Virtual Classroom: Types |Advantages |Drawbacks
According to Professor Murray Turoff, “Virtual Classroom is a web-based environment that allows you to participate in live training events without the need to travel. You listen to lectures, participate in lab exercises, ask questions and receive feedback just as you would do in a conventional classroom- except you do it from the convenience of your desktop, or anywhere you have an Internet and phone connection. It saves the hassle, expense, and travel time to a training site.”
Based on above definition, “virtual classroom” are the classrooms functioning in a system of virtual reality. These are, in fact, the cyber classrooms, where the teacher and the students can converse in real time. In every sense, a virtual classroom tries to stimulate, in every way it can, the learning platform provided by a conventional classroom.
Therefore, virtual classrooms can be defined as the classrooms, capable of replacing partially or totally the conventional educational, evaluate and administrative functioning of a regular classroom by adopting the advanced computer and ICT technologies like the Internet, e-mail, online chatting, WWW, CD-ROMs, DVDs, teleconferencing and video conferencing.
Modus Operandi or Working of virtual classroom
Virtual classroom stands for bringing various types of school courses and classroom activities at the doorstep of the students for being accessed by utilizing the advanced computer and ICT technologies at their end. The operation and working of the virtual classroom system are as follows:
- In its basic operation, a system of virtual classrooms may allow the subject experts or experienced teachers to deliver instructions on one or the other topics of the school curriculum. These may be telecast live with the help of satellite-based teleconferencing (as happening with the EDUSAT programme of NCERT).
- In another mode, the study materials prepared by the experts and experienced teachers may be uploaded on the website of a virtual classroom or campus and the students are allowed to download the text and graphics for their study by issuing a confidential password to the students registered with the class or campus.
- It is also possible on the part of the institutions to provide CD-ROMs or DVDs with course contents and instructional guidance to be accessed by the students through their computers or laptops. In such supplied learning material (whether in CDs, Internet files or wave pages), the teachers and school authorities also try to send the support material, reference material and the supplement in the form of Frequently Asked Questions which may help the students in grasping and solving the problems related to the contents of the learning material supplied to them.
- There may be a number of appropriate options available to the students for interacting with their teachers and also with their colleagues through on-line chatting, e-mail or audio and videoconferencing as permitted by the organizational system of a virtual classroom or campus. The teachers may also make use of these interaction opportunities for seeking active participation of the students in the instructional process, asking questions for testing their comprehension and evaluating their progress besides giving them freedom for removing their doubts and quenching their thirst of knowledge.
- A virtual classroom system may evolve its own system for assigning practice work, projects, and questions/problems for reinforcing, fixing and evaluating the progress of the students. It can upload the needed material on its website for this purpose at regular intervals and the students may then be asked to do the desired work and send it back for the needed checking, feedback and evaluation on the part of the teachers.
- This system also takes care of the other essential administrative and managerial requirements of the students enrolled in this system like their on-line admission, information on the Web about the type of courses and instructional programmes available with the school campus, information about the modes and technologies available, on-line provision for the tutorial, the needed feedback, guidance and evaluation for the academic progress of the students, grading of the students’ achievements, informing them about their scores and grades and providing them their certificates and degrees including holding convocations on-line.
Advantages of Virtual classroom
Virtual classrooms have some unique advantages of providing two-dimensional benefits to the learners-one comprising the time and space-relaxed opportunities of learning and the other involving classroom encounters in their proper virtual reality.
- It has provided a great amount of flexibility to the learners in getting the desired learning experiences at the time and place along with the pace of their choice.
- Since the learners have not to present themselves for their pursuit of an instructional course at a fixed time and place, it does not come in their way of doing a job or engaging in other learning pursuit simultaneously at a time.
- The facilities regarding receiving instructions or gaining learning experiences are available to the learners during 24 hours of all the 7 weekdays. It cannot be imagined in any other system of regular classroom set-up and hence is quite capable of allowing the learners better utilize their leisure hours without hampering their day-to-day routines
- The system of virtual classrooms is quite capable of providing the services of the most experienced and capable faculty belonging to any stream and discipline of the school curriculum which is mostly denied or remains impracticable in the conventional educational set-up. In place of searching for and employing full time faculty, we can hire the best faculty on a part-time basis in the system of virtual campus. It proves more suitable and economical for running a number of high quality inter-disciplinary and innovative courses for the benefit of the learners of varied interests and requirements.
