Virtual Classroom Software
Hybrid work continues to grow in popularity with the American workforce. Gallup anticipates that 53% of remote-capable jobs will become a hybrid model in 2023 and beyond. They also note that hybrid work is the preferred location of 59% of workers surveyed. While there are many benefits to hybrid work such as increased flexibility and productivity, smaller carbon footprints, greater employee engagement, and an expanded talent pool – it’s not without its challenges. Training, for example, can become a more complicated endeavor in a hybrid or remote environment versus traditional workplaces of the past. However, quality and instructional materials and experiences can still be efficiently delivered to remote and hybrid employees with virtual classroom software.
Online classroom platforms give organizations the opportunity to get all of their learners together (virtually) in the same place. It’s also an option for storing training documents, assessments, and other materials related to learning. Some virtual classrooms can even go the extra mile and create an entirely new virtual environment for your learners, testing new software, navigating security challenges, and more.
Virtual training platforms for businesses require a high level of scalability – after all, they may be training a class of 5 or a class of 50. Not every free virtual classroom platform can handle that kind of input. The best virtual classroom platforms should also offer a high level of flexibility in order to provide every learner with a style that works for them. Some learners benefit more from virtual instructor training, whereas other learners wish to watch recorded lessons and work through materials at their own pace.
Virtual training offers flexibility to both employers and employees. There are a lot of virtual classroom options out there, however, they are not all created with the same purposes in mind. Some of the best software for online teaching – free options – is only suitable for holding online meetings instead of delivering and hosting training materials or delivering custom virtual environments or learning labs to your learners. While it’s possible to make free virtual classroom softwares work for your organization by hobbling together a mishmash of software such as Zoom for meetings, and Google Drive for hosting docs, etc., it’s more efficient to evaluate your needs and choose an all-in-one virtual classroom platform wherever possible.
Best Virtual Classroom Software
It can be difficult to find a free virtual classroom for online teaching and learning. Some examples of virtual classroom platforms that offer limited free plans are options such as EdApp and NewRow. However, the best virtual classroom software should offer things like:
- Gamification: Gamification is the application of gameplay elements, such as scoring points or earning badges, to other areas of activity, such as online learning. Gamification is one method of engagement and is utilized to leverage learner interest in their training.
- Breakout Rooms: Breakout rooms occur when a large group of learners is separated into smaller groups for the purpose of more nuanced and interactive discussion. Breakout rooms can also help facilitate relationships between learners, strengthen company culture, and reinforce learning objectives through discussion.
- Video & Audio Conferencing: Video and audio conferencing is a traditional “video call” experience. Virtual classrooms can opt for two-way video and audio conferencing, which would allow for both the instructor and the learners to hear and see each other, or one-way A/V, which only allows the learners to see and hear the instructor.
- Chat & Messaging: The chat and messaging feature gives students an opportunity to participate without turning on their microphones. It also gives learners the opportunity to ask questions without interrupting another speaker or to provide clarification for their peers as training goes on.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Hybrid work and hybrid learning is happening anywhere and everywhere. The best virtual classroom software should be mobile responsive so that learning can happen anywhere learners are.
- Live Polling: Live polling is a feature that allows instructors to collect live feedback without needing audio input from every student. This can streamline training processes and provide clear visual feedback.
- Question and Answer: A Q&A feature within a virtual classroom also gives learners the opportunity to ask questions without disrupting others.
And ideally, the best online virtual training software for virtual classrooms should also fully integrate with your LMS (learning management system). The integration of the LMS alongside other features of a virtual classroom makes it a one-stop shop for administrators, making instructor-led training labs a breeze. Virtual classroom features could also have built-in calendars and a scheduling system so that learners always know when their next training is. The best software for online learning should also have virtual classroom templates. This will streamline the administrative process behind planning and delivering online training. With templates, a higher number of classrooms can be delivered with less administrative time, making training delivery more efficient.
Interactive Virtual Classroom
Virtual classrooms offer many benefits to hybrid learners and workers. Advantages of virtual learning include:
- Flexibility: Learners enrolled in virtual learning, especially asynchronous learning, are afforded far more flexibility than in traditional instructor-led training. Asynchronous virtual classrooms give learners the opportunity to learn at their own pace and in their preferred physical environment. This is an ideal choice for busy parents or learners who are pursuing a degree outside of work.
- Cost-effective: Arranging for dozens of employees to be in the same place on the same day at the same time, losing out on a day or more of work, finding and paying a trainer – all of these expenses can really add up. Virtual learning eliminates travel costs, printing costs, storage needs, and more.
- Increased engagement: Interactive virtual classrooms that incorporate gamification and learner participation have increased engagement. Virtual learning can hold learner attention in ways that traditional training can’t. This is because virtual learning can be done on the learner’s schedule instead of the other way around.
- Incorporating on-the-job learning: Virtual learning and spaced learning give learners the opportunity to take what they’ve learned in their sessions and apply it to their job. This helps reinforce their lessons and is the ultimate goal of workplace training – on-the-job application.
When it comes to free virtual classroom platforms, they may not offer all of the features you need to truly create a hybrid or remote learning, training, or testing environment that works for your needs. While free online classroom websites may offer two-way audio/video communication with some chat functionality, paid virtual classroom apps are often able to offer more functionality and deeper customization.
There are also three different types of virtual classrooms – each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The three different types of virtual classroom are synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid. Synchronous learning happens on an instructor-set schedule with a more traditional classroom structure. Synchronous classrooms make the most use of features such as breakout rooms, polls, Q&A, and two-way audio/video conferencing. Asynchronous classrooms occur on a learner’s schedule instead of an instructor’s. Asynchronous learning will also have a deadline, but it is not required for a learner to log in at the same time every day. This allows the student to learn at their own pace and interact with the material in the way that makes the most sense to them. A hybrid virtual classroom is a blend of the two approaches, with synchronous and asynchronous elements.
While some online applications may have aspects of a virtual classroom – free options such as Microsoft Whiteboard or Google Classroom – they are more like tools that can be used in a virtual classroom. They are not the classroom itself.
Virtual IT Labs
Skytap has created a virtual IT labs platform that makes it possible for you to deliver workplace training to your employees. Benefits of virtual instructor-led training (VILT) include many of the same benefits of all remote learning. However, the live instructor has a few additional benefits. With virtual instructor-led training, learners can receive personalized feedback immediately instead of waiting for a grade behind the scenes. VILT can also foster professional relationships between learners and trainers, as well as learners and their peers. VILT is also more cost effective than traditional in-person training, and allows organizations to source trainers from a wide range of experts, as there is no longer a necessity to travel. A virtual classroom app allows learners to learn from anywhere, even their phones.
Skytap Virtual IT Labs offer instructor-led or self-guided training options, allowing for the greatest level of flexibility. Thanks to the cloud labs template, virtual classrooms can be created in minutes without the need for IT support. Skytap classrooms can provide 24×7 virtual training for all learners, no matter where they are. This allows learners or potential customers to engage with your content whenever they’d like, wherever they are. Skytap provides a comprehensive hub for your training administrators with support for your learning management system.
Read this case study to see how Skytap Virtual IT Labs supports virtual learning for online learners at the Norwich University College of Graduate and Continuing Studies.