In The Newrow: Episode #4 – Video Conferencing vs Virtual Classrooms

In The Newrow: Episode #4 – Video Conferencing vs Virtual Classrooms

Danny & Sam Talk About Video Conferencing versus Virtual Classrooms - Their Differences and Similarities

Danny: Hello everyone you are In The Newrow with Danny and Sam today. We are discussing video conferencing versus virtual classrooms. We’re going to talk about what they are how are they different.

Most of you already know what video conferencing software does. Perhaps you’ve used one for a meeting. For those of you who are not familiar with the term virtual classroom, a virtual classroom is a web conferencing tool but it’s purposely built more for learning and offers specific collaborative tools.

Today Sam is going to get into a little bit about the differences and how we differentiate these two so Sam I give it over to you.

Sam: All right perfect. So we get this question sometimes from people that are coming to us. Sometimes people understand the difference right away, but I like to have a pretty easy to follow metaphor to describe the difference and it comes down to what drives you, what purpose you have.

Now here in this image we have two cars. I think the one closest to us is a car. It’s a little bit hard for me to tell, but the main point is that a car is a car. It gets you from point A to point B. If you’re living in the city, then you’re gonna want to have some nice roadster like this. They get from point A to point B. You don’t really need much in terms of getting off road or anything like that. You just want to look good and have something that you can park pretty easily. If you’re living in the burbs, then you’re gonna have a sedan because you’re gonna have to do some highway driving. If you live in a more rural area or you’re doing some off-roading, you’re climbing mountains, then of course you’re gonna want your trucks and SUV’s.

Now the whole point is that purpose really defines the product. Purpose defines what a company is doing. So to kind of pivot this back to video conferencing systems and virtual classrooms there is obviously a lot of overlap. At the bare minimum they enable you to communicate and have some sort of level of back and forth. Your typical feature set with a video conferencing tool will be connecting with your webcam and microphone and able to have some sort of communication and screen sharing. Some others might have some other different kinds of features, but that’s kind of the summative experience of a video conferencing system. At the end of the day, what it’s trying to do is enable you to have video meetings.

On the other side of it we have virtual classrooms. Like your video conferencing systems, they enable you to connect with the webcam and microphone and have a back and forth with whoever’s on the other side. Of course they have screen sharing, but typically your virtual classroom platforms are gonna have a lot more features that are tailor-made for learning or the classroom experience. They’re tailor-made for K-12 learning, for higher ed and even your training and development departments.

One is for meetings and one is for classes.

Danny: Before you continue on, so can you tell me a little bit about the difference between what you consider a meeting. What are the elements in that and what are the elements in a class.

Sam: Well Danny, unscripted I promise you, but I have this slide that covers exactly this. An interesting statistic, 73% of meetings involve only 2-4 people while the average class size in the U.S is 21.1. We can assume unless there’s something funny going on that there’s gonna be about 22 or 23 people on average in a classroom. Right away there’s gonna be a difference at scale.

Before we get into the dynamics of a classroom, let’s talk about the dynamics of a meeting. Danny, you and I have a lot of meetings together. Sometimes these are for sales, sometimes these are internal meetings about marketing. Tell me yourself, what’s the dynamic in most these meetings that you’re participating in.

Danny: I mean meetings are a face-to-face interaction. It’s a little more personal than a phone call or a phone conversation because you could see the person. Right then and there that is a major difference.

Sam: So a video meeting or a meeting in general is just where you’re gonna get together and you’re going to discuss whatever topic that you need and hopefully set some action items that you’re able to go off and do whatever you need to accomplish. You know only 37 percent of meetings actually have an agenda.

In the classroom it’s objective based. You have learning objectives. You have learning goals. This is a continual process where each session is building off of the other. There’s a different dynamic between the instructor or facilitator and the learners and students. It’s a hierarchical structure.

Normally, when you’re doing meetings, it’s more of a collective, where everyone is on equal footing. When you’re talking about training, you have a presenter that’s normally moderating and running the session. The other thing with learning is that you’re going to have a lot of different tools that are engaging. Meetings are about communicating information, but learning is about being engaging. The most effective way to have a class actually learn and retain information is to engage your learner’s and have them be engaged with your material.

In the meeting world 3 out of 4 meeting participants report that they’re working on other tasks during meetings. I know that’s true even our in our daily stand-up. Why? Because in our platform we have the browser focus indicator that works for a more moderator centric model. We can actually see when people kind of get away and they start going in their emails. Also because we have everyone on video we can see if your eyes are looking at the

presentation or if they’re scanning.

