Reconsidering the advantages of a virtual classroom

22 Nov

We all know the advantages of a virtual classroom – the cost savings, the non-travel, and even the physical learning environment (being able to learn in your own space). But what about the learning experience? Does a virtual classroom always deliver the best learning experience?

Sometimes the answer is no.

Training in a virtual classroom has a number of challenges, not least instructors and learners being unfamiliar with learning in a virtual world. But perhaps the most significant challenge/problem is trying to replicate the traditional classroom in the virtual classroom. Despite the number of virtual classroom tips and tricks out there, the learning experience is undoubtedly compromised by trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

So what can we do? First, we need to figure out what works really well in a virtual classroom and what doesn’t. For me, collaboration works well but lecturing doesn’t. A virtual classroom has the interactive tools that facilitate engaging learner collaboration, but even with a webcam, the talking head format of a lecture is a bore in a virtual classroom setting.

Second, we need to understand that a virtual classroom is an option within a larger blended learning approach to training. When faced with a training problem (opportunity), the solution shouldn’t always be based on cost savings. What about the learning experience? Shouldn’t that be part of the picture?

So, to conclude, a virtual classroom can best serve the learning experience, but it can also hinder. As such, we need to consider the learning involved and whether a virtual classroom would be the best fit.

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