Education

What is a Virtual Classroom and How to Set One Up?

Published on November 22, 2022 • About 7 min. read

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If you’re thinking of transitioning from in-person classes to teaching online, you probably have a bunch of questions. Like: what is a virtual classroom, anyway?

And once you understand what a virtual classroom is, you need to work out how to set one up and whether it’s right for your students. From choosing the right software, making the most of digital engagement features, and keeping your program secure, there’s a lot to consider.

But when you crack the code to online teaching you’ll see how beneficial it can be. Here’s our guide to virtual classrooms and how to set one up.

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Table of contents

  • What is a virtual classroom?
  • What are the benefits of a virtual classroom?
  • When to choose virtual classroom vs real classrooms
  • How do you create your own virtual classroom?
  • The best virtual classroom
  • Frequently asked questions about virtual classrooms

What is a virtual classroom?

A virtual classroom is a virtual learning and teaching environment where students and teachers:

  • Share course materials
  • Interact with each other
  • Collaborate in groups

Virtual classrooms aren’t different from traditional classrooms because they take place entirely online, with no need for students to travel to a physical location. Since virtual classrooms take place live, in a synchronous setting, they’re also different from most online courses, which can be studied remotely at the student’s own pace.

What are the benefits of a virtual classroom?

Virtual classrooms offer many benefits for teachers and students alike, such as:

  • Fewer scheduling limitations
  • Building relationships with people outside your community
  • Improved technology skills
  • Saved time and money
  • Immediate results and feedback
  • Increased inclusivity and accessibility

When to choose virtual classroom vs real classrooms

For all the advantages of virtual classrooms, they aren’t appropriate for every scenario. If any of the following factors are an issue, you might want to consider hybrid learning.

  • Behaviour. If your students are younger or have problems with their behavior you might find virtual classrooms are harder to discipline due to people experiencing less accountability online.
  • Focus and distractions. Students are no longer in the controlled environment of the classroom and the devices they’re connecting on can be very distracting. So if your learners already have problems focusing in class, virtual classrooms might not be the best fit.
  • Digital literacy. Some learners might not have the digital literacy skills to successfully connect to, and engage with, a virtual classroom. This could be down to age, economic background, or culture.
  • Access to technology. Some students don’t have access to the devices or strong internet connections needed to join your class remotely.
  • Need for practical, hands-on activities. Not all classes can be digitized. For example, a science experiment or a woodworking project would need to be taught in person with specialist equipment.

How do you create your own virtual classroom?

Follow this step-by-step guide to virtual home classroom ideas and tips.

1. Choose your virtual classroom software

The most crucial part of creating a virtual classroom choosing your online teaching tools and platforms. It needs to be:

  • Reliable
  • Easy to use and access
  • Affordable (or even a free virtual classroom)
  • Customizable
  • Rich with relevant functionality such as a digital whiteboard
  • Usable on computers, tablets, and smartphones

Some examples of virtual classroom and video software for online courses are:

  • Livestorm
  • Kaltura
  • Vedamo
  • Google Classroom
  • LearnCube
woman teaching with Livestorm

2. Perfect your at-home virtual classroom setup

Wherever you’re teaching from you’ll need a clutter and distraction-free, well-lit physical environment. Make sure you have everything you need to hand and there’s nothing behind you that will draw the students’ attention away from the class material. If this proves tricky, try Livestorm’s virtual classroom backgrounds which can cover up any environment with something more classroom-appropriate.

3. Set up and test your virtual classroom hardware

Built-in microphones and webcams are often low quality so you might want to buy professional-level equipment to keep students focused. Upgrading your hardware will make your class or webinar training go as smoothly as possible and make you seem more professional.

4. Create a virtual classroom library

You need to set up an online area such as Google Drive that students can access async to review course materials, collaborate on documents, or complete homework. For easy, on-the-go resource sharing, you can use Livestorm’s Handouts plugin to provide students with downloadable content during the class.

5. Establish a course timetable

Every course needs structure so create a robust course timetable and define the requirements of each class. To help organize the course you can use Livestorm to integrate with your Google or Outlook calendar and create recurring events to automatically set up classes. You can even record your classes and share them as on-demand events to allow students to catch up async.

6. Plan lessons around online virtual classroom features

The more fun and engaging a lesson, the more students will absorb and retain what you’re teaching them. When you’re planning your lessons, think about how you can take advantage of the virtual classroom features at your disposal.

