Virtual Classrooms

In his predictions for 2009, Tony Karrer says:#5 - Virtual Classroom Tipping PointBased on a few different conversations and experiences, I believe that we've reached a point where virtual classroom training is no longer seen as inherently inferior and a lower value. Some training will still be preferred face to face such as when team building or in-person soft skills are important, but 2009 will be the year when we realize that we should be justifying any in-person training. Price points for virtual classroom training will begin to be virtually the same as for the same in-person classes.Corrollary: transition to virtual means greater demand for help on effective virtual classroom training and for people who are good at creation effective remote experiences.So what do others think - is the VC truly mainstream now?What do organisations need in order to make it work well, deliver a good learning experience and be enthusiastically adopted?

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  • Hi Phil, we've certainly increased the usage of VC's in our learning and development programmes as another tool in the blend. For many students this is their first 'learning' intervention delivered in this way and for the most it is a positive experience. It enables them access to 'guest speakers' that they might not otherwise had access to, it is cutting down their travel time and the sessions are focussed so a good use of people's time.

    We have come across a number of obstacles including corporate firewalls which has caused us problems. So, we need the vendors to make it easy to access through standard web ports. IT definitely need to be on your side as the gate keepers of the firewall and so without them onside it would be a big challenge.
  • I know that Kineo have implemented a free Virtual Classroom (DimDim) into Moodle - but then again, these guys can do the most amazing things! I've also had the chance to play with the Wimba Live Classroom at the Uiversity of Leeds.

    However, for me at this stage the Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro looks like the best tool because of several reasons:
    - I needed multiple camera feeds
    - I needed a fast and reliable screen sharing environment with the opportunity for the audience to take over my screen and work on the applications on my screen
    - I needed something user-friendly as I only had a couple of sessions to train the staff who were going to use it for real
    - I didn't have a big budget
    - I didn't want anything Java-based (Wimba is a pain to run if Java is old on your machine and if you're in a networked environment and can't update Java without tech support, you're snookered for a while) - Adobe Connect is Flash-based

    We had a couple of live sessions with Japan last week and judging by the excitement at the other end, they quite liked it (and I'm told those guys are not easily impressed).

    Lessons learned? You can't cover as much content (or at least not from the beginning, as there is a half a second lag and you tend to speak more slowly). There is also time involved in giving participants the floor and moderating. We haven't used the break-out rooms functionality to conduct groupwork with our participants yet, but we'll do our best to incorporate it in future sessions.
  • I have attended both web conferences and virtual classrooms in the past but have only really bought in to the concept of virtual classrooms adding real value after attending a recent session. The session was both interactive and engaging and used the functionalities of the virtual classroom to great effect, in ways I had not yet seen. I suspect as these tools improve so will the quality of the learning experience.

    However, one thing that really stood out and made this session different to any other was how well the session was facilitated and this made a huge difference I believe to my learning experience.

    I'm trying to gain buy in from my colleagues to look at developing some virtual classroom training sessions and am actually being met with enthusiasm and interest. I don't think we are anywhere near a virtual learning environment in my business area however I'm pleased with the 'lets give it a try' attitude!

    It's a step in the right direction for me in terms of looking seriously at this type of learning media but I also believe it will be used more and more (and adopted enthusiastically) if it can be proven it adds similar value to that of traditional training but at a fraction of the cost.
  • I'm not sure I know the difference between a virtual classroom and an online conference. I have attended several of the latter, but not the former. It certainly extends the options when it comes to potential audience catchment.
  • I'd put them somewhere below the peak of inflated expectations and the trough of disillusionment; to my mind it'll never reach the plateau of productivity as it's fatally flawed. The issue is how do you transfer skills using technology? By recreating the classroom online will rank pretty low as an answer as far as I'm concerned!
    Virtual learning Environments have a much greater "stretch factor" to my mind! But I'll watch the discussion with interest!!!
    • Some of these comments which seem to suggest bad experience or lack of experience in this area which is probably posing some of the concerns. Its very possible to create very good and effective learning interventions using VC provided you are well structured and use the correct technology and tools to support the sessions. Its like any other technology where if you get it right and prepare well then it will be a positive experience but if you don't use the correct tools then you could turn the audience off from this type of delivery method. VC is very good as a training solution for technical training or systems training where your audience base is all over the world and it works well.They are able to partipate fully and interact with the trainer in the same way they would do in a conventional classroom and there are huge cost savings to be realised if the correct tools are deployed. I see this technology being developed further and further and it will enable the audience to participate using handheld telephony devices.
    • I agree with Alan. One key factor I have found is student dynamics and interaction with other students, these would to a large degree be lost in the virtual classroom enviornment.
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