Characteristics of a Virtual Classroom

Updated April 1, 2019

Author’s note: This is an update to our December 2013 post, “Characteristics of a Virtual Classroom.” Read the original post following our 2019 update.

What does the virtual classroom look like in 2019?

The rate of technological progress has brought the field of online education a long way since our original article. While the characteristics we discussed remain relevant, more have come to the fore. Here are the top characteristics of a virtual classroom that we would add to our list in 2019.

Mobile

Even a few years ago, having a mobile-optimized virtual classroom wouldn’t have been a requirement. But times have changed, and if your learners can’t access your course from their mobile devices, both of you are missing out. Mobile accessibility allows your learners greater flexibility in where and how they learn—and that benefits you as much as them, because it means they have more opportunities to engage with your materials.

This applies across your learning environment. Whereas in the past, your learners might have viewed forums as places for long-form discussion, now they’re more likely to treat them like an extension of their messaging app. Audio lessons are consumed like podcasts, and mini quizzes are micro games that can be played during a lunch break.

Collaborative

Virtual learners are working with each other more than ever before. They’re chatting in your forums, teaming up on group projects, and competing for high scores on your leaderboard. In some cases, these experiences are the new defining feature of online courses. Learners have come to view them less as digital transpositions of physical classrooms, and more as places where they build relationships with fellow learners over shared interests.

Interactive

One of the defining characteristics distinguishing virtual learning environments from typical classrooms is the flexibility of the way lessons are delivered. In traditional learning, learners sit in a classroom, listening to a lecture and taking notes. But online classrooms give learners greater freedom to engage with the material creatively—and for the course content to adapt and respond based on their inputs.

Gamified lessons, flipped classrooms, and scenario learning are all examples of how virtual classrooms have grown increasingly interactive. And given the success of these techniques, we expect to see newer technologies embrace them even more.

Omni-synchronous

In the past, we’ve talked about both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous learning. Traditional learning tends to by synchronous, meaning the learners and instructors need to be in the same place (such as a classroom) for the lesson to take place. Asynchronous communication means the instructor can post a lesson at one time, and learners can complete it whenever it is most convenient for their schedule.

However, there’s no reason a virtual classroom can’t offer a live lesson (via a chatroom or conference call), and in many cases, incorporating live learning into a lesson plan can increase the value of the course, motivate learners, and help them feel engaged. That’s why today’s virtual classrooms are moving away from a strictly asynchronous format and incorporating real-time group sessions and private tutoring as well.

Experimental

Innovation is the hallmark of online learning—for both learners and instructors. Virtual classrooms offer new ways for educators to deliver inspiring, engrossing, and effective learning content. In turn, learners interact with lessons in new ways, showing what works and what doesn’t in the field of online education.

In the coming years, we expect the virtual classroom to expand to include more AI and VR.

As the virtual classroom continues to expand, we expect to see more innovation in emerging technologies. At the forefront are Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. While these technologies are still finding their footing, they’re on their way and will find countless applications across learning platforms in the years to come.

For now, instructors should stay alert. Each new advancement offers possibilities for educators to improve their course, but not every innovation is destined for success. Finding the right solutions for your course—and your learners—will require trial and error. In the meantime, remember that even as an educator, there’s always more to learn.


The following is the original article, published 12 December, 2013

The ed tech landscape is full of various buzzwords that sometimes it can be hard to really grasp the concepts that are being discussed. For example, one popular movement today being used in the education industry is the virtual classroom, but what exactly does this mean?

The idea itself is not that hard to conceptualize, but often the characteristics regarding a virtual classroom are not discussed.

Below are some of the key components of a virtual classroom. I am sure that this could be expanded upon further, but for the sake of simplicity I have only included what I believe are the most defining ones.

Definition

A virtual classroom is an online classroom that allows participants to communicate with one another, view presentations or videos, interact with other participants, and engage with resources in work groups.

Non-Restricting

A virtual classroom allows both learners and instructors around the world to participate in live classes to collaborate and interact. MOOC programs like Coursera are a great example of this concept in action.

Affordable

The low costs of virtual classrooms are considered to be a major advantage. Learners can save money by not having to worry about travel expenses. Participants also save time since all that is needed is an internet connection.

Flexible Learning

Online classes also allow for the ability to record class as it happens, including any presentation audio and visuals. This means that the content is accessible even after being delivered, an added benefit for those who want a quick refresher, or perhaps did not fully understand the first time.

Practical and Proven

Synchronous learning is a learning environment where everyone takes part in the learning at the same time. A traditional lecture is an example of this type of learning, and has been used for hundreds of years. Online learning enables this same type of experience, but with far more conveniences and tools.

Accessible

Virtual classrooms can be used to deliver lectures, or even tutorials online. They are also great options for impromptu meetings and group projects where members need to check-in on progress and bounce ideas of one-another. With the virtual environment, ideas and collaborators are never far away.

 

Source:
Timeless Learning Technologies

Author

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Twitter | LinkedIn

13 Responses

  1. This is a great, concise summary of the virtual classroom. One characteristic/advantage I’d add is that the virtual classroom is also environmentally friendly. Unlike traditional classroom training where participants may travel to a location to join a training session, virtual classroom participants get together online from wherever they happen to be. And since virtual classroom materials are digital, paper use is reduced as well.

  2. Great overview, the only point I would like to add is the use of Virtual Classrooms to solve a skills shortage, or connect to a remote expert.

    A good example is with languages, China and Latin America have a big shortage of native speaking English teachers, virtual classrooms make it easy to connect native speaking teachers.

    The current push for computer programming to be part of school curriculums is another example, many schools are struggling to find the expertise to teach these subjects.

  3. Anything about LMS I search on google, I end up with your blog 🙂 You sure have covered most of the aspects surrounding an LMS.

    I now need suggestions for a Virtual Classroom plugin that integrates with LearnDash please.

    Thanks a lot.

  4. Virtual class or online education are effects that technology of e-learning is easy to do that cannot be done in a regular school and colleges, such as the operation and use of animation and self confident increase in learning ’’

  5. Virtual Classrooms are supplied with text, mail and ppt messaging to allow you to confreres in real time with your friend and teacher More information To learn more about the Virtual Classroom, or to see a detail information of features and service available from Create Online Academy visit us on the web at: https://www.createonlineacademy.com/

  6. Justin, Are you able to recommend any VC platforms? I’ve used Webex is a corporate setting, but it’s just too expensive for a micro business.

    1. Hi Tina-
      There are many options as you probably know. AnyMeeting might be worth looking into – last I checked they had a free plan (supported by ads) that seemed to be pretty robust.

  7. Que tal, cómo puedo acceder a la plataforma virtual classroom teniendo uma cuanta de google classroom.
    Solicito ayuda, soy inatructor de matematicas y deseo usarlo de manera educativa como lo hago con classroom solo que me recomendaron usar virtual classroom para estudiantes que no pueden asistir normalmente a las aulas presenciales

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