It’s no secret that leaps forward in technological capabilities have been transforming the ways in which student engagement is fostered in online synchronous learning environments. As the desire for online classroom modalities among learners continues to grow, the ways in which those students interact with educators also has the opportunity to change and adapt.

Recently, Class’s Jason Bedford, Senior Vice President of Education, and Sagee Moyal, Director of Sales, joined The Higher EdTech Podcast to discuss the future of online synchronous learning. Below are four key takeaways from Bedford and Moyal’s discussion with the podcast’s hosts Tim VanNorman, Instructional Technologist at Irvine Valley College, and Brent Warner, Professor of English as a Second Language at Irvine Valley College.

1. Virtual classrooms aren’t a temporary fix

As Warner points out, “it doesn’t feel like [online classroom platforms are] meant to be a Band-Aid. It feels like [these platforms are] a whole construction with a long-term goal, right? Of longer support and actual, you know, caring about what’s going to happen to the students in the future.”

While there have been a number of events that prompted the use of web conferencing, Zoom for higher education, and other technological stopgaps, the actual evolution within education for a hyper-specific, pedagogically-sound offering has been growing and is now intentionally delivering a teaching modality with more robust outcomes.

Bedford highlights the impetus for the genesis of a truly capable virtual classroom platform, recalling, “We took some of the many, many frustrations and limitations for the classroom—where videoconferencing was amazing for the boardroom, and has lots of vast utilities—but, the specifications for teaching and learning were limited.”

Moyal adds, “Now, we have analytics to help us guide our decision-making to create an experience that really works.”

2. Asynchronous and synchronous learning can coexist

In the past, leveraging traditional web conferencing tools has required instructors to either operate in silos—completely synchronously or entirely asynchronously in how they communicate with students. This push-and-pull has limited the effectiveness of both modalities for educators.

Bedford speaks to this specific issue, noting, “Synchronous and asynchronous have been really detached. And if all of our content and our assessments live in an LMS, but our live instruction and interpersonal connections, where discourse happens, happen in the synchronous environment—but they don’t live together—it’s a frustrating or disappointing experience. And so, at Class, we’ve been also really focused on how we have those live together, like they do well in physical spaces—but maybe even better, because all of it is digital already.”

One of the ways in which a virtual classroom can bring these two worlds together is by not requiring the instructor or the learner to leave the platform for important information, thus removing a disruptive hurdle in the education experience. As a means of overcoming this disconnect, Class offers content delivery directly within the online classroom platform.

Instructors can push content to users by opening a tab within the platform with the flexibility to allow students to read through Google Docs, watch videos, complete LMS assignments, answer polls, and more at their own pace—rather than forcing all participants to try to match a predetermined speed. Different than just screen sharing, these controls empower both educator and learner, allowing students to ingest information at their own pace without leaving the virtual classroom environment.

3. Engagement is no longer a guessing game

If the idea of an online classroom conjures up memories of teaching to an infinite number of “black boxes” representing camera-off students, then the notion of trackable, real-time awareness of student engagement is a welcomed relief. Importantly, it’s essential to be able to gauge engagement levels in a glanceable, intuitive way so educators aren’t pulled out of the moment while ensuring their class is involved.

VanNorman praises Class’s answer to this issue, explaining, “I love—I don’t know what the technical term is—but I call them the ‘googly eyes’ that show up when somebody is clicking on something that’s not part of Class. You guys putting that in place, it’s one of those fun things that faculty, when I talk about Class Technologies, and I say, ‘Hey, you know, by the way, this is there,’ it puts a smile on people’s faces. And they get it. It’s kind of amazing to me, just the fact that it’s so simple to see.”

By providing simplistic, accessible methods to gauge learner involvement, including “talk time” meters next to each student, notifications of distractions, and more, educators reclaim many of the nonverbal cues they’ve been accustomed to reacting to during in-person classroom settings, but taking this to the next level because these analytics are not only available in real-time, they also can be explored historically to better identify trends in student behaviors.

4. Virtual learning can take place in isolation and social settings

Differentiation is a key trait to effective teaching. Some learners prefer one-on-one attention, while others thrive in groups. If all students must take part in the same cookie-cutter online classroom, it’s clear that not all participants will be equally served. Creating means through which students can engage with the materials in effective ways unique to them can create a catalyst for learning that encourages all participants.

To this point, VanNorman touts the innovative nature of Class’s breakout rooms, detailing, “A couple of different things with the breakout rooms that I really like. Number one, you can see into every breakout room from your main screen—you don’t have to go visit the breakout room to see what’s going on. Number two, you still have those ‘googly eyes’ to see who is and isn’t paying attention in the breakout room even when you’re not in there with them. So, that’s really neat. Number three […] you can push separate content to each breakout room.”

A real-world example Bedford explores is a writing assignment where, hypothetically, an educator can make sure each student has a paragraph written before sending the students into their breakout rooms. In this example, with this added visibility an instructor can see a few students haven’t completed a first paragraph yet so they stay with the educator to get into a good place before being released to their separate breakout rooms. The efficacy centers on providing the instructor with the ability to make these informed decisions on-the-fly, leveraging deeper use of the virtual classroom platform.

The future of virtual learning is here

As flexible, intuitive online classroom platforms continue to seek out innovative ways to empower educators and learners, the opportunity for opening up new levels of success emerge. Bedford summarizes this point succinctly, stating, “Synchronous, virtual learning can unlock possibilities and help us work in new ways to produce better outcomes for students. And outcomes aren’t necessarily a function of modality, but about the quality of our designs and implementation.”

Interested in unlocking better outcomes for your learners? Reach out to our team today to discover how you can partner with Class to elevate the learner experience.

Mike Lovell

Mike Lovell is the SVP of Marketing at Class. He has dedicated his career to technology and the applications that can innovate the way people live and learn.

Mike Lovell

Mike Lovell is the SVP of Marketing at Class. He has dedicated his career to technology and the applications that can innovate the way people live and learn.

Stay in the know

Get our insights, tips, and best practices delivered to your inbox

hubspot form will be here...
Ready to get started?

Sign up for a product demo today to learn how Class’s virtual classroom powers digital transformation at your organization.

You may also like