The coronavirus has rocked the teaching world, forcing educators to change course in the blink of an eye. Video conferencing has replaced the entire face-to-face experience for elementary-level, high-school level, and university students. The transition to online teaching can be challenging for students who rely on routines. When it comes to online distance education, the ability to seamlessly create a Zoom virtual classroom is more critical than ever.
If you want to ensure continued success and communication, it is essential to keep distance learning as similar to the traditional classroom as possible. Choosing a real-time video conferencing software that fosters the same sense of interaction in a traditional classroom is vital for students’ success online. Zoom Video Communications Inc., one of the standard platforms for virtual teaching, has been taking the distance education scene by storm.
What Is Zoom and How Do You Use It?
Zoom makes it possible to create FERPA-compliment, real-time virtual classrooms that feel comfortable to both teachers and students. When using this platform for meetings, you can live-stream lessons for younger participants and pre-record lecture content for university students. Participants can view the teacher and students at once on their screen, making it easy to learn together.
The single-screen display also makes it simple for teachers to take attendance virtually. When it comes to distance learning, you might be worried about what to do if a student does not have access to a desktop computer. There’s no need to worry – this platform works across multiple devices such as laptops, iPads, Android tablets, and smartphones, making it very versatile and easy to use.
Screen Sharing and Other Capabilities
With this video conferencing software, you can share your screen, applications, and files with your students and students can also share screens with their classmates so they can study together. When it comes to distance learning, you may worry about your ability to keep order within your classes. If a student begins to abuse screen-sharing privileges, you will have the ability to implement restrictions.
Other features include attention indicators, engagement tracking, virtual hand-raising, and Q&A tools that can help you ensure your students are paying attention and understanding the content. After all, if they’re not communicating correctly, then they’re not learning! The mute/unmute buttons make it easy to eliminate distracting background noises and silence disruptive students. When sharing files with your students, you can perform real-time annotations.
Integrations and More
This application features a seamless LMS integration, which works with applications such as Blackboard, Moodle, and Canvas, which means teachers and students will still be able to use the tools and resources that were once used in the physical classroom.
Teachers can use the whiteboard feature to draw diagrams or write notes that the whole class can see at once. Best of all, you can record your sessions and share them with your students at a later time. This platform will convert your video and audio into transcripts, making it easy for students to access, review, and study anything they did not understand the first time. Such features have never made distance learning easier!
The application also features Zoom rooms which are useful for when you want students to study or work together in group projects. You can also monitor these groups to ensure that everyone is learning and staying on track. Such rooms also foster social interaction, an essential part of the traditional classroom experience. Students can interact with each other while sharing files and taking notes, just as they would in a regular classroom setting.
Is It Free?
While the basic free plan has a 40-minute time limit, teachers can fill out a verification form to have the time limit removed.
Is It Safe?
Just as traditional schools and universities emphasized student safety, you can do the same with Zoom. Some schools have banned this platform due to concerns regarding online bullying, trolling, and security concerns but there are steps you can take to ensure a safe learning environment.
You’ll be able to password-protect your classrooms, lock access once your class has started, and even disable the chatroom. There is also a waiting room function, so you can choose which users to admit entrance to, eliminating the possibility of unauthorized participants or trolls who might disrupt learning.
Using It to Create a Virtual Classroom
Suppose your goal is to create a sufficient distance learning experience. When setting up video conferencing software for the first time, you should focus on the endless possibilities and benefits of distance education rather than the learning limitations.
This application works for every aspect of distance education, including parent-teacher conferences and administrative board meetings. Since its interface is easy-to-use and well-designed, Zoom is an excellent choice for elementary school learning. It’s also got features such as keyboard shortcuts and closed-captioning, making it an ideal platform for special education classes.
How Do You Create a Virtual Classroom?
If you’ve never set up video conferencing software before, the thought of having to do it by yourself can seem daunting. The good news is that this web conferencing platform has an educational guide that makes it easy to learn, with no prior technical experience required!
How to Get Your Classes Running
To set up a free account, all you have to do is visit Zoom’s website and provide your school email address. After you choose your username and password, you can invite students, faculty, and staff to join and create their accounts so the learning process can begin.
