2021 Guide: What is a Virtual Classroom? (+10 Benefits!)

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Virtual classrooms are gaining popularity as a tool for educators to teach and communicate with students without needing to be in the same physical location.

In fact, Harvard Business Review reported in May 2020 that enrollments in courses at Coursera had increased 644% compared to the previous year.

As long as you have an internet connection, geography places no restriction on your ability to provide your students with a quality, convenient learning experience.

Virtual classrooms offer many other benefits that make them an attractive option for educators.

With this guide, you’ll learn the advantages of a virtual classroom so you can decide if virtual classes might be a good fit for your business.

Virtual Classroom - Featured Image

What Is a Virtual Classroom?

A virtual classroom is part of an online course platform where experts share their knowledge with learners in an online learning environment.

The course may be part of a structured program such as earning an MBA from a university or Java certification from Oracle.

Courses can also be more relaxed, like a self-paced photography virtual class for bird watchers.

Virtual classrooms use many of the same tools used in physical classrooms like videos, presentations, and lectures.

You can host written materials online, and students can download them to their computers or tablets or print them out at their home or office.

How is it Different Than a Physical Classroom?

A virtual classroom or online classroom differs from a physical classroom in the increased flexibility it offers.

Course meeting times can be set to allow students and teachers to meet and study at their convenience, and the class isn’t tied to a specific physical location.

Potential concerns such as commutes and geographical locations are no longer obstacles.

Examples of Virtual Classrooms

There are different types of virtual classrooms. Here are some examples.

1. MOOCs

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses. They’re available to anyone who wants to enroll in them. They cover a wide range of subjects, at a variety of price points many of them free but offer paid upgrades.

Some courses are through traditional universities like Stanford, MIT, or The University Of Edinburgh.

Also, businesses like Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft provide virtual training courses.

The Smithsonian, The National Research Nuclear University, and Bibliotheca Alexandrina are more examples of places that offer MOOCs.

You can find MOOCs at sites like Coursera and edX.

2. Boot Camps

Coding boot camps are intended to get students ready for a career in the tech industry and are intense, multi-week courses offered in tech-related fields such as web development, data science, digital marketing, and UX design.

Full-time students may complete 50-60 hours of course work a week for a 12-15 week time frame. Some boot camps also offer part-time and self-study options.

Some examples of tech boot camps are Thinkful or Brainstation.

3. Online Degree Programs

Online degree programs are courses of study provided by colleges and universities in different subjects.

They offer a variety of degrees, ranging from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees as well as diplomas and certificates, and each school has different requirements for admission.

Many programs are created specifically for busy professionals who want an additional degree but don’t have time for traditional schooling.

Benefits of Virtual Classrooms

There are many benefits to a virtual classroom experience. Saving time and money might be two of the more obvious ones, but there are many others as well.

1. Virtual Classrooms are Cost-Effective

The nature of virtual classrooms means there is no physical space required to hold the class. There are no rent or mortgage payments, no utility bills, and no maintenance costs.

Most of the materials involved in virtual classes are software-based or digital materials, which are far less expensive than their physical counterparts such as textbooks.

And with virtual learning, there are no commutes for the instructor or the learner, eliminating wear and tear on vehicles, gas fill-ups, and fares for public transportation.

2. Enables Distance Learning

Virtual classrooms make it easier for students to attend classes. These students might be busy professionals who want to enhance their expertise in their chosen field while still maintaining a work/life balance.

Or they may be students with limited financial resources who want to learn new skills for better employment opportunities.

And, of course, with Covid-19 restrictions on most in-person learning this past year, distance learning has enabled students to continue their education, whether it be K-12 or college and beyond.

3. Flexibility of 24/7 Access to Coursework

With virtual classrooms, students can access the course material at any time of day, whether that be at five o’clock in the morning or nine o’clock at night.

This gives the student the chance to work whenever they have an opening in their schedule or during their peak performance hours.

4. Offers Structure and Freedom

Students get structure with virtual classroom training. There are deadlines for assignments and tests but learners still have the freedom to work at their own pace.

5. Manage Time More Effectively

Virtual classrooms allow students to balance family and work while still meeting their educational and business needs.

Professionals can continue to meet work obligations as they advance their learning.

Parents can be home to put their children to bed and then work on coursework instead of rushing off to a physical classroom. Or shift workers can fit their classes in around their work schedule.

The educator also benefits. You can teach your course with pre-recorded materials put together at your convenience.

6. Worldwide Exposure

With a virtual classroom, you can attract students from anywhere in the world.

This gives you and your students the unique opportunity to gain insight and exposure to cultures and communities outside day-to-day experience.

And it allows you and your students to come together, collaborate, and share knowledge.

7. Instant Test Grading

Instant test grading is another benefit of virtual classrooms. Your students will receive immediate feedback on their tests.

This instant gratification allows students to see where they need to make improvements in the future or pat themselves on the back in order to complete your course successfully.

8. Increase Your Digital Savvy

Virtual classrooms give you and your students access to the newest in online learning technology.

These are important skills that can be used elsewhere in personal and business settings.

Everyone benefits by becoming more efficient and comfortable in the digital space.

9. Enables Instructors to Monetize and Share

Rather than being limited to just the students in your immediate location, virtual classrooms help you reach more people and increase your income without ever leaving your home.

The eLearning industry is huge. It surpassed $250 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow a whopping 21% between 2021 and 2027!

You can run your virtual classroom courses as a full-time job, or they can provide an additional revenue stream as a side gig.

10. Allows Established Universities to Grow Their Brand

Virtual classrooms allow traditional colleges and universities to reach more students than ever before.

Location and the associated costs need not be a deciding factor in a student’s choice of school.

How To Create a Virtual Classroom

When you create a virtual classroom, you need to consider things like your students’ learning preferences and styles.

Offering video transcripts are helpful for those who have hearing challenges or for students who learn better by reading written material.

The ability to download lectures and listen to them on the go is useful for busy students and auditory learners.

There is also some hardware and software you’ll need to run your course. At a minimum, you’ll need a computer with an internet connection.

And virtual classroom software options like digital whiteboards, screen sharing capabilities, a chat widget, and real-time messaging are helpful.

But you don’t need to do all of the hard work yourself. You should consider letting an online course platform which allows you to create, market, sell and deliver your course  do all the heavy lifting for you.

There are a lot of platforms out there so it can be daunting to pick the right one. Some of the most popular platforms include Thinkific, Teachable, Kajabi, and Xperiencify.

[Editor’s Note: check out our top picks for course creation software.]

How To Structure Your Virtual Classroom

You’ll also want to consider how you want to structure your course.

The most popular way to run a virtual classroom is with the self-led model. Your students use your pre-recorded materials for independent learning on their own schedule and at their own pace.

You can also run it as a traditional classroom where you present the material live and your students complete their work outside of class time.

Or you can set up a flipped classroom model, where students watch pre-recorded materials and do the assigned work outside of the class. Then you and your students meet in real-time for discussion.

Final Thoughts on Virtual Classrooms

Virtual classrooms are the future of education because the world is changing, and so are the ways people learn.

Virtual classrooms promise new possibilities for every student and teacher in today’s fast-paced world.

If you’re ready to expand your reach and experience the flexibility of virtual classrooms, your next step is to choose a virtual classroom platform, create an online course and start teaching!