Virtual classrooms aren’t just about the technology and making an effort to reflect a physical classroom environment.
Before one lesson is presented or a student asks a question, you need to devote serious attention to effectively defining the goals for the instruction – whether that’s a college course or corporate training.
The methods your instructors use will vary based on those goals and what students are expected to learn through the course. How sophisticated are the students? What aspects of the virtual classroom will they grasp right away? What could to be a challenge for them?
Online learning can happen synchronously and asynchronously; you need to determine what options will work well with your material and students’ schedules.
Breakout sessions are a popular part of many virtual classrooms because they reinforce topics and promote collaboration. Here are a few tips:
- Plan breakout sessions for different group sizes and formats.
- Make it easy for students to find and use the breakout sessions.
- Tell students ahead of time what to expect when they get started with breakout sessions (including letting them know that their screens will be different).
- In some cases, you may want to designate someone to be a facilitator in a breakout session.
Virtual classroom settings allow students to interact and ask questions at the time they are ready and able to learn.
But don’t neglect to establish some clear ground rules, especially as they relate to how their questions will be addressed. You don’t want to allow a student’s question to disrupt the class and potentially affect the course schedule.
For example, it wouldn’t make sense to answer a difficult question while you’re trying to convey a critical point.
Otherwise, you may find yourself devoting less time to an essential topic at the end of the class. Students become irritated when instructors rush through complicated topics that deserve more attention.
However, it’s still important to ask the students to interact to help keep them engaged. Pose a question every few minutes or as you wrap up a topic.
Here are some other tips to make the most of a virtual classroom environment:
- Motivate students with badges that recognize their progress and achievements.
- Let students navigate through the course without too many obstacles or decide when to restrict their access at times based on their profiles or certain criteria they must meet first.
- Include plenty of comment boxes and easy access to private messaging.
- Consider using forums to encourage and support collaboration.
- Give students a place to file and organize personal files.
- Adapt themes to make the learning environment as user friendly as possible (add CSS and update HTML).
- Create virtual excursions (cities, buildings and other places).
- Allow for self assessments, quizzes.
How well have you organized your virtual classroom? Is the technology going to overwhelm students or will it foster their learning?