You can schedule your first lesson by hitting the “schedule” button and choosing the date and time, which enables the meeting registration. All conference attendees can select a virtual background and use filters to make learning a little more fun. If you plan to record your lessons and share them through email, you must notify students and parents, as they may be required to sign a consent form.
Keeping Order in an Online Classroom
Just as you needed to keep order in the physical classroom, distance learning will also require you to keep your online classes in order. It may seem impossible, but it is relatively easy. At the beginning of each lesson, it is vital to ensure that everyone is able to hear and see you on their screen.
You can also create a hand signal like a thumbs down gesture so that classes can communicate with you even if they cannot hear you. You could also have them type in a phrase into the chat to let you know when someone has lost their connection. You can also create a code of conduct. Your students should understand that your behavior expectations have not changed just because distance learning is in effect.
Every Home is Different
Don’t forget that not every student has the luxury of high-speed internet, so you should also make it a point to give students a few minutes to download, open, and view any files you’ve shared with the class. It can also be easy to forget to pause in between topics – always plan to give students time to ask questions before moving on to the next thing to ensure that everyone is up to speed and learning effectively.
How Effective Is Distance Learning?
Different Types of Distance Education
Some universities are already familiar with using distance learning, as hybrid classes (half online, half face-to-face) have been rising in popularity over the last few years. Synchronous online learning is when students learn together at the same time. Asynchronous learning is when students learn online but at different times.
There’s no need to worry about how well your students will adjust. 85% of students have reported that online learning has either perfectly simulated or even worked out better than physical classroom learning. University students have also shown a preference for the virtual classroom.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Distance Learning?
As we head into the new normal, learning has taken teachers on a new course. As with any type of learning, there are a few pros and cons of distance education.
Pros of Learning Through Online School:
- It is easy to share content and resources
- You can assign group work using breakout rooms
- You can still see whether a student is paying attention
- You can access classes from anywhere with an online connection
- Despite a lack of face-to-face interaction, students can still see each other
No More Missed Lessons
Traditionally, if a student were to miss class, they would have to rely on classroom notes through Blackboard or borrow the notes of another student to complete their work. With video conferencing technology, absent students can rewatch the class recording, eliminating the risk of falling behind.
Plus, if they come across a concept they don’t understand, they can rewatch parts of the recording or refer to the transcript until it is clear. Learning has never been easier or better!
Cons of Learning Through Online School:
- Lack of face-to-face interaction
- Lack of extracurricular student activities
- Can lead to a lack of communication skills
- It may be challenging if you have a student whose first language isn’t English
Online Distance Education Best Practices
You can make the most of distance learning by implementing a few best practices for exceptional distance education. Posting your lesson plans for the day on your virtual whiteboard can give students in your classes an idea of what to expect for each session. You can also implement regular breaks and quick stretch breaks to let your students readjust their eyes and posture.
You can also use the attention tracker to monitor any “trouble” students and “lockout” late students. To provide students with a sense of routine, you can integrate distance education with online field trips that take your students around the world, live virtual study halls, and assign virtual group projects for homework.
Taking It Beyond the Classroom & University
Having open virtual office hours for parents and students is also an option. Live video conferencing soft also enables you to collaborate with other local schools and educators all around the world and pre-record lessons to free up time for grading and meeting with coworkers virtually.
You can also meet with guidance counselors online to create mental health resources if you have a student who is having trouble coping with the events going on around the world.
Which Software Is Right for Your Online Classroom?
With so many virtual education platforms available, it is easy to become overwhelmed when choosing which one is right for your distance education experience. Whether you’re a school administrator in charge of selecting a platform or an educator who needs to choose a web conferencing software that’s easy for everyone to understand, it is essential to make the right decision so that students can get the most out of distance learning.
What Is the Best Virtual Classroom Software?
Distance learning requires a platform that provides real-time functions to help students and teachers learn online by sharing information. Suppose you are looking for another online education platform beside this one, with excellent interactive learning features for participants, strong security measures, and the ability to integrate with your existing live learning tools. In that case, there are a few other platforms you can consider using.
