Online education has been a very popular way of conducting studies for a very long time. This type of education has allowed colleges and universities to provide their courses to a much larger number of students than otherwise possible.
These online learning programs mean that students can access them from wherever they are, even when they cannot move to another country to study at their dream institution.
What is a Virtual Classroom?
Online courses are often provided via virtual classrooms. What is this exactly? In very simple terms, it is a virtual setting in which teachers and students can meet with each other, share materials, give presentations, and a lot more. Virtual learning environments can come in different forms. Some of these include:
- Massive Open Online Courses, commonly known as MOOCs, are programs that anyone can get enrolled in and complete. Such virtual classes are often prerecorded and uploaded to websites like Coursera. Students can access their chosen programs, often for completely free, and then get an official certificate from the university that offers the program.
- Online degree programs are offered by various institutions for foreign or even local students who don’t wish to physically attend the university of their choice. These provide one of the best benefits of a virtual classroom as people from all over the world can take part in the top courses without having to travel.
- Perhaps the biggest example of online learning came at the height of the pandemic when essentially the whole world went into lockdown and educational institutions shifted to virtual classes. Even today, a lot of institutions are offering such online classes as they can have many benefits.
Benefits of Virtual Learning Classrooms
There are various advantages of a virtual classroom that people have already seen as a direct result of COVID-19. Some of these include the following.
As mentioned before, one of the most important virtual learning benefits includes accessibility. Distance learning has brought more and more students from remote areas of the world into the fold of higher education, allowing them to gain top-notch education from their homes.
Many students who are generally shy in physical classrooms find it easier to use virtual classroom software and be more vocal and present. If they find it hard to raise their hand in a physical room to ask a question, being in an online lesson can help.
For adults who are working alongside their studies, having to sit in an interactive virtual classroom can be much easier than taking time out each day to go to a physical campus. This can help them manage their time more effectively and find some moments to enjoy their lives as well. And the fact that they can most likely join classes from their mobile phones on the go can save hours of their time.
Cost reductions that stem from distance learning help both students and institutions. Students don’t have to travel and find accommodation, while institutions don’t have to constantly expand and add extra classrooms to their campus for more students. The cost of a good video conferencing software is much lesser than the continued operational costs that go into maintaining a physical classroom.
Other than easier learning management for students, online learning also provides them with quicker results on their exams. They don’t have to wait for weeks to get their test scores as their tests are scored as soon as they finish them in a good virtual classroom software.
Disadvantages of Virtual Classroom
As with everything in our lives, there is good and bad when it comes to virtual learning environments. Here are some of the most common disadvantages.
- Lack of Social Interaction
The social aspect of joining a college or university is one of the most important things in a student’s life. Unfortunately, in many virtual classroom examples, we can see how this important part of the higher education experience is stripped away. Students can definitely learn a lot from their homes and collaborate with others, but it is nowhere near the level of socialization they can have on campus.
It can be very hard for students to develop the discipline required in life when they know that all they need to do is turn on the computer and take a class. Some students find it hard to wake up early for virtual lessons and others lose their motivation after some time.
One of the biggest disadvantages of virtual learning is that students don’t have hands-on learning opportunities. They cannot go into labs and do experiments or physically experience something that is essential to a subject. This can make online lessons quite boring and unhelpful at times.
While it is among one of the top advantages of virtual learning that students from remote areas can learn what they want, it also has a flipside because such students often face technological issues. They may not have stable internet or electricity and end up finding the whole experience frustrating.
One of the biggest cons when it comes to digital learning is that it is very difficult for teachers to prevent cheating among students. Whether we talk about tests or class assignments, it is very complicated to maintain a level of fairness in the class because everyone is using their own computers and is sitting in their own environment. It is even possible for students to ask someone else to take a test on their behalf at times.
Must-Have Virtual Classroom Features in 2022
After going through some advantages and disadvantages of a virtual classroom, these are some must-have features that should be incorporated in online lessons:
- Maximum collaboration among students is essential if we want to make distance education a healthy and social experience for students. Various software should include as many collaborative features as possible so that learners can work together and create healthy relationships.
- Software programs enabling distance learning should be as low-demand in terms of resources as possible. This is crucial for students with choppy internet connections and electrical issues to stay connected rather than feeling left out.
- One feature that we have seen in some programs is the inclusion of automated learning. This may be the future of online learning. If programs can tailor the learning material to each student’s individual progress rather than bombarding everyone with the same work every day, then learners can actually learn more effectively at their own pace.
- Virtual classrooms should also be smaller and more focused. Instead of a video conferencing screen showing 50 people sitting in the same class, these classes should be limited to a lower number of students with whom the instructor can be more engaged.
If you’ve ever wondered what is virtual learning and never really found the answer, you know now. If it wasn’t for virtual learning, all the educational institutions of the world would have had to shut down for a very long time due to COVID-19 and students would have lost a significant part of their lives doing nothing. Thanks to distance learning technologies that were already in place, this fate was avoided and online lessons continue to grow in popularity for a myriad of reasons. However, there is still a lot of work left to be done if virtual learning is to be improved to a point where it can compete with physical classrooms.