What are virtual classrooms? A rundown of the most popular software by CKEditor

A digitally-drawn view of a child’s bedroom partially obscured by a tablet, which renders the scene as a virtual classroom.

Virtual classrooms are one method of distance learning, where education does not require physical presence at a school. Training and education should be made up to par for the needs of the future and keep learners engaged so they finish their schooling. To preserve as much of the traditional classroom atmosphere as possible, you need virtual classroom platform that:

  • preserves as much of the traditional classroom atmosphere as possible
  • is as easy to integrate as possible
  • minimizes interruption of workflows and schedules
  • has as small of a learning curve as possible — especially for those reluctant to embrace new technologies
  • Offers various tools with real-time audio and video options that improve teaching quality and learning for virtual students

Above all, however, there needs to be a way to make online classrooms function smoothly. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned digital learning from an intriguing option to an absolute necessity. An intuitive solution with the features students use most is the key to a seamless transition.

Before my time as your friendly neighborhood blogger here at CKSource, I used virtual classroom setups as both a student and a teacher. As a student, I had to deal with professors who were unfamiliar with the evolving technology - waving a dismissive hand at the idea of computers in the classroom.

When I was training to become a teacher or tutor, I used online whiteboard solutions with my fellow trainees during my online English teacher training course. As a teacher, I used Skype for online lessons and made sure to learn from my experiences as I managed my own learning management system (LMS). Believe me when I say that the crisp setup and consistent functioning of your online class is crucial for everyone involved. Moreover, real-time collaborative writing technology with rich-text editing capabilities is a welcome addition to eLearning everywhere.

A lot of academics, academic-decision makers, and professionals need help solidifying their e-learning solution, and we at CKEditor recognize that. Below, we survey some of the most common virtual classroom tools — not to compare, but rather to illustrate how they fit together like puzzle pieces. Whether you’re a school administrator in search of a solution, or a software developer in the educational realm, we hope you find this article useful.

A digitally-drawn graphic of Zoom-like software with an eight-person video call in progress.
Video conferencing has become a go-to tool, but it is not enough by itself as a stand-alone virtual classroom solution.

# The video conference platform

There is a high likelihood that you’re already using Zoom, which one can argue is the best virtual classroom software for video conference currently available including the likes of Electa live virtual classroom, Wiziq , Blackboard collaborate or Kaltura virtual. It works well as a quick fix for getting the class together, taking about as much effort as it does to master Skype in order to start using it.

Like Zoom, many collaboration tools support many webcams to be used simultaneously and this includes audio and video as well as content management. Additional software is also available for teaching and learning and both desktop and mobile devices are supported. A lot of options exist today that offer things like screen sharing as well, which Zoom offers. WebRTC and other technologies are paving for this to take place and are constantly updated.

This is good because a scalable solution is especially important for larger classes. Recreating that face-to-face presence is crucial to the classroom dynamic. It is also important for having faculty meetings, counseling sessions and virtual study halls.

Outside school hours, video-based solutions provide a way to learn when not in the classroom. Younger students, especially homeschoolers and those in their elementary years, have taken to Skype, Google Hangouts, and even WhatsApp to do homework and share class materials in a group setting. Yes, video conferencing is a go-to tool, but it is not enough by itself as a stand-alone virtual classroom solution.

# The Learning Management System (LMS)

What’s more, Zoom incorporates LMS features into its platform such as attendee attention tracking, school-wide announcements, and student/staff counseling. You may even already be using LMS-centered software such as Blackboard, Moodle or Sakai that makes organizing and assigning work feel like second nature. These LMS management software solutions help distribute entire semesters of coursework into organizational systems as instructors see fit. They also provide interactive materials that foster close communication between teachers and students, as well as grade-assigning and -tracking services.

LMS software is the beating heart of distance learning projects. It can organize class enrollments and other school-based activities automatically. They are also the gathering point for homework assignments, from group discussions surrounding assigned reading material to individual comprehension question assignments. Moreover, collaboration between faculty and staff is the most important in keeping track of a student’s progress, and deciding courses of action for each one.

Simulations to your virtual classroom environment are also good in terms of testing solutions and software before using it within your LMS. Thus, online classroom software solutions often have free plans or trails available for this. Take advantage of this and choose the best virtual classroom software available for your needs.

# Are these enough for a complete virtual classroom?

These features are essential to powering virtual classrooms and eliminating distractions from the learning experience. However, trying out new technology in the classroom can be another distraction, especially if it involves wading through unwanted features to get to the ones you desire. With technology-averse staff members this problem is compounded.

It can make the software adoption process off-putting and leave online students frustrated. A piecemeal approach of video conferencing for classes and learning management system-based platforms for assignments all deliver an incomplete classroom experience.

Even though certain software may already be familiar and trusted, it may not be best for students. New software can include components that do a world of good in the virtual classroom. The ability to work together in an in-class setting is absolutely essential to the learning process. The most common techniques for collaboration in distance learning setups include:

# The virtual whiteboard

Whiteboarding is common among the current crop of e-learning solutions. They often come with many features like annotation tools, subject-specific functions, and even collaborative editors for code. Yes, virtual whiteboards are excellent for teachers imparting knowledge on their students, but they are also the ultimate show-and-prove tool for students in higher education whose work requires an extra visual boost to illustrate ideas and theories. Children beginning their elementary school education also make use of this function for those good old time-tested arithmetic-at-the-board exercises. Virtual whiteboards make sure that a vital component of the classroom environment is not lost.

