As the impact of COVID-19 spreads across the globe, it has left schools scrambling to quickly adapt to a new way of doing things: online only! If the importance of virtual classrooms wasn’t apparent before, it is now.
Virtual learning can supplement existing classes, promote inclusive learning and maintain educational continuity in the face of long-term closures (which we’ve most recently seen).
As more educators are utilizing virtual classrooms, we can take a closer look at the advantages:
In traditional learning environments, there was primarily one communication channel being used in the classroom: face to face communication between the teacher and student. In an effective virtual classroom, there would be multiple channels such as instant messaging, voice chat, and video conferencing.
This allows students to communicate in the manner they are most comfortable while allowing the teacher to easily adapt to individual students’ needs. Live virtual classrooms provide similar agility and responsiveness of an in-person class.
Shared workspaces also help maintain engagement with the course materials.
One of the biggest concerns with moving to a digital learning space is the loss of physical interaction with others. While that is a valid concern, educators don’t have to sacrifice collaborative learning in digital spaces. There are several platforms that allow breakout sessions, similar to working in pairs or small groups in a physical classroom. Students can also work together through shared files, digital whiteboards and more.
Many educators have already adopted interactive whiteboards in the classroom. In fact, the interactive whiteboard market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.69% between 2018 and 2023.
Virtual classrooms provide similar benefits by allowing educators to bring in different file types, embed media and access a wide range of learning material.
Challenges Moving From Physical to Digital Spaces
There are clearly many benefits of transitioning to digital learning spaces but what challenges might you run into?
As schools and universities rushed to move from physical learning spaces to digital ones there are a few things to think about:
- privacy and data protection of the students/teachers
School systems need to ensure all software is GDPR complaint before implementing it to ensure the privacy protection of its students. Several companies have recently been fined for collecting data from children so this is extremely important for schools to consider, especially when collecting data to analyze the effectiveness of the new learning environment.
Carefully consider how new programs use and collect data to avoid accusations of children’s privacy violations.
Educational institutions must maintain all malware software. This is usually an easy task as students are using the devices provided by the school, now that students and teachers are at home, using their own devices, schools must educate those participants on cybersecurity protection as well.
Schools and universities are not usually targeted by hackers but by implementing these new technologies and practices rapidly, it makes them a target.
- availability of technology needed for all students
There are several great innovations to help educators and students continue their educational journey but what about those students who only have one device per household or students with learning disabilities?
As learning environments continue to develop we must strive to provide an equal learning opportunity for all.
As learning spaces continue to evolve beyond the physical space, take advantage of new technologies to create connected, flexible learning environments. Expand your educational toolbox but maintain the personal privacy of the students while making sure they all have an equal opportunity to learn.
During the 5th Innovative Learning Spaces Summit, education experts will be in attendance sharing first-hand examples of how their universities responded to COVID-19, the innovations they utilized during the pandemic and what future learning spaces will look like.