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Using Virtual Classrooms to Positively Impact the Future of Learning

Melanie Arden

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Virtual classrooms are paving the way as an alternate solution to how education is delivered to students. While most students and teachers prefer in-person classes, an online learning environment can also offer good quality education to kids around the world. 

One of the greatest advantages to using virtual classrooms is that they’re accessible to anyone who has a reliable internet connection and a home computer. These types of interactive classrooms can provide effective educational experiences for kids of all ages.

What is a virtual classroom?

Computer with zoom classroom on the screen sits on a desk in a classroom.

Simply put, a virtual classroom is an online classroom environment. With the help of state-of-the-art technology, kids can access quality education from the comfort and safety of their home.

Virtual learning is a valuable way to offer quality instruction to students. Teachers can instruct through secure virtual learning platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Students can submit homework to teachers and share ideas with classmates, just like in a traditional classroom environment.

Technology allows teachers to use interactive white boards to instruct kids online. Students have the option to take part in text chatting, screen sharing and audio conferencing. In all cases, teachers have control over the tools they use for instruction and classroom management.

Types of virtual classrooms

Surprisingly, there is more than one type of virtual classroom. The classes are highly customizable based on educational requirements. Some virtual online classes are live while others contain pre-recorded lessons and no interaction.

There are different virtual classroom formats that teachers and schools can choose to use. Each one has its own unique characteristics to make digital learning an enjoyable experience.

1. Fully online

Child participates in a lesson at home through a virtual classroom.

In this scenario, all digital learning takes place online without students meeting outside of school to discuss their schoolwork. Homework is completed online and student’s don’t need to carve out time at home to finish assignments. Plus, parents can be present while their kids receive instruction and support as needed.

In some cases, "fully online" means that courses are taught through pre-recorded videos and online meeting tools. This model is being used to instruct kids from kindergarten up to grade 12.

2. Rotation virtual classroom — both online and offline

The rotation model uses both online and digital learning to let kids participate in the classroom and from home. Students have the option of getting together for small group study sessions and collaboration.

Students spend most of their time in a traditional school setting with assignments completed at home. 

The combination of face-to-face physical classrooms and digital classrooms gives kids the best of both worlds.

3. Flexible virtual classrooms — mostly offline

Flexible virtual classrooms focus on a single course such as math, language, or science. In this example, classes are recorded and always available online. The distinction is that access remains open to students so they can login whenever they like.

Students stay connected through small study groups and logging into online platforms as often as needed.

4. Enriched virtual model

A group of students works on a project together using a virtual classroom.

The enriched virtual teaching model focuses on one or more courses combining physical classroom and digital learning experiences. Students complete their homework assignments at home.

The difference between the enriched virtual and rotational models is that students do not meet with their teachers in person every day of the week. 

The enriched virtual model is best suited for high school students.

5. Mixed virtual classrooms — online or offline depending on the student

The nice thing about mixed virtual classrooms is that students decide on the learning method that works best for them. They may choose a mix of the above-noted classroom models or stick to a preferred category.

Whether they're in a physical classroom, small groups, or in an online classroom, students will receive a worthwhile educational experience.

Top benefits of virtual classrooms

Group of students on a computer during a virtual classroom session.

There are many benefits of virtual classrooms. Everyone has the advantage of being able to carry on with instructions and lessons from the comfort of their own home.

Our list below highlights the top advantages for virtual learning environments:

  1. Teacher feedback. Students receive conventional classroom benefits in a virtual environment thanks to positive and corrective feedback from their teachers. As well, they receive exam results much sooner than in a regular school setting.
  2. A range of subjects to choose from. Depending on the virtual platform, students can access an impressive range of subjects. Each course helps increase students' understanding of relevant school subjects they may have trouble grasping.
  3. Personal safety. Students are free from in-person bullying when they attend virtual classrooms. Kids feel safer to take part in school from the safety of home. As well, teachers can stop bullying in digital classrooms, if it occurs.

    Most virtual online platforms have security measures in place to protect users from unwanted visitors to their classrooms. Passwords make sure that only registered students can access the class.  
  4. Accessibility. Students can re-visit lessons and review course materials from online classroom folders. They can access pre-recorded videos and other tools 24/7.

    Online classes offer all students an easy alternative to strict in-person learning schedules, accommodate various life situations and promote equity in the classroom.
  5. Flexibility. Distance learning is great for students and teachers, enabling them to work from anywhere, including the family cottage!

    If a student cannot make it to class for any reason, they're able to catch up by connecting with their teacher or watching pre-recorded lectures online.
  6. A boost in technical skills. To build 21st century skills, it’s important for kids to stay on top of evolving trends and social media developments. Taking part in virtual classrooms helps students to keep up with current technological advancements and promote media literacy.
  7. Lower costs. Families may experience substantial savings with digital learning. Not only do they save money on the costs associated with education (i.e. textbooks), they also spend less on travel expenses to and from school.

