Virtual Classrooms

Deliver engaging and inclusive virtual classes using technology supported by the University.

Virtual Classroom

What are virtual classrooms?

Virtual classrooms refer to the use of synchronous (live) teaching sessions which could be live-streamed, part of a multi-mode delivery or part of a fully online course. Using platforms such as Teams, Zoom or Collaborate Ultra, you can host a range of learning activities such as seminar discussions, tutorials, small group collaborative activities, peer-to-peer learning and interactive lectures. All virtual classroom activities can also be used for asynchronous learning as they are able to be recorded and captioned ensuring they are accessible and available to students at any time.

Live Streaming and Multi-mode teaching is becoming more commonplace in content delivery and it is important staff are confident with the pedagogical principles of using virtual classrooms to promote inclusive, flexible and active learning opportunities for our diverse student body.

These platforms share similar functions: all offer synchronous video and audio interactions between students and teachers for digitally enhanced learning. They include a variety of tools, such as:

  • breakout groups
  • text chat
  • collaborative whiteboards
  • polling and response tools

All virtual classroom activities can be recorded and captioned ensuring they are accessible and available to students at any time.

There are three platforms available for teaching in virtual classrooms:

  • Microsoft Class Teams (the most commonly used platform if you have a Class Team for your modules)
  • Zoom
  • Collaborate Ultra (not available to students in China)

The module ‘design and deliver engaging sessions in the virtual classroom‘ will guide you through the basic and advanced functions of the three virtual classroom tools that the University offers. It also provides tips and guidance on how to design and deliver activities in the virtual classroom to promote student engagement.

Minerva remains the primary learning environment for digitally enhanced learning. However, it is the  ‘way in’ to everything related to student education, and the prime location for learning and teaching resources. All synchronous live sessions can be announced to students via Minerva. Access to recordings for students can also be available via Minerva.

Which virtual classroom should I use?

Decisions about the technology you use for your virtual classrooms should be made at the module or programme level, to ensure that students have a consistent experience across classes. The technology should provide an inclusive learning experience. It is important that you are explicit with your students about which tool will be used, and that you provide clear guidance to ensure they can easily access and use it.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams (i.e. MS Teams) offers additional functionality through its Class Teams. If a module’s Class Team is activated by the teaching staff, MS Teams’ meetings can be used as virtual classrooms. They have good functionality to support interactive, synchronous teaching activities, with new features being added all the time (e.g. breakout rooms). Members of a module’s Class Team are automatically updated from Banner, in line with enrolments on Minerva. MS Teams is also accessible and stable in China.

Zoom

Zoom offers good functionality for interactive, synchronous learning activities including live chat and breakout rooms. There is also a Zoom integration with Mediasite which enables scheduled meetings (teaching sessions) recorded to the Zoom cloud to be automatically imported into Mediasite

Collaborate Ultra

Blackboard’s Collaborate Ultra is integrated with Minerva and offers a wide range of tools for teaching. Recent improvements in breakout groups make it a good choice for teaching smaller groups of students. Collaborate Ultra is not available to students in China.

Where can I find more information?

  • Staff Guides – A series of guides on these platforms are available via the Digital Education Systems Help website.
  • Design and deliver engaging sessions in the virtual classroom – a module guiding you through the basic and advanced functions of the three virtual classroom tools that the University offers. It also provides tips and guidance on how to design and deliver activities in the virtual classroom to promote student engagement.
  • Design and deliver engaging Collaborate Ultra sessions – a module to help you to familiarise yourself with the basic and advanced functions of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra specifically for synchronous teaching sessions. It also provides tips and guidance on how to design activities that use Collaborate Ultra to promote interaction and student engagement.