Sadly also in these meetings 90% of participants report daydreaming. What does that mean?

Danny: There being passive. There not needing to give anything back so they’re able to go off somewhere else. There’s no accountability there.

Sam: Exactly. We can have a whole discussion on the ROI of meetings, but could you imagine if you had these kind of numbers in the classroom. What would that mean for the students and their learning outcomes? Obviously that’d be completely unacceptable. But we do have to be cognizant in the virtual classroom space on how we’re going to prevent students from drifting off. You’re gonna have different monitoring features to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to, but that’s kind of the disciplinary side. That’s kind of the moderating side, but you’re gonna want to actually deliver an experience that makes the students want to participate and learn or make the learners actively want to engage.

Even in the training and development world, the participants that are coming, it’s most of the time these aren’t mandatory classes or training sessions. These are voluntary to help them gain better skills to improve themselves so you’re gonna have to make it interesting and engaging. There’s a lot of different tools that virtual classroom platforms deliver that quite frankly video conferencing systems aren’t interested in adding because that’s just really not what they’re doing. So what are the kind of tools are going to find that are mainstays in virtual classrooms.

Well on the higher end ones, you’re gonna find assessment tools like quizzes to be able to do kind of real-time formative assessment. This is really important from an instructor perspective where they’re gonna be able to present material, discuss the material and have a group discussion, and then have real-time formative assessment to get instant feedback on how to help their learners achieve their learning objectives for that section.

Danny: Instant feedback is key because if the professor leads a session and then only then sees the student wasn’t fully connected into what they were saying it’s already too late. If they could see live, then they can engage them right then and there and correct the problem before it’s even a problem.

Sam: Yeah, exactly. Why solve something later when you can you know solve it right at that moment as it’s happening? You’re also gonna have different tools like breakout rooms. Now I’ve seen other video conferencing systems that actually have some form of breakout rooms, but typically this is a more voluntary approach where each participant is given a prompt to join asking, “Would you like to join this breakout room?” It’s up to that end user to click through. That might be okay for certain learning standards but it’s gonna be a little bit of a challenge if you’re talking about the K-12 space where you need to have a more teacher centric model. 

Virtual classrooms will have a little bit more of a clamp down on getting your students into those breakout rooms. They’ll be able to organize the breakout rooms, click a button, and it’s going to automatically redirect learners and students into their specific breakout rooms where they’re able to accomplish different kinds of group activities and peer-to-peer learning scenarios. Think of your role-playing activities, branching scenarios, things like that.

Danny: Or even if you were learning a language, you could just receive all the information from the instructor whether its grammar pronunciation, but then you actually have to use it and apply that so breakout room would be that opportunity to actually do it with a partner and actually use what you’ve learned.

Sam: Exactly the little group activities to apply the learning that you have. Really nice by the way, even if you have a more passive webinar style classroom, maybe you have a hundred or multiple hundreds of students, but you still want to get them into their own rooms where they collectively work together on something and apply the knowledge that you presented them in the lecture – a lot of capabilities and exciting things that you can do there.

Another mainstay  in the virtual classroom space, it’s really revolving around content, not only the content that you’re presenting, data around content as well. Let me talk a little bit about that quite briefly. Your typical video conferencing system or your typical video meeting maybe includes a presentation about sales forecasting or maybe it’s just your company deck that you’re presenting to a potential customer.

In the learning space, a lot of educational institutions and training and development departments are spending almost all their time on producing valuable content and this isn’t just a presentation this can be videos, presentations, image…a lot of different types of content. How do you centralize that and how do you distribute that to your remote teachers and facilitators for your learning initiatives?

Instead of having a separate platform where an instructor or a teacher can go and download files and then have them start sharing their screen, they can have a full content management system serving and empowering their classes. They can then take that content and organize it in a playlist or class agenda and have that available. With the help of API or LTI integrations, all that content can be automatically queued up so if you have a facilitator that’s teaching a particular compliance course or a teacher that is teaching a specific language course, they can have that material automatically queued up for them. They don’t have to spend their valuable time on preparing the class. Instead they can prepare for the class and how they’re engaging their learners in the best way possible. So that’s also going to be something that’s pretty critical from a virtual classroom perspective.

Danny: So virtual classrooms seem like the evolution of, first we went from phones to video and to something more active which is a virtual class that takes that communication and makes it like you are next to the person sitting in a classroom with them with these tools. 

