Students attend a virtual classroom by connecting to the Internet rather than traveling to a physical classroom. Virtual classrooms offer classes where time, distance or both separate students from their instructors. Major corporations, higher learning facilities and training schools use virtual classrooms to teach and train their employees and students.
The key features found in a virtual classroom are support, assessment and communication-participation. Support in a virtual classroom includes tools such as online calendars, search engines and online help guides. Assessment consists of standard tools such as online grading books, exams and quizzes. The communication-participation tools used in a virtual classroom include emails, instant messaging, chat rooms, discussion boards and file transfers.
Virtual classrooms feature cooperative and independent learning styles. Cooperative learning is best suited for the nature of a virtual classroom because the student, instructor and fellow students are a part of the learning process. A virtual classroom needs this type of learning style to overcome the absence of in-person communication. With the independent learning style, the student only interacts with the instructor.
Characteristics of the physical classroom have been transferred in the virtual classroom. Both the physical and virtual classroom follow a similar learning theory, curriculum design and teaching method. Teaching in both the physical and virtual classroom focuses on the student rather than the teacher. Both the physical and virtual classroom provide academic lessons, assignments and homework, as well as interaction between students and the instructor.
Differences relate to place, time and the size of the class, content delivery and communication modes. In a virtual classroom, content is delivered using discussion boards, chat rooms, email, instant messaging, journals and other online material. The major difference between these modes of delivery and those found in the physical classroom is that they are frequently text based and are not necessarily completed by verbal discussion or explanations.
Virtual classrooms give students the benefit of flexibility. Students can attend a class at times that are more convenient for them. Virtual classrooms also feature lower cost and greater accessibility. Students can attend classes that may not be offered in their local area.
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