Setting up a Virtual Classroom Environment
Virtual training, or live e-learning, provides a way to engage students and participants in a totally interactive, online learning experience. This experience involves lectures, discussions and teaching, and interactive tools. Such live e-learning systems incorporate course management and collaboration technology to offer students and teachers a unified way of virtual training. Setting up a virtual classroom environment starts with gaining an understanding of what is required, what is available, and what technologies will deliver the best results.
Hosted and On-Premise Solutions
A discussion of a virtual classroom setup must first take into account the advantages of a hosted versus an on-premise system. A hosted system may involve a web conferencing subscription, for example, in conjunction with a phone conferencing system, which are both delivered by a third-party provider. The virtual classroom setup in such a case is minimal, requiring contracting the service through the provider’s online portal and, if necessary, making a reservation for the conference.
An on-premise solution will require more equipment, but will also provide more control and an extensive feature set. Organizations that heavily use Web conferencing – for the virtual classroom or otherwise – may prefer an on-premise system. This may include videoconferencing equipment, which may range from desktop webcams to room-size video cameras with full-room panning capability.
One of the advantages of live e-learning is that it can be scheduled easily, and when a student misses a class, they can easily go back and view the recorded session. Trainers are usually very flexible with their schedules, so that students can schedule their learning hours according to their own priorities. Timing can be scheduled through e-mail and can be altered if needed. Another advantage is that the trainer is usually very accessible.
When setting up a virtual classroom system, promoting the maximum amount of flexibility is a major consideration. Because most virtual classroom environments use a system with a Web browser or thin client, flexibility is enhanced by allowing the student to attend from any computer at any location. In addition, further flexibility can be added through a simple recording function, which is a part of most virtual classroom systems. This simply records the entire session, allowing the instructor to create an archive that can be referred to later by students who may not have been able to attend a particular session.
In setting up a virtual classroom, it is possible to achieve the functional equivalent of a physical classroom with the use of interactive tools, polls, quizzes, and a variety of other activities. In addition, promoting the “look and feel” of a real classroom can also be achieved by providing feedback to each student, both in terms of offering direct contact with the instructor and by promoting group activities with break-away sessions, instant feedback, and direct student participation in the classroom session.