Can virtual classrooms be as good?
The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work and communicate. Technology has been thrust into the forefront and WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom and Teams have become household words. Universities and schools had to close, and students were given online work to do. At the same time most employees worked online from home.
As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, will we all need to move back to the classroom and meet face-to-face so we can learn effectively?
Many people argue that being able to study at your own pace, using pre-recorded material is ideal. You can study when you want to – or when your mind is most receptive. And distance is not a constraint, so access is opened to a much wider audience. It is certainly true that many people absorb information well when presented as text or in short video clips, followed by text-based questions and checklists. For example, language learning apps like Duolingo help build vocabulary through structured repetition and games.
Of course, where students don’t have access to technology or are learning at the mercy of a poor internet connection, they are at a disadvantage. And not all learners will have the digital skills or understanding to get the most out of virtual education.
Face-to-face with your teacher
The best in-person teaching relies on a highly motivating teacher and small classes. The skill to catch the students’ intrinsic motivations and enthuse them to want to learn is fundamental to success. Then being able to explain, encourage, manage the group dynamic, and teach everyone as an individual, makes for exceptional results.
Interactivity, personalisation, and effective communication are key ingredients for successful learning. This is learning with plenty of back-and-forth; education built on questions and answers is easiest achieved when in the same room. In a classroom, the potential goes beyond teacher-pupil dialogue, with student-to-student and group learning interactions.
Unfortunately access to such classes is often restricted by distance and available time. Good classes in minority languages, for example, may only be available in major cities. Then travel time and expense become a major issue. Few people can fit a two-hour class plus over an hour’s travel each way into an evening after work.
Online Video Classrooms
Using the power of the internet and videoconferencing technology, we can get the best of both worlds. Access to classes is no longer limited by distance, you only require a good internet connection. Then you have the teacher and your fellow students with you in your home – wherever you are.
For many years at EuroMondiale we have taught in our physical classrooms. We have perfected ways to get effective, speedy learning; to get people talking in the new language; to adapt and focus on individuals in the group. This is great, but only people living in our neighbourhood could get to our classes. We have now transferred all that skill and knowledge into the video classroom.
Our interactive online classes are just like face-to-face classes. Your teacher will share information on a whiteboard, engage you individually and set up small groups for conversation practise. Everything that makes for a great teacher is there in the video classroom. You are there in real time with your teacher. If you don’t understand something, ask that question, and even discuss it with your fellow students. Live video enables you to see your teacher’s and colleagues’ expressions and appearance – and so understand with them.
We have always kept the size of our classes small – maximum 8 people – to get the best combination of personal attention with the benefits of learning together. We do the same in the video classroom. We are not content to have you just watch and listen – we make sure you get involved.
OK, we admit that you can’t go out with your fellow students for a coffee after an online video class! You can carry on chatting with them online, though. And you have been able to have a brilliant course that may not be available close where you live, and you didn’t need to waste time and money getting to it. You can stay safe and comfortable at home.
So, which is better? The combination of on-line and teacher-led classes in Video Classrooms seems to have it all.