The idea of the virtual classroom has brought on dramatic changes to education, from primary school through college. The technology has been used successfully in several different environments, bringing benefit to both students and teachers.
Virtual classroom software today brings the experience of the classroom into the home, and it makes the virtual experience just as real as the classroom experience. Only a few years ago, online learning meant self-study with the help of a CD or a website with frequent visits to a traditional classroom set-up in order to have interaction with the instructor. The virtual classrooms of today have developed way beyond this. Web collaboration technology gives live e-learning the best of both delivery options, including access to the subject matter directly from the student’s computer and real-time interaction with an instructor online. These online classrooms are capable of imparting knowledge to a large number of students, who may be at diverse locations. The live training sessions can also be archived for subsequent revision of the learning program.
There are many examples of virtual classroom success. The Illinois Virtual High School serves as an excellent case study. This service provides high school content through an online venue, throughout the entire state. It is meant as a supplement to students at traditional high schools and solves the problem of students who cannot take a particular course because it is not available at their local high school. It also provides added content for home schooled students.
Going far beyond simple static content, Illinois Virtual High School provides a highly interactive environment with two-way voice communication and collaborative facilities. Instructors who conduct the live virtual classroom sessions also have regular virtual office hours, so students can have access to one-on-one sessions with the instructors.
Fanshawe College in Ontario, Canada is another example of virtual classroom success, with their FanLive! Program. Moving from a one-way approach to a live system, the college was able to significantly enhance the student experience, incorporating the Desire2Learn learning management system and the Elluminate e-learning and collaboration technology. In addition to holding live online classes, this technology is also used as a platform for joint projects between classes, meetings, and even faculty training sessions.
At the elementary school level, fourth grade students at the Keystone Elementary School in Pennsylvania used virtual classroom technology to host a webinar that linked several classrooms across the state to help students learn more about other communities.
Going across the ocean, the technology has proven useful to promoting education throughout Asia and Africa. For example, the African Virtual University unites five African nations and is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. The group has the largest network of e-learning institutions in Africa. Virtual classroom technology is used to connect African instructors and students with instructors in the United States and Canada, providing an interactive platform that can be easily implemented in schools throughout the continent.