Think about a classroom. If you are like most adults who attended school in the US you are likely envisioning a room filled with desks. Students are organized in neat rows with the teacher at the front of the room. A projector screen, or blackboard (dating myself here), is used to display notes from the lesson. This may have been the traditional US classroom, but it won’t be the classroom of the 21st century.
Changes due to the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in students no longer going into physical classrooms. Many lessons have moved online, and due to advances in virtual classroom software, students can now attend lessons from the comfort of their home. A screen and internet connection are now all that is needed. Today, a classroom is an virtual room, where teachers can have one-on-one contact with their students, and where students can communicate together via chat and video. It can be hard to imagine exactly how this works if you have never been to a virtual classroom, but it is a proven to be effective method. If you look at the fact that many Bachelor and Master’s degrees are being offered 100% online, it becomes clear that this really works.
Due to technology, the many traditional professions and experiences have changed. Often at a pace that is tough to keep up with. The internet has enabled many of these changes. Thankfully, the concept of a virtual school is actually quite simple compared to other internet enabled services. Students download and install a piece of software onto their computer. They connect to the internet, and then they are able to interact with their teachers and fellow students. This can take place at home or on the side of the world. Borders and boundaries have quickly been eliminated.
Advantages of Virtual Classrooms
There are a number of distinct advantages to using virtual classrooms:
It offers fantastic time saving opportunities, since students no longer have to travel to school, nor does the teacher. This means classes can always begin on time.
The systems are very easy to use, which means no specific skills are needed in order to use it.
It is very easy to communicate directly with a teacher directly, either during, before, or after the classes. In fact, students find that they feel more heard by studying in a virtual classroom.
It offers the opportunity to network with fellow students, albeit in a virtual way.
Disadvantages of Virtual Classrooms
Like many parts of life, virtual classrooms are neither 100% good or 100% bad. They have both pros and cons. Some of the drawbacks include:
- Lack of socialization is an issue as students won’t be able to interact with their peers in person. For young children this may result in them missing out on key social development opportunities.
- Technology issues present another challenge. Even today, not every home in America has reliable internet access. This puts those without high-speed internet at a disadvantage to other students. Let’s not also forget that if an issue arises it is typically the parent who must step away from their work to troubleshoot the issue.
- Lack of structure is an issue for those who might be lacking self-discipline. If you have the ability to do your work in your PJ’s it might be tough to stick to a normal routine (how many WFH parents are trading suits and business casual for shorts and t-shirts).
- No hands-on learning is a big drawback for some subjects. Take science class. Yes, you can read about science online and watch videos. However, the hands-on experiments in class help to reinforce the lessons. Plus, kids enjoy the hands-on activities and it helps to fuel their interest in area of study.
Bridging the Gap
Since many schools will be using virtual classrooms in the coming semester it is important to figure out how you can supplement your child’s education.
We suggest the following.
- Bring lessons to life with real-world experiences. Science class is a great example. Look at what your child is learning and make up some fun experiments to do at home. Here is a list of 50 at home experiments that use household items.
- Share your knowledge. As a parent you have a lifetime worth of knowledge that you can share with your child. Review their lessons and figure out how to apply your experience to what they are learning. For example, if they are learning math they can help you determine the correct change when shopping at the store.
- Keep an eye on the use of technology. It’s important to have guidelines around the house on how much tech is too much. Set limits and ensure that technology is used for educational purposes and not exclusively gaming and entertainment.
The classroom of the 21st century has changed, and this has opened some fantastic new doors. The virtual classroom, therefore, is no longer a thing of the future, it is here now.