If you’d like to give online teaching a go, we’ll show you how to create a virtual classroom in five steps.
What is a virtual classroom?
Although the term virtual classroom may be more familiar to you since the pandemic, they’ve actually been around for some time. As we advance into a more digital world, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the uptake of virtual classrooms rise.
Virtual classrooms are digital learning environments. Teachers and students access a shared classroom online to engage in the same activities you would expect in person. Both parties can enter the classroom at the same time and interact with each other live. Or they can log in to the virtual classroom at a time that suits them, and provide resources, assignments and feedback during agreed slots. The majority of virtual classrooms use a mixture of live sessions and independent learning.
Moving to teach online doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the energy you get in person. Virtual classrooms can be highly engaging and allow students to access resources anywhere in the world - opening up educational opportunities.
An effective virtual classroom should include:
- Area for class materials
- Breakout rooms for small group tasks
- Collaborative tools such as whiteboards
- Teacher friendly analytics
- Portal for students to create and upload work
Benefits of virtual classrooms
Virtual classrooms can benefit both students and teachers. Some of the top reasons to move online are:
- Flexibility - Students and teachers can join the class from anywhere in the world. A wider audience means teachers can increase enrollment whilst students with geographical barriers can still attend.
- Engaging - With access to new online materials, teachers can make their lessons more interactive and engaging. Virtual classrooms also encourage collaboration and discussions.
- Cost-effective - All you need is a device connected to the internet, and you’re all set! No more travel, printing or equipment costs.
- Suitable for a range of learning styles - With the variety of tools and features available online, virtual classrooms appeal to students with a range of learning styles.
Time to set up your virtual classroom!
Convinced that starting a virtual classroom is for you? We’ll show you the steps to take to create an environment that students will thrive in.
1. Get the right equipment
Since you’ll be teaching online, you’ll need to get kitted out with the right technology to stream high quality lessons to your students. You also need to consider how you’ll schedule your classes around your calendar. The top things you’ll need are:
You don’t need to go out and spend thousands of pounds on an all singing and dancing laptop. But there are a few features you need. The laptop should be compatible with all major software and applications, and have specifications to match your demands. The device should be responsive as you’ll often share your screen when demonstrating to students - and you don’t want your screen to keep freezing!
These days, laptops come with high quality webcams built in. If the picture isn’t looking crisp enough, you may want to try an external camera to film yourself teaching.
A microphone with clear sound is essential when communicating with students. Again, the built-in microphone should do the trick. However, be prepared to invest in an external microphone as you may find that the sound quality is below par.
Strong internet connection
No one can stand buffering, and a clunky video littered with pauses and distorted images is not acceptable in a virtual classroom. Make sure your internet connection is strong enough to handle videos - at least 2Mbps will be needed. It’s worth spending more to upgrade your internet to this speed to give students a smooth experience - remember you’re already saving on lots of other teaching costs!
Video conferencing platform
The go-to video conferencing platform is Zoom. Although Google Meet and Microsoft Teams are also good options. Do your research and test the different platforms out before deciding on your winner.
Class booking system
To save time and to spare yourself from the dull admin tasks that come with being a teacher, opt for a class booking system. This handy tool will help you schedule your classes, sync lessons with your calendar, track attendance, send reminders to students to increase attendance, and much more!
2. Test your equipment and ask students to test theirs
Now you’ve got all your tech, you need to make sure it works as it should! You may have joined countless Zoom meetings before, but it’s still worth spending time getting comfortable with all the features in your virtual classroom.
At the same time, you need to ensure your students are confident in navigating the virtual classroom. This will allow you to jump straight into activities rather than wasting lesson time on showing them the controls. It’s a good idea to send an email with their booking that includes a step by step guide on how to use the virtual classroom. Or you could even host a dedicated pre-class session to introduce yourself and give a tour of the virtual classroom. Making students feel supported from the very start will set you up for success.
3. Have a class plan
A similarity between virtual and traditional classrooms is that you need a clear plan on how you’re going to teach. Will you include a warm up activity, break out group discussions, and lecture style sessions? How will you design your worksheets? Are there any good videos you can share that explain a topic well? The greater mix of materials, the more engaging your lesson will be. No one wants to follow a textbook for the full hour!
Yet things don’t always go to plan. When teaching online, you’re more at risk of technical difficulties, the main one being issues with your presentation. In the event of this situation, it’s wise to save your presentation on your local drive to reduce your reliance on the cloud.
As long as you record every session and allow students to access resources at any time they like, the learning experience shouldn’t be hindered.
4. Schedule a date and time
Teaching virtually means you can reach students all over the world. The main challenge with this is the different time zones, making choosing a date and time for your lesson a tricky task. Not to worry though, this is where the class booking system becomes your saviour.
BookingLive’s software solution allows you to see students’ availability and sync the details to your calendar. Having this visualisation helps you quickly schedule a slot that suits everyone. Once you’ve chosen the date and time, students will receive an email confirmation as well as SMS reminders. So there’s no excuse for poor attendance!
By using a tool to take care of your admin, you can spend your time planning future lessons and marking assignments - the jobs that really matter when you’re a teacher.
5. Host the class
The final stage of creating a virtual classroom is hosting the class! Turn up at least five minutes early to make sure your technology is working properly. Some students may also join the lesson early to ask you questions, so be prepared.
At the start of your session, double-check that your students can hear you. There’s nothing worse than being on mute and having no one tell you! During the class, monitor the chat feature so you can quickly respond to queries and feedback. You may find that some concepts need repeating, and the chat feature helps you work out students’ understanding.
To keep energy high, use multimedia, quizzes and polls in your lesson. Engaging students in this way will help them retain information.
When the hour is up and you’ve said your goodbyes, remember to follow up. You should share the presentation and any resources so that your students can develop their knowledge. BookingLive can send automated emails to your attendee list with this information. All you need to do is set the time you want emails to be sent. It’s really that easy!
Create a virtual classroom with BookingLive
BookingLive offers a comprehensive class booking system - an essential tool when creating a virtual classroom. You can customise the features of the booking system to suit your needs. To learn more about how it works, book a demo, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org