first virtual classroom at a Dutch university is here. Utrecht University staff
will be able to book this space from January 2020. In the meantime, there are a
lot of experiments going on. But what is a virtual classroom?
Currently, simultaneous online education often happens
via webinars. A major disadvantage of webinars is that interaction between teacher
and students is limited. The virtual classroom solves this problem. In the
'classroom', all students are visible to both the teacher and the students,
just as if they were sitting in the front row. The teacher stands in front of a
wall with six screens, each showing six students. Each column of screens has
its own camera. This ensures that when the teacher addresses students on the
right-hand screens, they see that he is actually looking at them. At the bottom
of the six screens are two more screens on which the teacher can see his
presentation, quiz results and online questions. The virtual classroom
simulates the interaction from traditional classrooms as much as possible and
actually goes one step further.
An example from a typical lesson could be:
The teacher starts with an explanation of two theories. After 15 minutes he notices that the students are less involved. So he decides to start a quiz at that moment. He asks which of the two theories can best explain a particular item from this morning’s news. The teacher sees the students’ answers on the screen of each student and shows all students the distribution of the answers. The teacher then asks two students in person (the name of each person is shown on their screen) to explain their answers. A discussion arises. Meanwhile, the teacher sees that there are several 'silent questions' coming in from students who do not understand the difference between the two theories. The teacher closes the discussion and answers the students' questions.