Creating an Engaging Virtual Classroom: How to Get Started

Asian girl student video conference e-learning with teacher and classmates

Although online learning has been around for a while now, it’s only with the start of the pandemic in 2020 that it’s truly taken off.

The global e-learning market surpassed $250 billion as countless schools, educational institutions, and businesses switched to virtual learning environments.

e-learning market report by Global Market Insights
e-learning market report by Global Market Insights.

With the help of virtual classroom software, instructors and learners could continue learning and improving from the comfort and safety of their homes. But only if they had already mastered implementing these advanced solutions.

Learning Management System or LMS software isn’t just a simple video conferencing tool one can download and immediately start using. Implementing it and getting started with it can be challenging.

So, let’s see how an instructor can efficiently create a virtual classroom and keep the learners engaged.

Find a Suitable LMS Software

Every virtual classroom software is built differently. Some solutions have just simple audio/video features and a chat box. Others have unique features like virtual backgrounds that can be interactive but don’t add much to the learning experience.

Others still look minimalistic and almost outdated and yet have every feature necessary when the learners are mastering complex concepts.

So, every instructor must go over the features and capabilities of LMS software before committing to it.

Most reliable virtual classroom software solutions will offer free trials, so it’s a good idea to compare and contrast at least a few of them and only then select the most suitable option.

Get Familiarized With The Chosen Virtual Classroom Software

Instructors in a virtual classroom aren’t just teachers. They’re e-learning professionals, experienced computer wizards, and even tech support.

When learners struggle with opening their LMS program, finding their coursework, uploading their assignments, adjusting their audio/video, or using a particular feature, it’s the instructor’s job to guide them through it.

And the only way they could do that is if they knew the ins and outs of the virtual classroom software they’re using.

The instructor needs to know all software requirements, integrations, specifications, and technical limitations.

The better they know the software, the easier it will be to guide the learners and ensure they can join the class seamlessly.

Moreover, when the instructors are familiar with the software, they can easily spot when a learner is just pretending to be having technical difficulties.

Upload Coursework and Materials

After familiarizing themselves with the chosen software, it’s time for the instructors to upload all their coursework and materials.

Most LMS software solutions enable instructors to upload any existing materials they may have, whether they’re in PDF, JPG, PNG, DOC, or any other format.

However, the best tools also enable easy course creation from scratch.

Instructors can often use the extensive libraries that some virtual classroom software solutions offer and use pre-built courses that are freely available.

Of course, there’s always the option of creating fully customized coursework, tests, quizzes, and more.

However, course creation from scratch can be time-consuming and feature quite a learning curve, depending on the tool.

Furthermore, it’s good to keep in mind that virtual sessions can be pretty challenging for learners. So, it’s a good idea to keep the course materials concise, making them as short as possible.

Adjust Lesson Plans

With the software and materials ready to go, it’s always beneficial to start adjusting lesson plans.

While the lessons will still revolve around testing, assignments, group projects, and more, the whole experience can be slightly different online.

Many instructors, for example, like using props and additional equipment when explaining new concepts. Almost everyone relies on whiteboards, and group work is everyone’s favorite.

Fortunately, virtual classrooms tend to mimic real-life, physical ones, so most LMS software solutions will enable instructors to use props and additional materials.

Some instructors may need to adjust their plans depending on the chosen software.

Virtual whiteboards are usually just as effective as actual whiteboards. Instructors can utilize screen-sharing when they want to include further explanations.

Classes can easily be divided into groups based on projects and assignments. The possibilities are endless, but it’s up to the instructors to make use of them.

The instructors who love using props and those who prefer holding monologues should adjust their lesson plans to make the online learning environment more engaging and effective.

Give Everything a Test Run

Finally, it’s critical to do a test run before deploying LMS software to learners.

Ideally, instructors should hold a whole class with their friends or family members, and anyone willing to participate in the activity.

Try using the virtual whiteboard, test the chat function, assess the video and audio quality, try screen-sharing, and launch a quiz.

Perhaps most importantly, try using the software in low bandwidth with mobile, tablet, and PC.

All this testing will help the instructors pinpoint and find a solution to any problems they might encounter.

Now, all there’s left to do is start teaching or training and learn how to keep the learners engaged during online sessions.

Keep the Learners Engaged

Keeping the learners engaged in a virtual environment is often easier said than done. After all, there are too many distractions that could make learning almost impossible.

The following are some of the best tips for improving engagement levels while using virtual classroom software.

1. Focus on microlearning

Microlearning is the concept of presenting new (and perhaps more challenging) topics in smaller chunks of information that are easier to digest.

It can be in the form of modules, games, infographics, and short articles. Ideally, it shouldn’t take learners more than 5-10 minutes to learn a concept.

2. Develop personalized learning paths

Sophisticated LMS software solutions often enable the creation of personalized learning paths.

Using this feature, learners can advance through a course at their own pace, thereby increasing engagement levels and improving performance.

3. Use interactive features

Polls, surveys, quizzes, games, etc. can grab learners’ attention and keep them focused on the lesson. Therefore, devoting a chunk of the lesson time to such interactive content can be most beneficial.

4. Do not have audio-only classes

With videos off, learners can find distractions more easily. If possible, it’s a good idea to keep the video on at all times so the instructors can see what the learners are doing and whether they’re focused on the topic under discussion.

5. Promote collaboration and teamwork

Most instructors use virtual classroom software to deliver monologues that quickly lead to learners losing interest.

However, modern solutions are exceptionally advanced, enabling learners to collaborate in groups, work together on projects, and interact with each other and the instructors.

Online classes should facilitate easy communication–instructor-to-learners, learners-to-instructor, and learner-to-learner.

6. Gather feedback

Last but certainly not least, when it comes to increasing engagement in learning, feedback plays a key role.

Enabling learners to express their thoughts about the current online sessions lets instructors improve and make learning more fun. It’s a step that you should never disregard.

Which Virtual Classroom Are You Using?

Getting started with virtual classrooms can be a challenge, but not an impossible one. It presents unique opportunities for instructors and learners.

And currently, it’s the only option to deliver learning to every type of audience, wherever they are.

Virtual classroom software is here to stay, so both learners and instructors need to learn how to use it.

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