A virtual learning environment (VLE) allows you to offer face-face, collaborative online instruction. The teacher and students come together at an agreed upon time for a lesson similar to if they all came together in a normal classroom.
There are many different types of software that you could use as your virtual classroom, so you will want to think about what you actually want to do with it. Some features that might be important or worth thinking about are:
- Ability to have 30+ people in one session
- Ability to form breakout rooms
- Chat function
- Ability to share your computer and tablet screen
- Whiteboard function
- Ability to mute sound and turn off video
Strong online classroom software include Google Meet and Zoom.
For me, Zoom is the best solution. It enables you to form breakout rooms, which enhances the teaching and learning environment. It also allows you to call from a computer whilst also sharing a tablet screen, which is invaluable for going through worked examples and modelling.
However, it’s your choice what to use and the table below compares them according to the criteria (as well as cost) above:
|Cost||Included with paid Google Suite accounts (e.g. Google for Education) but costly if an individual||Free version with limitations (main one being a 40 minute limit on meetings with 3 or more participants)|
Pro version at US$ 14.99 per month is good enough for teachers
|30+ people in session||Yes||Yes (limited to 40 minutes on free version)|
|Chat function||Yes||Yes (and has a hands up function)|
|Screen sharing||Yes (can only share tablet screen if calling from tablet)||Yes (and can call using computer and then share tablet screen using airplay)|
|Whiteboard||Use One Note and screen share||In built but better to use One Note and screen share|
|Mute sound and turn off video||Yes||Yes|