The classroom environment is evolving again. Twenty-five years ago, the idea that the internet would be relevant to the average person was seen as ridiculous. Today, it’s an essential part of education in thousands of classrooms around the world. And – thanks to technology’s constant evolution – you can now take your classroom online so you can reach your students no matter where they are.
However, taking your classroom online isn’t a small task. To do it well, you need the right equipment and systems in place. Let’s walk through the steps you can take to go from a traditional classroom that uses tech to a truly digital environment.
1. Create a great video conferencing set up
This next part may sound a bit counterintuitive, but to take your classroom online, you need to perfect your ‘physical’ in-classroom set up. This will help you create a great digital experience.
Visual learning is crucial for comprehension – it helps students learn faster. That’s why so many teachers use whiteboards and presentations. Traditional whiteboards are hard to share online – that’s why digital screens are replacing dry erase boards in a variety of industries. When you use a screen, you can record and share everything that’s happening virtually. But how do you choose a screen that’s perfect for in-class work and for digital sharing?
When you’re choosing a screen that fits in your physical classroom – and beyond – think about the room’s size and purpose. Is it a multifunction room or a lab? Are you planning on collaborating with other classrooms in different schools or working locally? Finding the best screen size is pretty straightforward once you have this information.
The audiovisual experts at THX recommend a viewing distance of 1 – 2x the diagonal size of your screen. Working backward, if your students will be sitting 7-10 feet from your digital whiteboard, your screen should be approximately 86 – 96″ to give them an excellent 30-degree viewing angle. Incidentally, 86″ is the most common conventional whiteboard size, so you can also base your numbers off measuring your current equipment.
Now that you know the best screen size, it’s time to choose the perfect display unit. There are several fantastic options for digital screens, but when it comes to education, LG is at the cutting edge of interactive boards. Their current lineup includes impressive capabilities like data mirroring so you can share the data on your screen directly with people in your network. This is perfect if some of your students are in the classroom while the rest are online. LG screens also come with precision touchscreens and free-standing mobile units that can be moved classroom to classroom so you can share equipment.
2. Get your software right
After you’ve set up the perfect digital screen, you need the right software so that students can enjoy logging in and learning. So what do you need to deliver a fantastic online classroom experience? The answer lies in the cloud.
Cloud-based software can help organize schoolwork, projects, and homework. You can build learning programs, create tests, grade your students, and track their performance.
WizIQ and Teachable are great all-in-one solutions that give you a place to launch lessons and interact with students. Each offers a suite of options that are perfect for building a curriculum that can accommodate local and distance learning.
3. Don’t forget the community element
Students need more than hardware and learning software to succeed. Studies show that students that interact together in and out of digital classrooms have a richer learning experience than students who aren’t able to socialize in a virtual classroom.
Fortunately, there are many programs designed to help students interact with each other. ClassDojo incentivizes students to interact and discuss projects by rewarding collaboration. Teachers can also keep an eye on interactions to make sure they’re beneficial to the class.
Google also offers a free to use Hangouts app that lets students communicate with each other both in and out of studies. Hangouts is more suitable for older students, so it’s worth considering the age group of your student body before choosing the best way to foster collaborative, community-focused learning.
4. Give students access to you
With all this great technology, it’s important not to lose sight of how important teachers are to an online classroom. Students need to know they can reach out to their instructors and get help when they need it.
One of the best ways to do this is to integrate calendar software into your online classroom so that students can book 1-on-1 time with you during pre-set office hours. You can use scheduling software like Calendly, Acuity, or even Google Calendar.
5. Create a virtual classroom that can grow with your needs
As your classroom becomes an online learning center, you may find that the needs of your students change. That’s why one of the main things to think about when building your virtual classroom is how it will evolve with time. Budgets for schools are not infinite, so you’ll want to make sure that your students get the best experience for the max amount of time without going over what your school can afford.
Consider what you want to achieve by taking your classroom online and work backward to figure out your hardware and software “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional when considering your options as they will have more experience with how systems work together and can ensure you get the best result for your budget.