It’s becoming more and more vital for learning providers to expand into digital education and online language learning. The developing internet has opened up all manner of opportunities for educational organisations to connect with potential learners.

One of the key ways that the online language learning industry has sought to compete with traditional face to face language courses is by developing the virtual campus and the virtual classroom. These are incredibly valuable resources as they make it possible for language learners to interact with their tutor and fellow students in a similar way that they would on a more traditional course.

Of course, the virtual campus and virtual classroom are technologies that are in their infancy. This means the industry is still learning how to use them to their full capabilities. As well as there being a big drive throughout the online language learning sphere to experiment with the best way to use these digital tools, it’s also true that individual schools, training providers and tutors need to carry out their own smaller scale experimentation.

Most importantly, it’s vitally important for tutors and online training providers to explore various ways to build strong student engagement through the medium of a virtual classroom or virtual campus. This is important as studies have shown that the more engaged students are, the more likely they are to complete the course and achieve great results.


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Why have virtual classrooms become so popular?

Digital learning spaces have become hugely popular in recent years. This is true both in online language learning and in other educational industries. There are a number of reasons for this growth, but the main one is simply convenience.

Many potential students are put off the idea of traditional training courses as they can be difficult to commit to on top of existing responsibilities such as work, family and other studies.

Online courses became a way for potential students to learn new skills without having to juggle the timings, travel or commitment of an in person course. The virtual campus with accompanying virtual classrooms were then introduced which offered online language learning students more of the benefits of face to face tuition.


The benefits of using a virtual classroom

  • Students can access face to face training from wherever they are in the world
  • Everyone is encouraged to speak clearly and efficiently
  • Resources can be easily stored and accessed all in one place
  • It can be used to connect with a whole cohort of students, smaller groups or just speak one-to-one
  • Students can easily be working on different timescales according to their ability
  • Student work can be easily collated and assessed
  • Tutors can easily screen share software
  • A virtual whiteboard can be used to easily communicate ideas

Are there any downsides of a virtual classroom?

  • There can sometimes be a steep learning curve for tutors to adapt their teaching style to be appropriate for a virtual campus
  • Relationships between tutors and students do not form as easily online
  • Tutors may have to work harder to engage students on a virtual campus than on a real one


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How can online tutors boost engagement?

Student engagement is really key here. This is certainly true in online language learning as it is in other online educational spheres and more traditional course types. Online tutors need to be aware of this and actively work towards increasing engagement.

They can do this by:


#1. Giving students more independence

It’s believed that the more agency students have over their own education, the more engaged they will be. Tutors can use this to their advantage in a digital learning environment by offering more options about learning and inviting students to introduce their own resources to the virtual whiteboard.


#2. Using humour

Humour is a very important part of how human beings relate to each other. Research shows that a few well chosen jokes can help to build a community and bring individuals together.


#3. Having one on one conversations

One on one relationships are important for engagement. Though it is possible to invite an unlimited number of students into the virtual classroom as at one time, that doesn’t mean you should! Ensuring each student gets some solo time with the tutor can help to build relationships and keep everyone engaged.


#4. Focusing on bite size chunks

Learning a language is a huge task, and some students will find this daunting. By splitting content into smaller more manageable chunks, tutors can help to keep students on side and enthusiastic about the learning experience.

Want to learn more about virtual classrooms and how they can be used as part of the online language learning experience? Take a look at our online course resources and what part the virtual classroom plays here.


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