    For college students, online degree programs can be less expensive than a traditional university program.
  8. It's a global village. There is nothing like the internet to bring various cultures together under one roof. Students receive beneficial viewpoints from different parts of the world. Kids have the wonderful opportunity to connect with children from other countries and learn from each other. They develop a better understanding and appreciation of the world around them. This advantage builds respect and acceptance of other cultures.

  9. Relationship building. Kids are great at making friends through social media outlets. They have a natural tendency to socialize with school friends. It makes good sense for them to connect over common interests and school-related social activities.

    Students, teachers and parents develop good relationships through the distribution of learning materials and other social interactions, such as file sharing, instant messaging, and video chats.

Are there any negative aspects of virtual classrooms?

Young boy sits at a computer while learning online

Although there are many advantages to digital learning, there are negative qualities associated with virtual classrooms.

  1. Technology issues. Problems may arise with unstable internet connections or no service at all. If this happens, students won't be able to take part in classes. They'll have to manage their time effectively to catch up on lost time.
  2. Lack of socialization. One of the most common problems kids faced during the pandemic was not enough socialization with friends and a lack of social emotional learning. Many students claim their mental health has been affected by not being present at school with teachers and their friends. They've found online classrooms and breakout rooms impersonal.

    More often than not, kids grasp concepts better in group settings found in regular classrooms.
  3. Theoretical vs. practical learning. While digital classrooms are great for theory, practical applications such as science experiments are difficult to demonstrate.
  4. Physical inactivity. As students spend more time seated in front of their computers, they compromise their health from lack of physical activity. One of the healthiest aspects of conventional schools is students' involvement in gym class. Virtual classrooms can’t offer the same level of cardiovascular health and fun as an in-person gym program or recess playground!
  5. Increased cost for school boards. When the pandemic occurred in 2020, schools scrambled to come up with the funds to acquire and set up the technology to create virtual classrooms. Unfortunately, this caused a disruption in the continuation of delivering education to kids in a timely manner.

    Once everything was fully operational, educators were better equipped to continue teaching students.
  6. Excessive screen time. Most parents prefer their kids to spend less time on their cell phones and laptops. Eyestrain is a problem for anyone who sits in front of screens all day. Research has shown that blue light from screens interferes with sleep.
  7. Decreased motivation. Students may lose motivation to attend virtual classrooms and finish homework assignments. When kids take classes in traditional school settings, we motivate them to complete schoolwork and take part in activities.
  8. Unlimited class sizes. When class sizes exceed 30 students, it's unlikely that kids will interact with their teachers and receive help. This problem exists with MOOCs (massive open online courses) but may also pose difficulties for elementary schools with growing class sizes.

Although there are negative aspects to online learning, it is important to find creative ways to counteract each challenge. For instance, parents may wish to spend mornings exercising with their kids to encourage physical activity. Regular exercise improves cardiovascular and mental health.

How different are virtual classrooms from regular classrooms?

Young woman with headphones on teaches using a virtual classroom.

There are notable key distinctions between virtual classrooms vs. regular classrooms. We've included several core differences to illustrate the pluses and minuses of each category.

  1. Physical classrooms give teachers the chance to move students around to create a quieter learning experience for everyone.
  2. Live virtual classes and conventional classrooms enable teachers and students to collaborate and exchange ideas in real-time.
  3. Regular classrooms provide good human connection and social interaction to keep kids mentally healthy and focused.
  4. Research shows that 75% of college students feel they learn better in regular classrooms. Meanwhile, 25% of students have found that online classes increase their ability to absorb class content faster than in a traditional setting.
  5. Today’s students are fully adapted to a digital world. That being said, many kids enjoy interactive online whiteboards, messaging, breakout rooms, instant messaging, and games found in virtual classrooms. It helps make online learning more fun and exciting.
  6. Online classes allow students to access course material 24/7. This is a tremendous advantage for kids who need to revisit lessons to help them learn the course content.

While both types of classrooms have positive and negative characteristics, most students prefer conventional classroom education to online learning.

Ensuring the best virtual classroom experience

Young girl watches a teacher through a virtual classroom.

One of the greatest ways to create a rewarding virtual classroom experience is to develop a positive mindset. When we highlight the benefits of e-learning and learning management systems, we realize the value that virtual classrooms bring to students.

The visual and audio quality of all lessons is very important. Using PowerPoint slides alone won't keep students engaged for long. By creating rich visuals with superior audio, kids will remain engaged and motivated to learn.

The quality of interaction between teachers and students increases substantially depending on the online education tools they use. When educators include presentations, interactive multimedia, games, free apps, and discussion boards in their course materials, they promote a healthy collaborative experience for students.

Edtech tools also make it easy to build a well-rounded educational experience in virtual classrooms! Prodigy Math Game is a math learning platform that makes it easy for teachers to align at-home learning with their lesson plans. As students explore an exciting fantasy world filled with adventure, they’ll answer curriculum-aligned math questions while teachers track learning progress!

Sign up today to access Prodigy’s teacher tools for free.

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