For example, to visualize concepts and encourage collaboration try using Livestorm’s virtual whiteboard. If you’re looking to facilitate group work, use our breakout rooms feature to temporarily separate students into different virtual groups.

7. Design your registration page

This is the first thing students will see so you want it to stand out and promote your business. Make sure to keep the course description simple but informative, communicating the value of the course and explaining what students will learn. Use a platform like Livetorm that allows you to customize your registration pages to encourage attendees while promoting your branding.

registration page for a virtual classroom

8. Consider classroom virtual security

A random Zoom-bomber could spell disaster for your business so make sure your virtual classroom software of choice has strong security measures. Use Livestorm’s roles and permissions to establish who can perform functions like allowing entry to the class.

Customizing platform permissions can help stop students from going rogue, sharing their screen, or otherwise being disruptive. To encourage respect and inclusion you can also establish classroom rules chosen and committed to by the class.

9. Create certificates

Reward and promote engagement and give students something they can show for their effort by creating course completion certificates. Easily create certificates with tools such as:

  • Canva
  • Accredible
  • Certifier

10. Invite your students to the virtual classroom

Your course is all ready, so now it’s time to invite all your students to the first class. Try automated invitations to speed up monotonous classroom admin and send email reminders to maximize attendance. With Livestorm, you can add contacts in advance, and invite them to your event with just one click.

Pro tip: Choose a browser-based platform, like Livestorm, so your students can join the class without having to download anything or create an account.

reminder emails for virtual classroom

11. Get there ahead of time

The last thing you want is to log in to the class and find that suddenly nothing’s working correctly. Get there ahead of time and give yourself a final opportunity to test your software, hardware, and surroundings.

12. Maximize opportunities for engagement

One of the disadvantages of virtual classrooms is that you need to work extra hard to keep students engaged. Keep the classroom lively by using a platform with built-in engagement features like Livestorm’s customizable polls, a dedicated questions and answers tab, and a timer that’s perfect for dynamic activities.

To nurture the social element of the classroom that can sometimes be missing online you can use Livestorm’s chat tab, emoji reactions, and virtual hand-raising tool to get people talking.

questions and answers in virtual classrooms

13. Use analytics to track attendance and engagement

You’ll need to keep track of who turned up to class (or perhaps more importantly, who didn’t), and let’s face it, paper registration forms are a thing of the past. Livestorm’s dashboard has built-in attendance information as well as engagement analytics, telling you who spoke and for how long, so you know who to focus on in the next class.

14. Follow-up

After the class you’ll want to remind students where to find the recording and any extra resources. At the end of the course, tell them how they can sign up for the next one. To make this process easy, look out for a platform that can send follow-up emails in bulk. With Livestorm, you can send follow-up emails using customizable templates to keep everything on-brand.

15. Gather feedback

Being open to feedback means you’ll improve your virtual classes in ways you hadn’t even thought of. You can quickly gauge feedback using polls during the class or build surveys to send afterward. It’s easy to make surveys and analyze the results using:

  • Typeform
  • Survey Monkey
  • HubSpot
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Set up the best virtual classroom

Just like traditional classes, the key to a well-organized and memorable online class is preparation. Take the time to establish a course timetable and a virtual library and plan lessons around engagement features.

Then, get to class ahead of time to prepare your physical surroundings and test both your hardware and software. At the end of the course, make sure to take advantage of analytics, send follow-up emails, and ask for feedback.

Your virtual classroom software is the beating heart of video conferencing for education. So make sure you choose the platform that gives you the most functionality for the best class attendance and engagement possible.

Frequently asked questions about virtual classrooms

What equipment is needed for a virtual classroom?

The equipment needed for a virtual classroom is:

  • Computer
  • Internet connection
  • Webcam
  • Microphone
  • Virtual classroom software like Livestorm

What is the best virtual classroom platform?

The best virtual classroom platform is one that is reliable, easy to use, and feature-rich like Livestorm.

Which virtual classroom games to use for students?

The best virtual classroom games to use for students are:

  • Pictionary
  • Hangman
  • Kahoot
  • Would You Rather
  • Scavenger Hunt

What are the best practices for engaging students in a virtual classroom?

The best practices for engaging students in a virtual classroom are:

  • Ask them to choose the classroom rules
  • Keep it interactive with virtual whiteboard activities
  • Use breakout rooms for pair/teamwork
  • Use a strong platform like Livestorm
  • Encourage conversation with Q&A sections, polls, and the chat tab
  • Give out certificates at the end of the course
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