically made for teaching or tutoring online. The developers had in mind that many conferencing tools are made for business. LearnCube is specifically designed for online teachers and schools.

It features intuitive, seamless virtual classroom settings that are perfect for teachers and learners. It also features better insights, high-quality audio and video, interactive online whiteboards, and access to saved lesson materials.

More Helpful Resources

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More Helpful Virtual Classroom Resources

Resources such as those compiled by G2, eLearning Industry, and Capterra have detailed guides on some of the best-performing virtual classroom software in the market. The best part is that you will find user ratings, reviews, comments, summary information, and other details to help you make an informed choice.

Talk To Us!

The information contained in this buyer’s guide is meant to educate you on what a virtual classroom is, how it works, its features, and other useful information. We are sure that by the time you are reading this, we have fed you with all the nitty-gritty details that you need to make an informed choice when purchasing a virtual classroom solution.

In case you need further information, you can contact us and we will be happy to assist you. Here at Tovuti LMS, we also offer a built-in virtual classroom that gives you multiple, premium features that you won’t find in many online video conference platforms.

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Author:
Kevin Kimani

Kevin Kimani is a technical writer for Tovuti. He is skilled in technical research and is always updating himself with the latest in information technology. He is also skilled in web content management and strategy. Kevin is passionate about space exploration and hopes to spot a UFO one day! He also likes to track the ISS and other man-made satellites. He also likes to spend time with his two lovely daughters and teach them tech stuff!

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