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Ten starter


E-learning consultant Clive Shepherd

wonders whatever happened to the

virtual classroom?

Amazingly, web conferencing has been with

us now for close to 20 years. As a tool for

virtual meetings it is well established and

widely used; as a means for live, online group

learning experiences it has never evolved

much beyond being 'one for the future'. Given

the obvious time, cost and environmental

benefits compared to the face-to-face

classroom, this is somewhat surprising.

One explanation is technical unreliability. After

all this time, you would expect there to be

enough bandwidth around to ensure

consistent connectivity for everyone involved

but sadly there are still the occasional

frustrating problems to contend with.

A much more plausible explanation is that the

virtual classroom simply does not deliver a

compelling enough experience. My own view

is that this is not so much because of

limitations with the software (although there

probably is much more that could be done if

anyone put their mind to it) but inappropriate

and unskillful use of the medium.

A webinar or virtual classroom session is a live

event and generally speaking these are hard

to organise and awkward to schedule. So

they must compensate by offering the

emotional engagement that you can only

achieve in real-time. And, as a group

experience, in itself much less flexible than

things you do on your own, it simply must be

highly interactive.

So forget using web conferencing for

delivering content. Video, web articles and

podcasts are far more practical, flexible and

accessible. Concentrate on group interaction

and you have a great opportunity to add


Clive Shepherd

Author and Owner

Clive Shepherd Ltd


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