It is undebatable that learners today differ in competence and motivation levels at all learning platforms, be it a classroom or an e-learning module. The exposure to newer learning technologies has led to a gaping gap between the levels of teaching or instruction that a learner expects and what the instructor is able to impart. In such an environment it becomes difficult to attract and sustain the learner’s interest in the subject matter. Traditional course of teaching in a classroom requires a board, for the teacher to demonstrate. Other teaching aids like charts, graphs or flash-cards are also used. Keeping these time tested dictates in mind, Visual Class Rooms have been created, using the internet or intranet as the link. These ‘classrooms’ are similar to traditional classrooms of schools and colleges. The difference is in their methodology of imparting the same course of teaching. While the teacher probably still uses a board – (a digital whiteboard, in this case) he or she has the choice of using a number of aids to make the lesson more lively and interactive.
• Audio-visuals are extensively used to invite the attention of students and retain it for long. This platform allows access to various graphic tools for the teacher which helps to demonstrate in a manner, which speaks more than ‘just words’. In a matter of seconds, numbers can be depicted in different kinds of charts and graphs. Color coding might be a simple enough application, but it also encourages retention by providing a visual stimulation in the form of color.
• Most of the virtual classroom sessions are web-based, and thus a two-way interaction is also made possible, in real-time. Just as in an actual classroom, where the teacher and the students can engage in question-answer sessions. Debates can be conducted, as can various other forms of interactive learning tools like role-playing.
• Role playing within virtual classroom is another way of creating awareness and interest on various issues. Rules of role play are laid out and a demo is run to show how it works. The Audience is then invited to participate in a similar exercise. The art of negotiation is taught when classroom is split into the management, the union and workers. Roles are interchanged for different sessions, to understand the nuances of each role – its demands and limitations. Another skill that is fruitfully learnt by effective role playing is that of business communication. The class is split into different groups of people, who communicate within an organization and a dialogue is run amongst them. The tone and format of communication, within boundaries of organizational hierarchy are thus experienced.
• Internet itself is a huge repository of knowledge. Instead of simply stating examples or case studies, they can be explored through internet. And since target audience and students, spend maximum hours browsing the internet, it is a territory they feel most at ease. It is almost like they are not doing it as a part of their curriculum but for fun. And so, students who might not be involved in a classroom to actively participate in any discussion, maybe surprisingly vocal in an online poll or discussion board. A simple role-changing – a classroom to an online community, the teacher to the moderator, and students to participants, can work wonders.
• At the beginning of the session it is a good idea to familiarize users to find emoticons and feedback tools provided in the virtual classroom. For example, emoticons like laughter, applause, agree and disagree icons are very popular among all learner groups. Learners should be given the opportunity to try them out and instructors can use them too to lighten the mood. Instructions can be given to use emoticons prudently – the laughter emotion when something is funny, and the applause button when a statement is particularly exciting.
We never really stop learning. As e-learning developers, we have to continue to learn more about modern corporate learners and work towards creating stronger as well as more effective platforms of technology-enabled learning.