A cloud-based or browser-based white board should allow users to share files, show their screens, and interact with one another. The interactive whiteboard with web-based features is a way to bring students together and make them feel as if they are together in a room and not just joined virtually. This is key for good remote learning across geographical barriers and time zones.

There are various modern interactive whiteboards for collaborative learning are, but many do not have an editing solution in place like CKEditor 5 built for collaboration in mind from the get-go. Interactive content needs to be tailored to a variety of students in classroom settings. It should also be designed to meet the needs of future students or learning solutions one can predict will be common. Also keep in mind that the needs of k-12 students are different from college students and solutions should be tailored to different needs.

Adobe captivate and adobe presenter may be good for one type of student while learncube is perfect for connecting different times of student and Proprofs or other tools can be integrated to different classrooms as well to give tests, quizzes and more in an online setting. So learn about the software at hand before using it or integrating it into your LSM. Online education will only thrive going forward. Various free virtual classroom software also exists like Zoom with paid plans available as well. No single online classroom platform is without faults so look at different options in your online training.

# The breakout room

The tendency to break the room up for group-work purposes is also common. Virtual classroom solutions give teachers the ability to divide the entire class into breakout rooms (or small groups for in-class, task-based assignments). Thus, learners can learn as a group and not just individually. It is a must in leading online classes, especially when in-class assignments require an array of tasks to be done in a short amount of time toward the completion of a time-bound classroom goal. This is an area where collaboration is key. The need for students to learn to work as a team, and present their collective ideas, plays a pivotal role in education. Breakout rooms are perfect for in-class team games and quizzes to keep learning fun.

A digitally-drawn graphic of shots of video-conferencing software, LMS software, a pencil blurred with a question mark overlaid, a blackboard, and a vertical list of userpics, all interlocking as puzzle pieces.
Features like video conferencing, LMS, whiteboarding and breakout rooms fit together like puzzle pieces, but do they make a complete virtual classroom picture?

Live classroom sessions should be key in such breakout rooms and blackboard collaborative software with good tools are key for good classroom management. A virtual classroom easily can meet the solutions of a wide range of students if the key software and tools are chosen. Thus, create online courses for the future and not the past.

# Are all of these enough for a complete virtual classroom?

Taking these virtual classroom components into account, we assert that they are missing a crucial component: real-time collaborative writing. A real-time collaborative editor powered by WYSIWYG technology is a novel innovation for students at all levels, from elementary school to community college to post-doctoral work. For in-class task-based assignments, real-time collaborative editing is ideal. It lets students create professional-looking documents and web pages rendered in a finished format right then and there. Learning is simply the most effective when your students see that their work is vital and needed.

For longer-term goals such as term projects, having real-time comments and track changes features can help collaborating students trace the progress of their work. Real-time collaborative writing allows students to communicate at their own pace while still getting everyone on the same page.

With our CKEditor 5, we have strived for years to bring a collaborative, rich-text solution to a wide range of software that can integrate our software into their solution. Collaborative tools such as ours should not be forgotten in the age of the virtual classroom and can aid LMSs or other solutions in creating better online courses and virtual classes.

Not only are our solutions scalable so they grow with any educational institution, but they are modular as well. You choose the most essential features for students, so math students won’t have to reckon with math formula functions in a language class. You can also choose the features only your faculty needs, so you can simplify the learning curve for the apprehensive ones in your staff. Whatever is wanted or needed, it can be put into your already-existing learning management or video conferencing application.

Our rich-text editing capabilities are an indispensable addition to video conferencing, virtual whiteboarding, online breakout groups and, yes, even learning management systems. CKEditor is a strong companion for the pursuit of long-term classroom goals. Such virtual classroom features should not be forgotten or brushed aside as modern students are demanding thus make sure to create software for your organization that is up to the challenge of the modern student. A virtual classroom provides something in-person classroom does not and that is options in terms of technology and distance being eliminated as a barrier.

In these uncertain times, schools, universities, and other educational institutions need to preserve as many functions as possible even in an online classroom setting. The transition to distance learning for the foreseeable future is hard enough, but real-time collaborative writing with rich-text editing capabilities helps preserve and enhance the collaborative nature of classroom learning. Moreover, CKEditor’s solutions cut down on the learning curve that comes with new software and gives you only the features you need. But don’t just take my word for it: engage with our online demo and get in touch with our team to see how we can cook up a tailor-made real-time collaboration solution for your virtual classroom software.

Social learning, live sessions using. wide range of software are the future of learning as students from all over the world can collaborate and learn without being tied to a place or region anymore. CKEditor 5 can definitely help in this regard and interactive online classes can only benefit from its integration. It is a solution that meets the requirement of the modern student and will pass the test fo time going forward. Check it out for your purpose-built virtual classroom.

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