Virtual classroom software systems

These systems harness modern information technology in order to deliver instruction to users in a variety of locations. Typically, virtual classrooms include certain aspects of audio and/or videoconferencing to connect the instructor to students. Additionally, students are given the opportunity to request assistance and communicate with other students via discussion boards and chat modules. Instructors in virtual classrooms can utilize interactive tools such as whiteboards and document sharing to increase learning and retention. All users in virtual classrooms typically utilize a combination of headsets, speakers, microphones, and webcams for multimedia conferencing among particpants. This linked image shows a typical virtual classroom interface.

Virtual classrooms in business

These types of instructional delivery are readily used in the business world, where learners are spread across the country (or even around the world). While these virtual systems and required hardware can be expensive, the amounts pale in comparison to the costs of traditional in-person training. By utilizing the power of the Internet, companies can eliminate costly airline fares, hotel reservations, and expensive meals associated with conventional training sessions. While these sessions do not totally replicate live training, virtual classrooms do include PowerPoint slide presentations, so content variations among the two are very limited.

Starting your own Virtual Classroom

Learningcircuits.org has an interesting article covering several aspects of getting a new virtual classroom off the ground. Although it does not cover choosing specific software - it does cover the ramifications and challenges an instructor will face in setting up and maintaining a virtual course.

Manhattan is an open source virtual classroom available from Sourceforge. Many Learning Management Systems contain the tools that make up a Virtual classroom.

Videos

The following video focuses on a popular topic: "Are online degrees real degrees? In what ways are online degrees different from one another and also different from traditional degrees? " Recorded by the Massachussetts School of Law (1 hr 3 min).


Some educational institutions are relating their online experiences and calling them virtual classrooms. The following video shows one common application of technology in which those that are at risk of dropping out or not finishing in traditional setting are given an online option.