Introduction

With technological advancements, education has also gradually moved online with several benefits. Some prominent advantages are flexibility at an affordable price and a virtual classroom without geographical barriers. Educational institutes like schools, colleges, and universities were adversely affected by COVID-19. The lockdowns imposed in various parts of the world have greatly disrupted the learning process. In such situations, e-Learning systems can easily connect trainers and tutors with students via the internet and leverage the virtual classroom experience.

Let us now understand the meaning of virtual classes. What is a virtual classroom?

  1. What is a Virtual Classroom, and why does it matter?
  2. What is Virtual Learning?
  3. Features of Virtual Classrooms
  4. Types of Virtual Classrooms
  5. Why Virtual Classrooms are Important
  6. Advantages of Virtual Classroom
  7. What to Look Out for In a Virtual Classroom?

1) What is a Virtual Classroom, and why does it matter?

Virtual classroom meaning – A classroom where every student learns online using technology and the internet. A virtual classroom provides a digitally-enhanced learning environment for students. Students and working professionals can learn from online lectures without making any changes to their schedules. In a virtual classroom, participants communicate via voice or video conferencing, using the same interface. This article will take you through the journey of what are virtual classes and how they benefit us.

A few years ago, it was hard to imagine a working professional being a part-time student. But with the advent of virtual classes, students now pursue online distance learning and virtual learning. Students can study sitting at their desks or their favourite coffee shops or while travelling. The best part of the virtual class is students can meet their mentors and have their doubts clarified using virtual meeting tools embedded in the virtual classroom applications.

A virtual classroom provides an online learning environment with human interaction, a vital element in classroom teaching, which is a prominent characteristic that is majorly lacking in video classes. In a virtual class, you will find teachers interacting with students in real-time and peers communicating and discussing topics via chat or voice. Another significant advantage of virtual learning is the scalability and the ability to accommodate many students without any difficulty. Virtual classes have reached new heights, and they now support online postgraduate certificate programs (example: https://www.jigsawacademy.com/postgraduate-certificate-in-design-innovation-strategy/) as well.

2) What is Virtual Learning?

Virtual learning is an online learning facility in an online class environment where students learn via computers or the internet, unaffected by geographical barriers. Virtual classes are an integral part of virtual learning.

3) Features of Virtual Classrooms

Several features make a virtual classroom unique and differentiate them from its brick-and-mortar counterparts. In a virtual classroom, the teacher and the students are in sync, and productive interactions and immediate responses are possible. A virtual classroom has several features. These are –

  • Video recording: An online virtual class offers on-demand video classes, and students can save live lectures for future reference. Some virtual classes offer such classes as cloud links once the live sessions conclude.
  • Video conferencing: Using an appropriate online video conferencing app, teachers and students can interact, solve doubts, and facilitate teacher-learner communication. Modern eLearning companies like Jigsaw Academy support such software as a part of their virtual learning methods.
  • Instant messaging: Virtual classrooms and live sessions offer instant messaging features in conjunction with the sessions, allowing participants to converse without disturbing the class.
  • Digital whiteboards: Another feature that virtual classrooms provide is the real-time demonstration of concepts with figures and diagrams with the use of digital whiteboards.
  • Sub-chats: Learners can collaborate with others and discuss concepts on or after the lectures via the sub-chat feature.
  • End-to-end encryption: The security of information shared in virtual classrooms is another important factor. With advancements in security measures and encryption, virtual classrooms offer high-end encryption with restricted access, allowing only authorized or registered learners to login.
  • Video with Cloud-links: The live classes that learners attend are recorded. The cloud links of such content are shared, enabling participants to access them on-demand and get their queries resolved. 
  • Hands-on Industry Experience: Online edtech companies like Jigsaw Academy (https://www.jigsawacademy.com/integrated-program-in-business-analytics/) also let learners practice hands-on with live projects and offer internship programs for better learning exposure.

4) Types of Virtual Classrooms

Various companies and edtech firms use different types of virtual classrooms based on their requirements. Virtual classrooms are highly customizable and provide participants with a chance to communicate, share videos, and interact with each other. The type of communication used in a particular course or program in a virtual classroom depends on the participants. Listed below are some types:

  • Rotational model of virtual classrooms: It revolves around a single subject and allows all the students to participate. It is an amalgamation of both virtual and offline classrooms on rotation as per the curricula or schedule. Such a virtual learning model takes care of theory concepts online, while the offline schedule takes care of the practical sessions. 
  • Enriched Virtual Class: A large part of the course is conducted live and online in this model. A few lectures and some portions of the study material are available offline. The course designers believe that learners should learn via face-to-face meetings. This model also facilitates discussions with instructors and fellow students for critical assignments, final and term-wise projects, or research. It allows accessing most of the course from any geolocation.
  • Fully online or virtual: This virtual classroom model does not require any offline or face-to-face meetings. Such a virtual classroom focuses on conceptualizing, studying, and learning via practical aspects. Students can enjoy all the facilities online, right from school-work to lab practice. Besides, such an online virtual classroom application also allows delivering lectures through a synchronized virtual classroom dashboard. These fully comprehensive virtual classrooms also offer pre-recorded videos with live interaction through embedded online programs. A participant’s location is not a barrier, as learners can pursue and access the entire course online via a portal.
  • Flexible virtual learning model: A flexible model of virtual learning ensures full accessibility and availability for students based on their needs. It also allows passive education in small numbers, with a digital classroom where trainers are ready to help, and students can join independently at their convenience.