RingCentral is a video conferencing system that has proven effective in social distancing education efforts. Educators can take advantage of high-definition video streaming, mass messaging, and individual messaging capabilities. You can integrate RingCentral with tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Office 365, GSuite, DigitalChalk, and Canvas.
With RingCentral, you’ll never have to worry about security or control measures in the virtual classroom. This platform offers a high sense of security and extends you the power to mute, unmute, lock meetings, and implement virtual hand-raising. You’ll also have the ability to set tasks in class, share files with end-to-end encryption, screen share, and annotate on a whiteboard.
How Else Can It Benefit Classrooms?
Like Zoom, you can also record mornings and save chat transcriptions if you need to refer back to any comments or questions, which makes learning easier for everyone. RingCentral also makes it possible to have breakout class sessions, enable single sign-on for seamless attendance, and you can host up to 500 people per video conference, making it an excellent option for high-school and university-level educators.
Ever since stay at home restrictions have been put into place, Cisco Webex has seen an explosive increase in downloads, many of which are for virtual classroom purposes. This platform features tools and resources that don’t just support teachers and students but also parents and administrators. It even includes an online education community where educators can get together and discuss obstacles and ideas.
Webex also allows teachers to break participants into learning groups called “Spaces,” giving them the chance to work together on projects and assignments. Anyone can host or join any virtual class from any device with video capabilities, which means students who do not have a desktop computer can use laptops, tablets, or smartphones to join. Screen sharing abilities also come standard with this application.
What Else Can It Do?
Teachers can use Webex to take attendance, monitor attention, create polls, implement virtual hand-raising, and share files and applications. There are also chat features, recording and transcription abilities, a whiteboard function, and LMS compatibility.
BlueJeans Video Conferencing
BlueJeans video conferencing is another great tool for virtual classroom learning and business meetings, making it a fantastic option for faculties that often meet virtually. One standout feature of BlueJeans is its training program, designed to help non-tech-savvy users install, operate, and get the most of the software.
How Does It Work?
With such a seamless training program, this platform is a great option for institutions that need to train their entire faculty or many students in one day. One benefit of this training function is that it can help eliminate frustrating technical difficulties down the road.
Another unique highlight of BlueJeans is its ability to provide summaries or recaps of video conferences, making it easy for instructors to share their content with parents and board members. You can also use the Meeting Highlights feature to quickly share snippets of essential lesson points with students, so they don’t have to rewatch the entire class if there is a concept they’re having trouble grasping.
Teaching Made Easy
Some other competitive features include file sharing, screen sharing, one-click scheduling, and town-hall-style meetings. There are also no time limits on your sessions, so no matter how long your students’ learning process takes, you don’t have to worry about it being cut short. You can also expect unparalleled audio quality, superior IT support, and robust security features.
BlueJeans does not currently offer free plans. However, it does have a free two-week trial for you to determine whether it’s the right platform for your classroom. BlueJeans is a great option for university-level instructors, educational administrators, and for continuing education.
Can Video Conferencing Support Long-Term Virtual Education?
As there is no telling when schools in the United States will revert to physical classroom learning, online virtual education may become the new normal for the long-term. Video conferencing software will quickly help you and your class adjust to distance learning and make the most of the transition.
You might even discover that these tools work so well that you will consider setting up hybrid learning when and if physical classrooms and lecture halls become safe again.
Are Other Interactive Communication Platforms Available?
Virtual education isn’t just a new routine for students – it’s also new to teachers, administrators, school boards, and parents. Keep in mind that web conferencing software isn’t the only tool for communication and collaboration. In addition to applications such as Zoom Video Communications Inc., BlueJeans, RingCentral, or Webex, you can also look into messaging tools to supplement the remote learning experience.
Online teaching is new and different, but many teachers and students find it a great way to learn. Whether you are teaching school-aged children or university-level adults, it is easy to share content and resources with online classrooms. Although distance learning lacks face-to-face interaction, you can still use it to foster a social environment through the use of breakout rooms, virtual study halls, and more.
Whether you teach school-aged children or higher education, remote learning can be a better experience for all with the right software!