A virtual classroom platform makes it possible to offer eLearning in multiple synchronous formats. There are several well-regarded vendors and products to choose from, though, and it can be hard for a new eLearning developer to select a platform. Here are some questions that can help with that decision.
1. What type of eLearning will you be doing?
Is your eLearning going to be primarily presentations or hands-on training?
The type of eLearning affects the extent and type of learner participation and could determine class size. The tools that your virtual classroom platform must include might be different for different types of eLearning, because you might emphasize different types of interactive participation:
A presentation or webinar can (and should) include interactivity, but it might tend toward polls, questions, and chats.
On the other hand, training entails learning and practicing a new skill. That skill might be using a software tool, or it might be role-playing and other discussion or talk-based participation. For this, you’ll want to be able to share a whiteboard and screens, set up breakout discussions, and more.
The type of eLearning also should be a factor in determining class size. A presentation or webinar might be presented to dozens or even hundreds of learners; a hands-on training, to be effective, should be limited to a small number of learners.
Class size and the type of interactivity are key factors in choosing a platform.
2. What technical infrastructure is available—and what limitations must you contend with?
Will you be hosting the virtual session from an office with an excellent Internet connection and full IT backup? Or from home or a coffee shop with questionable Wi-Fi? Is using VOIP an option? Do you need to integrate this eLearning with a corporate LMS? Knowing the situation can make the difference in choosing a platform. It will also help you prepare a backup plan—and a backup for your backup. What will you do if the Internet is down? Do you have spare equipment in case of a failure?