Sam: Yeah look, I mean the evolution is a pretty straight right now. A few years ago, even having quality video conferencing meetings or video calls was really – and some would argue even today – it’s a little bit of a challenge. There’s always technical issues, but look we’ve progressed. We’ve evolved and right now as a consumer we expect good quality of video and audio. We don’t look at that as the feature. We look at that as an expectation of quality to be delivered from any product that we’re using.

So we’re at a different stage in the evolution of online collaboration where it’s the application layers built on top of that kind of quality system of communication. You’re expected to come with good video and good audio and you’re expected to be able to do basic interactions. What more can you do? That’s coming with specificity of purpose. If I am delivering a platform that is for learning and instruction then I better have the application layers that enables me to teach more effectively, to help learners learn more effectively, to help administrators monitor and make sure that they’re getting the most out of their system effectively.

Danny: Sam it definitely seems like in the near future people will start understanding more for themselves what’s the difference between video conferencing and a virtual classroom because they’re gonna be using it and it seems like universities are also taking note and they’ll be incorporating this more into the curriculum. This is something that we’re gonna see a lot more of in the coming years and decades.

Sam: Yes, certainly you’re going to see more and more with the development of different apps or different ways of looking at apps that are going to serve very specific purposes. I can even see in the virtual classroom space there being a more specialization for specific types of learning, I mean the K-12 space might have different requirements than the training and development, corporate space. Same with higher ed. So you’re gonna see more specialization, more dedication to features that are serving those specific endpoints. Really what virtual classrooms are enabling is that kind of niche support for giving you a very specific solution for your specific needs rather than just trying to take something generic and fit that to your model. You’re instead getting a product or a solution that’s going to work with you and help you excel at your model.

Aligned with our theme of the show, we have a little bit of fun factoid.  I have one that’s quite nice. 98%, how often do you have a statistic this is 98%? 98% of organizations say they plan to use video in their learning strategies. Why? Because video is effective. I think there’s some crazy statistic where in a couple of years or if we’re not already there that 80 or 85 percent of all web traffic today is video consumption. Obviously video is an incredibly exciting place. It’s engaging.

What’s great about virtual classroom platforms as opposed to your kind of typical video conferencing system that

relies on screen sharing is that with virtual classrooms you’re actually able to play videos as content natively within the application. If you as an organization spent tons of money and resources building amazing videos that you want to deliver both in an on-demand world – we didn’t touch upon that Danny that virtual classrooms have that whole on-demand capacity for delivering on-demand learning, just-in-time learning activities – but even in the real time space if you want to share that video and talk about that video, you’re able to get the full experience. If you would screen share a video, then you’re gonna have two major problems. You’re gonna have dropped frames and you’re gonna have audio issues.

Danny: Yeah you’re just not gonna hear that sound.

Sam: Exactly it may be you can play it from, you know, hold your headset up to that and hope the mic picks it up a little bit nicely. Anyway it’s gonna make your video not look really good. With a system that enables you to share videos natively, not only if you upload them and share them, but even by sharing YouTube or Vimeo or whatever resource of videos, sharing it in the room right there, that’s going to do a couple things for you.

When we were sitting in our classes back in the day, we will try to age ourselves Danny, but we remember when the teacher or the substitute teacher rolled in that television stack with the VCR. You know you’re gonna watch a nice tape. Right? You sat up and thought all right school’s gonna be fun today. That’s really the whole point, video is fun and it’s engaging and it’s a great resource to contribute to your learning. I just thought this was a really great stat to share to wrap it up.

Danny: No it’s really nice to hear not only about the future of collaboration but this also ties into the future of work, how things are going to be different not just in schools but in companies, how companies continue to do business and collaborate and build with their employees and fellow co-workers on different parts of the country or the planet.

Sam thank you very much for all your insights, much appreciated and thank you everybody out there for coming In The Newrow with us today. See you next time.

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Newrow Smart is the next generation Virtual Classroom platform used by enterprises, schools and facilitators worldwide to engage their employees, students, and audiences. Deliver training anywhere, at a fraction of the cost, that both engages and delights your participants, while improving business results.

Sam Thompson

Sam Thompson is VP of Product for Newrow, a company dedicated to helping corporations and educational institutions distribute their knowledge easily, elegantly and personally through virtual classrooms, webinars, and online courses. With more than 10 years of experience in B2B and educational technology start-ups, Sam is responsible for defining and executing Newrow’s product vision, business development and sales enablement, and product marketing.