While online programming has been steadily growing in demand across sectors, specifically higher education, the COVID-19 pandemic thrust schools, institutions, and businesses, alike, into a scramble to leverage technology to serve as a makeshift virtual classroom or digital employee engagement tool. In the urgency, availability won out over practicality for many organizations. As such, many schools and businesses cobbled together emergency plans via traditional web conferencing tools never intended to carry that burden.
Fast-forward to the present and many organizations are still utilizing those same tools as virtual classroom software, virtual academies, and corporate learning and development platforms, even though they were never designed to operate as such. With this in mind, let’s explore traditional web conferencing vs. virtual classroom platforms by explaining each tool’s intent, the role participants play, and how particular features impact use and results.
What is the intended use of traditional web conferencing vs. virtual classrooms?
Traditional web conferencing platforms are designed as digital broadcasting tools, allowing a particular individual to present information to a wide audience through an internet connection. Communication within a traditional web conferencing tool is best centered around one-way communication, as well as purposefully small group meetings, including quick sync-ups and small team touchbases. At its core, traditional web conferencing encourages passive audience experiences at-scale in order for information to be efficiently transferred.
Virtual classroom platforms, by contrast, are centered around heightened engagement, encouraging interaction in multiple directions simultaneously, leading to more lively exchanges of information in two-way communication avenues. Video conferencing for virtual classroom experiences focuses on multiple and varied methods of disseminating information to the group. Whether the intent is student engagement or employee upskilling/reskilling, virtual classroom software fosters multiple approaches for communication.
Attendees vs. participants
Another key distinction of traditional web conferencing vs. virtual classrooms is the role of those present. Traditional web conferencing encourages attendees to take a passive approach to the process—watching, listening, and waiting. Virtual classroom tools, on the other hand, bolsters active participation—raising hands, leading breakout room discussions, dynamically sharing materials, and answering polls.
Specifically within the realm of education, student engagement is so vital that legislation has been passed requiring regular and substantive interaction (RSI). Traditional web conferencing tools, alone, can’t satisfy those requirements, nor do they possess the functionality to empower educators to tap into those opportunities. Virtual classroom video conferencing tools come equipped with the features necessary to enable schools to achieve these benchmarks.
What features separate virtual classroom tools from traditional web conferencing?
In identifying the intended use for traditional web conferencing vs. virtual classrooms, the software functionality is the first place to start. Below, we explore a few features which distinguish virtual classroom platforms from traditional web conferencing tools.
A hallmark differentiator of video conferencing for virtual classrooms is collaboration tools. While traditional web conferencing blasts communication in a one-to-many methodology, virtual classroom tools aim to empower participants to be a part of the process actively. Whiteboards and breakout rooms are excellent examples of collaboration tools.
Are you using a virtual classroom platform or a traditional web conferencing tool masquerading as a stand-in? Virtual classroom platforms, uniquely designed for education or business learning and development, will have automated workflows specifically catered to your needs, from gradebooks and attendance to onboarding enrollment.
Organization and content availability
In addition to automated tools and enhanced collaboration mediums, virtual classroom software intuitively stores and organizes the content needed—for both instructors and participants. From onboarding materials for new hires to class notes and assignments for students, relevant resources are conveniently and appropriately located.
Virtual classrooms are specifically designed with an understanding of varying abilities, whether those be technical literacy limitations, cognitive impairments, physical disabilities, etc. In fact, in many ways video conferencing for online classes can empower particular student groups who may experience broader limitations in a physical classroom or workspace.
Another key designation of traditional web conferencing vs. virtual classroom platforms is the alignment of technology with pedagogical best practices. Extensive research and experience have yielded a plethora of insights for properly fostering learning environments through online modalities. Leveraging expert resources can aid in best practices being used with your virtual classroom platform.
Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning encourages the intentional use of virtual classroom software features, providing questions to prompt purpose:
- What skill should my students be able to perform by the end of our online class session?
- Which active learning strategy will allow my students to practice this skill?
- When will my students encounter and engage with information and ideas? When will they reflect on what they’ve learned?
Which is the best choice for my school, institution, or business?
Schools, institutions, and businesses that leverage the power of virtual classroom software not only obtain technology better suited for their desired outcomes, they also establish partnerships borne out of a deep understanding of their unique needs. From features designed to heighten engagement and accessibility to research-based modality insights, virtual classroom platforms are uniquely positioned to aid institutions and businesses in their efforts to educate, engage, and empower.
Excited to see the top virtual classroom software in action? Request a demo today, and let our team show you how Class will take your engagement to the next level.