Lots of people have had to rely on remote learning to continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic. With schools closed, teachers and students have both had to adapt quickly to changes in education delivery.
On the surface level, using Zoom and Google Docs with screen sharing worked for some time.
But learning via online streaming might not be enough for everything. Education also has to encourage collaborative and creative work, which technology needs to accommodate.
So, let’s see how it can do that. In this article, we’ll talk about virtual classroom software.
Who Needs Virtual Classrooms?
Virtual-classroom software can be very handy, and not only for schools. Many organizations can enjoy easy, organized access to educational content to help staff polish their existing skills as well as acquire new knowledge.
Let’s look at some examples of how organizations can employ software for virtual teaching and use this technology to their benefit.
Schools and universities
Educational institutions can use virtual classrooms to provide students with easy access to learning materials and make distance learning more efficient.
Walden University in the US, for example, provides more than 80 online degree courses for students and others eager to learn new skills.
This allows students from all over the world to enjoy a full learning experience without the need to travel. This makes for better accessibility to education for those who can’t physically attend a particular school.
Virtual classroom software neatly accommodates the actual process of learning.
The software comes with tools for video-conferencing, file sharing, and screencasting to make educational collaboration easier.
Virtual classrooms are great for remote learning, but what’s inside also matters.
Technology packed into virtual classroom software solutions provides students with a better learning experience. For instance, teachers can use the solution to better schedule classes, more easily manage the tasks their students are doing, and accurately assess their performance.
Governments have a vested interest in ensuring employment opportunities for their citizens. But keeping up with a changing marketplace means some people will need to learn a new skill or update their knowledge to join the workforce.
Occupational retraining programs offered to people in that situation can be limited in terms of capacity, physical location, and educational content.
Virtual classroom apps can change that by offering remote access to both synchronous and asynchronous learning for occupational training. Students can study the materials autonomously, or sign up for remote face-to-face classes — all through the software.
For instance, Austria used a simple educational content archive which citizens could access when learning remotely due to lockdown.
Also, everybody can enjoy regular features such as performance metrics, immersive classes powered by AR/VR, and so on.
Businesses and corporations
Businesses and corporations also need to provide their staffers with education, to help them keep on top of everything their field throws at them.
What do corporations usually do to teach their employees new skills?
Well, they usually choose one of two ways:
- Personal training department. Here, the company has its own team that helps new employees with onboarding as well as making sure that everybody knows how to do their job.
- Third-party educators. Companies may collaborate with colleges and universities that will offer exclusive training programs to the company’s employees.
Here’s the main problem with those two approaches: they are crazy expensive.
Virtual-classroom software allows for better class management for those looking to update their knowledge in a particular field. They can get learning materials and study on their own at any time, and at the pace most comfortable for them.
In addition, interactive online classes can help employees master new skills.
For more specific occupations, e-learning software can offer simulations powered by Augmented and Virtual Reality. That way, staffers learn the skills in a safe online learning environment — they can practice the drills without fear of injury.
Online classroom solutions also avoid leaving remote workers behind — they can make use of the learning materials and take classes remotely to stay competitive in their field of business.
Now that we have discussed who can benefit from a virtual classroom as part of a Learning Management System, LMS, let’s break down the categories and see how they work.
What Is a Virtual Classroom?
A virtual classroom is often described as an online environment for learning purposes.
A virtual classroom can be one software platform or a suite of separate apps that are integrated with one another.
Both integrated software parts and the fully featured platform include:
Learning content archive
The archive can be represented by a selection of courses that students can take, or an archive of materials that can be studied autonomously.
Course recommendation algorithm
The system needs to track courses a student has taken to determine what else that student could make use of.
Registration and enrollment system
The system allows students to sign up for courses and lets instructors keep track of everybody enrolled.
The module provides the ability to create a class schedule for easy management. It can also support notifications when the class is about to start or has been moved to another time slot.
Video and audio conferencing
The software also must include features for holding remote online classes with the help of video and audio conferencing. This best suits classes where students have to listen to lectures, give presentations, or participate in discussions.
Live chat for teachers and students
Live chat is a great feature for collaboration outside of class — students can chat with each other and share files, or ask their teachers additional questions.
This feature enhances the online class, since both teachers and students can use it to scribble notes and draw graphs.
Streaming and recording features
It never hurts to have things backed up. Recording a class makes it easy for students to revisit the topic and catch details they might have missed.
Assignment checking features
This feature lets tutors check submitted assignments, point out mistakes and leave comments. No more Word documents jumping back and forth.
This is a great tool for keeping track of students’ academic success. Both teachers and students can use it to their advantage.
For those providing university-grade learning content, it is best to have digital certificates available. This allows those who have completed the course to get proof of their qualifications for future employment.
Payment management module
Making courses available for purchase or charging a monthly fee for access to virtual classrooms are two of the major forms of monetization. The module allows for making and receiving such payments.
Integration support through APIs
There may be other software solutions that students and teachers are already comfortable with. It makes sense to make it easy to integrate those solutions with virtual classroom software to enhance functionality.
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Innovation in Virtual Classroom Software UX
Though virtual classroom apps bring a lot to the table, there is still plenty of room for improvement. A lot can be done to bridge the online gap between teachers, students, and learning content to make the process more seamless.
Let’s take a look at the innovations taking place in e-learning software.
While getting used to online remote learning practices, many have noticed a sharp decrease in social interactions between students and teachers.
