Education has always been the cornerstone of a progressive civilization, and schools lay the foundation for education. Schools also craft the character, intellect, and future direction for young minds who collectively advance a society. School engagement, basically stands for how involved, enthusiastic, and committed you are to the school’s education program, is crucial for the behavioral, emotional, and cognitive development of young minds, but times are changing. With recent events, new sudden changes are happening in the system, changes brought about by an unwelcome virus.
With technology changes happening all around us consistently, none could have acted as such an effective catalyst than the pandemic. The spread of Novel Corona Virus, Covid-19, has brought about unimagined changes to the way of life. Challenges are arising at every turn, for every business and every profession. But none so profound as the challenges in the education system. School systems have had to adopt virtual classroom sessions as the new model of delivering education. These virtual sessions may help retain the academic engagement of students, but pose a vital challenge that educators and institutions need to surmount, one of student engagement.
Student engagement is one of the crucial areas where a live physical classroom and a live virtual classroom critically distinguishes itself. It means the level of attention, curiosity, interest, passion, and optimism that the students show when learning or being taught. This extends to the motivation they have to learn and progress in their education. While a student’s attention and attentiveness can be observed in a physical setup, it becomes a harder task for a teacher to do it in a virtual set up. A virtual classroom platform addresses this issue, such a platform provides tools for students and teachers to customize learning, provide an opportunity for classroom engagement, and help close the gap between physical and virtual.
A virtual classroom platform is different from a video conference platform. The greatest difference is in the flexibility offered by a virtual classroom compared with a video conference platform. While a video conference platform can record and playback videos, a virtual classroom platform provides the student with the full experience of the classroom, that is, all files, student-chats, shared files are all available as if in real-time. This also enables “micro-learning”, where the students can skip to smaller sections of the class and learn a particular area of the topic as and when he/she needs. The flexibility of virtual classroom platforms are immense and can benefit both educators and students.
The importance of these platforms in increasing student engagement in learning is immense. For example, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) indicates two critical features for the quality of education, first, the time and effort put in by students (for studies and other purposeful activities) and second the deployment of resources and organization of classes to improve student participation in activities. Platforms such as this, improve student’s engagement in learning through participation using adequate tools, both for students and teachers.
One other important flexibility that virtual classroom platforms provide is to address the issue of field of vision. Online virtual classes find it difficult to have the flexibility of vision, a tale as old as time, teachers depend on whiteboards or blackboards to assist their teaching, trying to help the students understand the subject better through writing or drawing. In an online virtual class, this is a difficult task to perform, shifting the camera from one area to another makes the creation of content tedious and difficult. Platforms such as Blackboard Virtual Classroom, address issues such as this. The need for written engagement with students is critical for subjects as mathematics, science, geography, and nearly all subjects. It is hard to imagine mathematics being taught orally, or through reference to textbooks only, blackboards are critical in engaging the student with the subject.
The need of the hour for virtual classroom platforms is to adapt as soon as they can. There is no doubt that the advent of technology could alter education models all around the world, and education platforms are evolving constantly to keep up. The million-dollar question is, can the quality of virtual classroom platforms take education away from a school-based model?
Education has followed a school-based model for centuries, the system has seen tremendous economic, political, and environmental changes but has largely remained similar in format. It is highly unlikely that a change in the school-based system of education is going to happen, but the difference from the past is the technological changes. While the school system may remain in place and unchanged, the delivery model of education may see significant changes in the near future, and the changes are visible at the horizon. Virtual classrooms using virtual platforms play crucial roles in the future of education and student engagement will be a key metric with which this education system will be measured.