- The system of virtual classrooms is quite capable of providing the learners the joy and benefits of the real-time learning through the utilization of the most advanced technologies at its disposal on the part of teachers as well as the learners in the form of CD-ROMs, DVDs, Internet, on-line chats, mobile and telephonic conversation, www, audio and videoconferencing, etc.
- There is no fear of criticism, snubbing and ridiculing by their teachers or colleagues in the system of virtual classrooms and also the failure in the attempts does not prove an unaffordable affair. There are more possibilities of engaging in the useful practice, creative and adventurous pursuits in the knowledge and skill areas of the school learning on the part of the students in the virtual set-up.
- This system may prove quite advantageous to the students on account of its on-line features related to admission, information about the courses and academic activities, assignments and projects, tests and evaluation, grading and results, faculty available for the interaction, guidance and needed help, information about the commencement streams, etc. of the public examinations, merit schemes, entry in the vocational and professional
- It saves the valuable energy of the faculty and administrative authorities that is otherwise going to be spent in the conventional school set-up for the day-to-day administrative and management of the affairs like maintenance of the school discipline, school timetable, attendance, regularity and punctuality of the students and staff, organization of the students welfare activities, the handling of mutual conflicts and ego problems of the students and staff, etc.
Drawbacks and Limitations
To pose as a virtual for a thing and phenomenon is a limitation and drawback in many ways. The same holds quite true in the case of the organization and functioning of the virtual classes and campus. This is virtual school system in spite of its so many advantages and virtues is found to suffer from a number of loopholes and limitations.
- The flexibility of this system to the learners for taking their studies at their will, convenience, comforts and adjustment of the space and timings according to their needs may be mis-utilized and misdirected on the part of the students especially when they are younger in age and are not matured enough in feeling their responsibilities for the building of their career, or are shirkers and lazy by nature.
- In many cases, the organization and working of a virtual classroom or campus is found quite hopeless in terms of its quality of study material and its delivery to the students. The staff employed for providing instructional material, guidance and timely feedback is also very poor in the quality, sincerity and devotion to the work. In such a situation, the students enrolled with the system are bound to suffer adversely and such incidences may give a bad name to all virtual classroom systems in general.
- The dreams and promises of providing real classroom experiences through virtual realities of the virtual classroom system are hard to realize. A virtual cannot be turned into real in toto. We cannot provide real time face-to face interactive experiences to our students through virtual classes. Who is there to study the faces and exchange other verbal and non-verbal clues for the lively classroom interaction and effective classroom discussions in a system of virtual classroom? The warmth of the teacher-pupil relationships, the charms of the group cohesion and fellowship, and the humanistic touch prevailed in the surcharged social and emotional climate of the conventional classrooms are altogether absent in the virtual classroom system. In such a situation we cannot expect a better environment for the academic and personal growth of the students.
- We aim to develop a wholesome personality of the students with what we teach and do with our students in the schools. Along with the curricular instruction work, the organization of co-curricular activities, students welfare services, community activities, the interaction with the parents and members of the community, etc. help the conventional system much in seeking the all-round balanced development of the children. However, such things are completely lacking in a system of virtual classroom. Therefore, in the absence of the needed humanistic touch, socio-cultural environment, and activities to promote social and moral values and opportunities for building physical, social and emotional competencies, the system of virtual classroom is quite incapable of turning our youngsters into a perfect human being sensitive to moral values and mutual brotherhood.
In spite of the shortcomings and limitation pointed out above, virtual classrooms can solve many problems and maladies coming in the way of realizing our constitutional obligation towards the younger generation, i.e. providing “education to all” and ensuring quality instruction to them at their doorsteps according to their needs and convenience. It can also open a new vista to many of our adolescents and youths for venturing into the new areas and fields of employments and entrepreneurships needed today. Hence, there is a great need of the promotion of the virtual classroom alongwith the formal setup of real classroom.
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