5) Why Virtual Classrooms are Important

Virtual classrooms play an essential role in ensuring that education opportunities reach as many people as possible. Virtual learning allows students from different parts of the world to access engaging online sessions regardless of time and location. Due to virtual classes, constraints like time, physical presence, and geolocation have been eliminated. In other words, a virtual classroom acts as a supplementary model to existing traditional education structures.

With virtual learning, organizations can foster comprehensive, independent learning cultures by reducing the costs of popular courses and certifications. Also, a virtual classroom can help bring multiple instructors under one umbrella. Online classes can also be taught in different languages. It eventually broadens the learning curve, and students from diverse backgrounds and communities can register for the same course. Jigsaw Academy is an example of this diversity, providing courses of different genres like Integrated Program in Business Analytics, People Analytics & Digital HR, Full Stack Data Science course, PG Diploma in Data Science, Master Certificate in Full Stack Development, Master Certificate in Cyber Security Course (Blue Team), etc.

Traditional classrooms require physical presence, and that’s a disadvantage. The lockdown disturbed the students’ learning flow and tempo. In such situations, virtual classrooms can save the day. 

6) Advantages of Virtual Classroom

There are various advantages of virtual learning over traditional classroom learning. A virtual class allows organizations to train their customers and partners independently. Virtual classrooms also offer other benefits, such as: 

  • Better accessibility: Customers and aspirants can access the content virtually from anywhere and participate in virtual classes via web browsers. This is one of the most significant advantages of virtual classrooms in today’s times. Participants can access the contents irrespective of the geolocation or time. The daily hassle of commuting via school buses or cabs is eliminated via virtual learning. Learners just need to open their devices, connect to the internet, sign in, and gain access to their virtual class.
  • Low costs: Virtual classrooms benefit both parties by reducing the costs significantly. Every year, students spend more than two thousand dollars on textbooks, travel, and course materials. Now, students do not need to travel to attend the classes. Institutes also do not require physical facilities and infrastructure or plan out schedules, making virtual classrooms cheaper than traditional ones. Virtual coursework often provides virtual resources through the cloud, reducing costs for both the facilitator and the student.
  • Global reach: Traditional classrooms cannot reach a global audience. But with the advent of virtual classes, it is possible to teach local students as well as students across the globe. Virtual classrooms are the most convenient way of delivering education and material with less time and effort. Also, students find it comfortable because accessing these resources is simple.
  • Highly interactive with multimedia support: It creates a productive classroom environment as instructors use innovative methods and teaching approaches. They can help us understand and remember concepts easily. A virtual class can host much more than mere texts and images. Audio recordings, video files, animations, interactive simulations, educational games, etc., are a part of the teaching-learning process. All these elements encourage interaction and offer a flexible learning curve. Such an online learning environment also offers hosted sandbox as virtual situations to test scenarios that a learner might encounter in real life.
  • Scale as you grow: A virtual classroom is far better than a traditional classroom when it comes to scalability. With the increase in the number of students, you can scale effortlessly.
  • Range of content types and topics: Trainers can provide a broad spectrum of content covering different subjects, genres, and types under one umbrella. It facilitates trainers to teach through slides, animations, video content, audio, audio-visual aids, digital whiteboards, and other interactive means.
  • Student-centric education: A virtual classroom focuses on students’ real-time education. Pre-recorded videos are mostly teacher-centric. But live classes over digital platforms focus on students asking questions, clarifying their doubts and concepts, and brainstorming topics in real-time.

7) What to Look Out for In a Virtual Classroom?

Once you log on to your account and move to your dashboard or student portal, you can access your virtual class’s features. But certain aspects can make your virtual classroom environment more effective. Below are some of the necessary elements a virtual classroom should have.

  • Quality video streaming: This essential feature of a virtual classroom allows hosting more students from different parts of the globe easily. Look out for online services that do not lag during video streaming. Hence, a powerful solution such as video streaming backed by cloud facilities is a must for virtual classes.
  • Secure file sharing: A virtual classroom with two-way file sharing is another significant facility. It will eventually allow teachers and participants to seamlessly collaborate and facilitate sharing assignments, study materials, and projects securely.
  • Instant messaging and video chat services: Instant messaging is essential to facilitate communication using lower bandwidths. Video chats give the feel of human connection, and trainers can secure students’ attention.
  • Digital whiteboards: Digital whiteboards are very useful in marking a topic, showing figures, displaying content, annotations, etc., vividly. It offers excellent benefits on touchscreen devices.
  • Integrating third-party tools: Virtual classrooms require additional features and third-party tools for video streaming and conferencing. Seamless integration of third-party tools helps instructors deliver comprehensive lessons to students.

Conclusion

Online learning is a trend that gained prominence primarily due to the pandemic. Technology is the tool driving virtual learning by bringing in new models of developing and delivering content over the internet. Advanced technology and devices have personalized digital learning.

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