Virtual Classroom , Online Classroom

Just as the term virtual means a simulation of the real thing, Virtual Classroom is a simulated classroom via Internet, which provides a convenient communication environment for distance learners just like traditional face-to-face classroom. A virtual classroom allows learners to attend a class from anywhere in the world and aims to provide a learning experience that is similar to a real classroom.

In a college setup, lectures are scheduled, students arrive on time; find their teachers, fellow learners, a blackboard or whiteboard, LCD projector, optionally a television screen with videos. Likewise, a Virtual Classroom is a scheduled, online, teacher-led training session where teachers and learners interact together using computers linked to a network such as the Internet.

A virtual classroom enables to bring learners from around the world together online in highly interactive virtual classes while greatly reducing the travel, time, and expense of on-site teaching/training programs.

It can be used as a solution for live delivery and interaction that addresses the entire process of creating and managing the teaching-learning process. It facilitates instructor and student in teaching-learning events, such as a seminar, online discussion or a live training for employees in company.

In a traditional classroom, professor, students and fellow learners are present, similarly, the same set of participants are present in a virtual classroom. They can talk with each other alike the traditional classroom via chat. Similarly presenter uses whiteboard, gives notes/resources, gives presentation as given in traditional one.

Thus, virtual classroom can be visualized as a classroom where a lecture or session is conducted using Internet.

Advantages of Virtual Classroom: -
Following are some of the advantages of Virtual classroom over traditional classroom model:
  • Removal of geographical barriers (Anywhere learning)
    A virtual classroom allows learners and teachers to attend a single live training session from any place in the world, provided they have a computer and Internet connection.
  • Sessions can be recorded
    If learners miss a traditional classroom-based training session, they have very little opportunity to engage in the learning experience that took place. A virtual classroom has a facility to record the session, so learners or teachers can replay it afterwards. Teachers too get an opportunity to review their own or their colleagues performance.
  • Quicker to organize
    Training can be organized more quickly than traditional classroom-based training. Classrooms and projectors do not need to be reserved, materials do not need to be distributed. The sessions are easier to schedule or reschedule since attendees will not be traveling to the venue of the session.
  • One to one communication
    In a virtual classroom environment, learners can talk to the teacher and to each other, and although this communication is not as rich in a traditional classroom, it still can help learners, since it is one to one.
Due to these advantages, concept of virtual classroom is getting very popular. Since it allows learners to attend sessions from anywhere in world, it is very useful for distant learners and for peoples who cannot meet face to face because of lack of time.

The various features of Virtual Classroom that make learning interesting as well as interactive have been elaborated below:-
  • Synchronous Learning
    In this type of learning process, students and professors connect and interact with each other in real time. This is indeed a very significant process where students get answers to their queries & questions then and there. Interaction with professors and peers makes the learning process interesting and enriching for students.
  • Live Audio-Video Support
    Audio and video support both contribute towards the e learning process in virtual classroom. Various tools are available for text-based chat- verbal interaction through audio conferencing and sharing of ones own video through web-camera. Professors can share their audio and video, thus establishing one-to-one relation with students. This builds confidence in students about the pedagogy methods and allows professors to communicate effectively with the students. Moreover, the students asking questions can share their videos with the fellow students as well.
  • Session Recording
    The entire classroom session can be recorded in video format and stored in library for future reference. This feature is extremely useful, especially for absent students, who can review the recordings later and understand the concepts elaborated by the professors. Moreover, the students can also refer to the recordings for revision purpose, at their convenience.
  • White Board
    White Board is an alternative to the traditional blackboard method, used as a tool for drawing graphics or diagrams in virtual classroom. It comes handy when professor wants to visually explain any abstract concept. If any student has a query, which needs some graphical explanation and the professor does not have an apt graphic for it, then even a crude diagram can be extremely beneficial for emphasizing on the concepts.
  • Sharing of Learning Resources and/or Desktop Screen
    The resource sharing feature in virtual classroom allows professors to share varied content in different formats with the students in real time while delivering lectures on various course topics. This resource sharing feature supports sharing of various file formats - MS Word, MS Excel, Powerpoint Presentations, PDF files, flash presentations, flash videos etc. While teaching, the professors can exhibit all the operations from the desk, by sharing a particular application or the entire desktop. This resource sharing feature is extremely useful for sharing various course materials like topic notes, subject diagrams or graphs, explanatory videos etc. With this type of supportive and informative course material, learning becomes interesting and gives an interactive experience.
  • Classroom Control by Professors & Active Student Participation
    In virtual classroom when professors deliver lectures to the students while explaining or elaborating concepts, ideally one sided process of communication is followed, and students are not permitted to talk/ express themselves at the same time in order to avoid chaotic situations. Though all the participants from the virtual classroom are connected through audio and/or video conference, the participation rights are controlled by the professors. During the lectures, in case the students come across a particular doubt or query, while the professors are explaining, the students can set their status to “raise hand” which indicates that the student has a question which needs to be addressed by the professor. However, only 1 student can ask question at a time, in order to avoid confusion as well as commotion and to maintain focus and clarity on queries asked. Since the professors have the control rights, they can respond to the question or else disable the status of “raise hand” and take the question at the end of the session.
  • Multi-Level Fallback Mechanism for Class Continuation
    Virtual classroom is a web-based tool which is solely dependent on internet connectivity. If in the remotest possibilities, participants get disconnected from virtual classroom, there are various alternatives to keep the class active. The technical team operates the fallback mechanism. If the internet is intact, then with the pre-configured Skype accounts of all participants, a common Skype call is initiated to connect all participants to further carry on with the class. In case all the participants lose internet connectivity then the successive portion of the class is conducted through telephone.
  • Live Tech Support
    With this feature, technical support representatives of the institutes or corporate organizations will be able to provide text based chat and live tech support to their users.
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