Teaching Effectiveness In Virtual Classroom World

The following sections present the dimensions which we need to take into account while venturing into the virtual classroom world.

Coronavirus pandemic disrupted our activities. Continuity of our operations became critical. Universities and academic institutions across the globe faced a severe challenge of ensuring continuity of classrooms and evaluations. Shifting from face-to-face (F2F) to the virtual world became inevitable.

In our F2F classrooms, we use several measures to gauge the learning performance. The verbal communication, facial expressions, discussions, and various interventions play a pivotal role in giving continuous feedback to faculty about whether learners are learning and how much they are learning. There is direct feedback observed about what one is trying to do in the class and interventions can be instantaneous. The faculty also uses assessments such as quizzes and exams where physical presence is a must to evaluate learning goals.

The moment we move to virtual classes, the online world is very different as compared to the F2F classroom situation and, at times, challenging. The standard tools of completion rates and user rating may not be adequate to understand the effectiveness of our efforts in virtual classroom settings. We are also not sure whether various academic processes that we build to strengthen learning in the F2F classroom work when we shift to virtual classroom settings. 

An important question we need to focus on in a virtual classroom setting is to measure the overall effectiveness of the approach. It may be challenging to come up with a single metric as the dynamics of virtual learning is complex and have many dimensions. The heart of any learning process is engagement, sense of belonging, self-driven, and disciplined learning and must form part of metrics that measure effectiveness. The following sections present the dimensions which we need to take into account while venturing into the virtual classroom world.

Learning Goals of the Session
It is essential to define the teaching goals of the session and its teaching plan and what one is going to cover in the virtual classroom. Identifying this helps the faculty to decide and define the scope of the session and ensure that one does not make it too ambitious, and becomes difficult to achieve. The faculty needs to focus the Learner all the time, and ensure the Learner can learn what you intend to. The session goal and session plan will also determine the degree to which Lerner will find the session engaging and relevant to the learning goals. It is vital to keep track of the degree to which Learners acquire the intended knowledge and skills and motivate them to use these learnings.

Learning Experience and Focus on Learning Behaviour Processes
My discussions with several faculty suggest that the engagement of learners in virtual classroom sessions is a challenge. Learner-learner interactions are low, and as a result, the sense of group feeling and belonging may impact the learning dynamic. The experience of MOOC learning, which are recorded session and recorded assignments, need a lot of disciplined and self-drive to learn. The virtual classes, on the other hand, are live sessions and need to build mechanisms that can replicate F2F classes where collaborations, discussions are happening in the physical world. Most of us have developed an orientation about the sense of belonging in a particular manner in the physical world. Virtual classes need to employ approaches that encourage and incentivize collaboration and collegiality (learner-learner interaction), sense of group feeling and belonging, make them self-driven and disciplined learning, encourage the behaviour of application what they learned and generate confidence and commitment based on the Learner participation. It is crucial to make this learning behaviour processes an integral part of the virtual classrooms.

Making Good Use of Tool-kit Available in Virtual Platform
If the session is going to be for more than an hour, it is tough to hold the session in a lecture mode. One has to make it interactive. The interactive session can also address the attention span issue. There are several opportunities available to us to make our sessions interactive. Making it interactive through screen share in an exciting way. Screen-share is a powerful approach to creating engagement and involvement. Asking questions such as: show us your calculations, what are your assumptions and how they drive the decision, what is your proposal etc. are interesting questions to start the discussion through screen share. Giving a leadership role to a Learner or a group of Learners exposes them to a lot of challenges. And it is sometimes difficult to fake this involvement. Breaking students in smaller groups and break-out rooms may generate several new ideas that would enrich the discussion in the virtual class. Using various tools and tool-kit available in any virtual platform will make the session useful. The tool-kit available in virtual settings can be made rich in human experience and not convert it into pure machine interaction. The emotions, feelings, and involvement of faculty matter a lot. Some students who may feel distracted or directionless in the process, in particular, who are transitioning to this new technology recently, may need the support. Engaging trough online discussions and interactions, developing easy to understand instruction sets and building reinforcements and using virtual classroom management tools will create effectiveness.

Willingness/Ease of Use of Virtual Classroom Technology
Great sessions begin with some ice-breaking. Virtual classrooms provide us an excellent opportunity to interact with learners who may be participating from different locations. Discussing some exciting local news related to your session may an exciting way to start the session. It is crucial to understand that when we move from F2F to a virtual classroom, the pace with which the session will roll out is going to be slow, and at times frustrating. Therefore, to address this issue, it requires in-depth work on planning the session. It is essential to schedule the session when you think one's energy levels are high at both instructor and learner end. Many people do not consider this to be important and find an unpleasant experience after the session when not planned properly. Ensure one maintains the academic integrity while taking approvals of materials (videos, docs, etc.) one may be using as the proceedings of the session may go on record.

Addressing and monitoring the above will continuously guide us to improve the quality of our efforts in holding virtual classes. In summary, the following may be used as a broad framework to measure the effectiveness of virtual classroom delivery:


What to focus?

How to monitor/measure or ensure effectiveness?

Learning goals of the session

  • How many of my Learners learned how much of what was the learning goal?

  • The degree to which Lerner found the session engaging and relevant to the learning goals

  • The degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, attitude, skills, habits.

  • Pre-reads and session plan

  • Testing pre-class knowledge vs. post-class knowledge levels

  • Feedback on different aspects of learning

  • Content

  • Presentation

  • Analysis

  • Development of skill

  • Quizzes 

Learning experience and focus on learning behaviour processes

  • Engagement with the virtual sessions

  • Collaboration and collegiality

    • Learner-Learner interaction

  • Sense of group feeling and belonging

  • Self-driven and disciplined learning

  • The degree to which participants apply what they learned during the session

  • Confidence and commitment based on their participation in the session

  • Encouraging Learner to ask questions

  • Using polls/quizzes to gauge preparation

  • Formation of groups and group submissions (Learner-Learner interaction) and making them work in teams

  • Projects (individual, group)

  • Appointing lead Learner to lead in the discussion through screen share

  • Creating rubric to measure various elements

  • Usage analytics and sentiment analysis of feedback

Using Tools available for

  • discussion and interaction

  • instruction and reinforcement

  • class-room management

  • Hand gesticulation

  • Screen-share

  • Polls

  • Break-out sessions

  • Chat rooms

  • Whiteboard

  • Real-time application sharing

  • Video-based discussions 

  • Up-loading/storing documents

  • Auto-populated participant list

Willingness/Ease of use 

  • Breaking ice to start the session

  • Understanding the process is going to be slow, and one needs to have patience

  • Etiquettes of virtual classroom 

  • Infrastructure and bandwidth

  • Platform and security issues

  • Academic integrity issues

  • Maintaining high energy levels

  • Recording of sessions (to handle an emergency, of poor connectivity issues)

  • When you give charge to lead and start discussion, it is difficult to fake (as compared to written submission)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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