5 Ways to Create a Virtual Learning Environment
The world is shifting towards an online environment more and more, perhaps schools will become a near-permanent virtual learning environment. Even if that ends up not being the case, classrooms have become more and more virtual overtime. Started with colleges having virtual classrooms and digital homework is now becoming more prevalent in K-12 schools. With this shift in how students access learning materials and classes, how can an educator create a better virtual learning environment? Even if your school has no interest in anything that is permanently online, it's useful to be prepared for a virtual classroom for snow days, emergencies, and things of that sort. So, let's discuss 5 tips to create a virtual learning environment to keep the class going whether in the building or not.
The Right eLearning Software
Don't jump onto the first virtual classroom program you find. There is plenty of eLearning software out there that specialize in subjects, specific tool needs, and other options that may or may not be the best fit for you. Do your homework or encourage your administrators to do theirs, the wrong software or management system can seriously derail the virtual learning environment and it's always harder to replace something when it's already up and running.
Take a look at what makes sense to use for your students, how assignments are best delivered, and the kind of interactions you want to have. Some software and management programs aren't compatible with the systems a school district uses, for example, and those that are may not have the tools your virtual classroom requires.
Ensure Collaboration Still Exists
Part of the traditional classroom experience is time with other students and collaborative learning. The virtual learning environment doesn't have to negate that aspect. Humans are just too social of a species to interact strictly with our computer screens. So, when looking to set up a virtual learning environment, make sure there is a feature to interact with other students for group projects.
Many eLearning software and management systems have a chat feature that the instructor can monitor but, can students collaborate on a project in the system? Do you think that is a feature that is useful for your virtual classrooms like putting desks together in a brick and mortar school? These are things you should explore when figuring out the virtual learning environment you're seeking.
Many virtual classroom programs and software offer data to the teacher to use for their lesson planning. A good example of that is testing clocks, how many students finished before the clock ran out, how many went beyond the time constraints if they were able, etc. Programs that have that sort of data available are a great tool to enhance the virtual learning environment by letting you know where your classes need some adjustment.
Think of it as progress reports automatically delivered to you but, that are far more accurate. You can even see how long students, on average, took to answer questions, how late they are, and a range of other data can be available to you to better virtual education.
Nothing beats looking at the person you're speaking with and that can be a major con of a virtual classroom. Luckily, many virtual education programs offer video chats for the entire class. You can see your students, they can see you, and it can really help with the virtual learning environment. Group chat rooms are fine but, if you're going for long term virtual education then being able to interact as you would in-person, as much as you can, is the best bet for a better virtual learning environment.
So, when setting up a virtual classroom and looking for programs to facilitate that, make sure to look for ones that host video interactions whether for one-on-ones or groups.
Keep Lessons Simple
Something that many educators are tempted to do is not respect the new medium through which they teach. Lessons aren't being delivered the same way in a virtual classroom as they are in a school setting, which means keeping lessons more simple may be needed. This is especially true when there is no video feature to teach with. Sure, in college-level classes you can give long reading materials and lessons but, even then there are lectures.
When setting up a virtual learning environment, consider how you'll have to adjust delivering the information within the constraints you now have. Think of it like handing out lessons strictly as a take-home, how would that impact your teaching your students?
The Virtual Classroom Wrapped-Up
As you can see, there are many ways to enhance the virtual learning environment and certainly more than what's above. It's just a matter of sitting down and considering how to adjust to the new manner of teaching. While much of what is done can translate easily, the delivery certainly needs adjustment. How much? Well, that depends on the platform you'll be using, the subject, and the age range of your students.