Clear and seamless communication is a big part of the collaborative education process, which is hindered by connection issues, the physical limitations of remote classes, and the difficulty people have with interrupting each other in a discussion.
Robotic telepresence makes it possible for students to not only have online classes but also physically attend regular lectures and seminars. This way, students are able to better interact with other class attendees by turning around.
Students at Michigan State University found that using telepresence robots changed the way they felt about other students in the class. Telepresence makes remote learners feel more included in the educational process, which has a positive influence on education effectiveness.
AI technology can also be helpful for the educational process.
By developing online teaching software with Artificial Intelligence built in, teachers can get insights into how students respond to their classes. With that information, teachers can further analyze it to assess the effectiveness of their teaching and tweak it to be more helpful to students.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
AR/VR technology helps eliminate the boundaries between learners in a virtual classroom.
Teachers can use VR spaces to host their classes. The software allows students and teachers to create VR avatars and use them to attend classes. They can move around in customizable virtual spaces, talk to each other, exchange files, scribble notes on a whiteboard, and cast their computer screen.
By supporting VR, virtual classroom providers help encourage active communication among students and enable them to take on collaborative tasks.
On top of that, VR is a great addition to corporate training systems. For instance, VR-guided training simulation provided by TransrVR can help people learn new skills to get a new job or just improve their qualifications.
AR can also bring a lot to the learning process.
For instance, teachers can use Augmented Reality to enhance asynchronous learning.
They can build lessons around AR content to better engage students in the topic.
Let’s take a biology class as an example. Students can turn to the content archive in the virtual classroom and study the AR model of a brain, which they can use during their next class. An immersive learning experience allows students to better understand the topic and feel motivated to study.
When teaching a group of students, the teacher’s attention can be hijacked by a ton of simple questions, leaving no time to dive deeper into the topic.
Nevertheless, those questions have to be answered, right?
That’s where voice assistants come in.
Voice assistants can be given access to a large pool of data regarding any subject matter. So, if a student has a question, they can ask a voice assistant and get the answer within seconds.
This way, the student gets the required information quickly and the teacher doesn’t have to stop the class to answer.
There are other ways in which voice assistants can help learners.
Saint Louis University, for example, provided students with Alexa speakers so they could always quickly get answers to their questions about campus life.
Technology Regulations in Education
Despite all the benefits virtual-classroom software offers to both students and teachers, software solutions can also pose risks if they are not regulated.
Software is prone to data leaks and security breaches that can potentially affect students’ and teachers’ private lives.
To combat that, in the US the Federal Communications Commission, under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, requires schools to adopt internet safety policies that ensure:
- Students’ security while using chat apps, email, and other forms of communication over the internet;
- Restriction of inappropriate content for minors;
- Prevention of unauthorized access by minors and other unlawful activity online;
- Prevention of dissemination of students’ information.
What about other countries?
Germany, for instance, does not have a specific data protection law for minors on a federal level, even though many of the states educate children on digital privacy.
The German Online Privacy Law, however, requires companies that collect users’ data to register with the pertinent state authority.
In addition, the law is based on the principles of consent and transparency of data collection.
UK privacy law requires companies that collect minors’ data to write clear and age-appropriate privacy notices. Also, children are not allowed to consent to data collection until they are 13.
How Much Does It Cost to Develop Custom Virtual Classroom Software?
Custom virtual classroom software development sure sounds like a great option.
Having decided on building your own solution, the next question to ask is: how much does it cost to develop a virtual classroom platform?
Virtual classroom development cost depends on a variety of factors; some are beyond your control, while others can be changed to fit your budget.
So, let’s take a look at those factors:
- The project type. The cost of virtual classroom app development depends on what sort of classroom you need to build. This includes all the features you want to implement in the software. A fully loaded solution with AR/VR technology will cost significantly more than a simple scheduling app.
- Platform. Which platform your software is going to support also influences the cost. Choosing two or three major platforms, like Web, iOS, and Android will mean building three different apps but will give access to a wider audience. But there’s always a cross-platform option: you can build a universal app that runs on several operating systems. Keep in mind, though, that performance might suffer with this approach.
- Hardware. Educational technology may require specific hardware to use it. Regular virtual-classroom software can be accessed through a web browser or a smartphone, while interacting with VR content will require specific headsets.
- Development team composition. Depending on the type of project, you might decide to hire a full-fledged development team with a BA, a PM, Developers, QA, and a UI/UX designer. Or you can opt for a limited selection of professionals, which in turn will bring the cost of virtual classroom software down.
- Developers’ rates. The hourly rate depends on the skill and knowledge of a particular team and on their location. You can find great talent at quite affordable rates by looking for remote development teams from countries such as Estonia and Belarus.
Here’s a rough estimation of how much it costs to develop a virtual classroom. Keep in mind that the cost calculation is based on the average developer rate from Estonia and Belarus.
We also do not include the cost of learning content creation.
Type of software
Regular virtual classroom
≈ $24 000
Virtual classroom with VR/AR
≈ $36 000
The education sector is opening up to advanced technology that can make education relevant and more effective.
Virtual-classroom software not only allows for effective remote and on-site learning but also neatly organizes all of the software components in one integrated system.
If you are looking to develop your own online virtual classroom solution, talk to us. Our professionals have extensive expertise in developing software for online teaching and integrating it with powerful technology.
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