Virtual Classrooms are already in our education centers due the big changes the education sector that lately we have experienced. But, is this enough?
During the past months we have received many inquiries and requests about how to proceed with upcoming courses using educational technology. Schools and universities need a virtual classroom solution that preserves as much of the traditional classroom atmosphere as possible. This solution should be as easy to integrate as possible and also minimize disruption to workflows and schedules. For that to happen, the solution must have a low learning curve, especially for faculty members who may be reluctant to adopt new technologies.
However, being easy-to-use is not enough. Switching to a virtual classroom must take into account the students’ progress and meet all their day-to-day needs.
Many academics, educators, and purchasing managers for schools need help choosing the best virtual classroom solution. As experts in e-learning training, for more than 40 years we have seen how students have adopted new technologies.
Faced with the “new normal” that the coronavirus brought into our lives, many of these centers have been forced to use free programs in order to rapidly implement something in their classrooms and to give a quick response to their students, patching up the shortcomings that have arisen from not being able to commute to learning centers.
Below, we list some of the most common virtual classroom tools, not to compare, but to illustrate how they fit together as puzzle pieces, how they complement each other for a 360º education and the change they bring about in schools. As you will have realized by now after experimenting with new technologies, a virtual classroom needs several different components.
Virtual Classrooms in our education centers: Video conference
It’s very likely you have heard of video conferencing software such as Zoom (meetings or Zoom video calls), or Skype. Both work well as a quick solution to get the class to meet.
Centers have learned that videoconferencing also offers a way of teaching/learning when there is no possibility of everyone being together in the classroom.
In times of need, these applications were the first to be used. This is because many primary and secondary students were already familiar with similar applications and technologies, such as FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts and even WhatsApp, which have now adapted to the “new normal” so they can do homework and share class materials in a group setting. But with time, we have realized that physically seeing the student or teacher is not enough on its own as a virtual classroom solution. The limitations that these free services present in the educational field have quickly become apparent.
Limitations because their only function is to establish a visual connection between the parties and allow them to communicate, but at the learning level it falls short, and one of the shortcomings is that it allows students to disperse easily.
Many turn off their camera (the image) and put up a photo, so when teachers are giving their lesson, students can be chatting or doing other tasks, and so they stop paying attention to the class. This was also happening in face-to-face classes, but fortunately we moved towards improvements in education, where virtual classrooms not only interconnect students and teachers, but allow teachers to keep an access record and monitor students, with countless resources to help keep their students attentive and motivated.
Learning Management Systems
These management systems are called LMS, (Learning Management Systems) like Voluxion Pro LMS, and have long been the core of virtual classrooms and distance learning projects. In addition to making it easy to register groups, monitor students and generate individualized reports of virtual classes and other school activities, they also facilitate group discussions of the reading material assigned in a community/school or institution, add gamification, etc.
These platforms help organize and distribute full semesters of courses in organizational systems, as instructors deem appropriate. If we go a little further, we’ll find Learning Content Management Systems, such as Voluxion Pro LCMS, where you can not only upload materials, but also create interactive content that encourages learning (for example, partial or final tests, or surveys), as well as facilitate smooth communication between teachers and students.
Key features of virtual classrooms
We can conclude that video conferencing for classes and learning management systems for homework provide a full classroom experience. We need both to ensure high-quality learning. It’s even better if we can find both services integrated together: greater efficiency, more analytical capacity and increased data security.
To address this need, and due to the demand of our clients, we decided to launch a virtual classroom that can be integrated into any platform in order to make it easier for teachers to monitor their students in greater detail. If you currently have a platform like Moodle, you can easily use Voluxion Videoconferencing (exporting SCORM packages), which is a system specifically designed for classes and teacher management. It has desktop sharing, file storage, a virtual whiteboard, user lists, public and private chat, classroom roles and multifunction classrooms (classes, tutoring, meetings, webinars).
But is this enough? Where are we going in the near future?
Currently many people in the world of education are thinking about the lifespan of hard-copy books and their shift toward digitization. Schools, universities, and other educational institutions are aimed at adapting and have the intention to preserve as many conventional features as possible for their students’ sake. Transitioning from physical to virtual classrooms in the immediate future is regarded as difficult, and considering the diversity of online learning tools, we can affirm that a crucial component is missing: unity. In other words, with one single tool, a school or institution can grow from a simple virtual classroom to an LMS; they can even digitize their textbooks, avoiding intermediaries such as hard-copy books in the near future.
Authoring Tool, a step further than virtual classroom in education centers
Whether you are a school administrator looking for a solution or a software developer in the education field, you are possibly in need of creating your own content, not just uploading PDFs, which can be done with virtual classrooms and also with an LMS/LCMS, but you want to create your own interactive exercises, assessment tests, partials or finals, audio readings, recordings done by students…in this case your solution would be the Authoring Tool, an interactive content creator for schools and universities. This tool allows you to generate multimedia content and takes advantage of LMS’s capabilities like monitoring, gamification or combining it with online classes, for example.
In short, we have easy-to-use and other educational technology available that is specifically designed to transfer face-to-face classes into virtual classes comprehensively and efficiently so that virtual learning at schools and universities preserves not only teaching efficiency, but also part of the essence of the traditional education process: a shared, collective, and engaging process. This is achieved by implementing videoconferencing in learning environments and surrounding it with tools that really make it an ace for education (virtual whiteboard, projector for materials, class actions). As well as a virtual environment that is capable of integrating online classes with online content and student communities: where, at the end of the day, everything is automatically added to the student’s record.
It is the only way to ensure that education advances with quality, and not with temporary substitutes. Virtual classrooms in education centers respond to this necessity. By turning this crisis into an opportunity to renew and improve the educational system, we can be prepared so that whatever happens, education is guaranteed in person and also remotely, without classrooms having to close their doors.
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