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What is a Virtual Classroom?

Drexel University School of Education

What is a virtual classroom? Classrooms are essentially a system of communication, which help facilitate a dialogue between teachers and students. Traditional classrooms and virtual classrooms achieve this in different ways, and there are strengths and weaknesses to each approach.

But how do you set up a successful virtual classroom? How does learning online affect students? By learning more about the characteristics of virtual classrooms, you’ll be able to create a top-notch virtual classroom setup and develop a better understanding of the advantages of virtual learning.

What is Virtual Learning?

Virtual or online learning allows students to experience their education outside of a traditional classroom environment. Universities, including Drexel, organize courses using an online platform where students can access their courses, review content, communicate with professors and classmates and upload assignments. In most cases, virtual learning is self-paced, or asynchronous, allowing students to learn at a time that is convenient for them instead of a set day and time.

The importance of virtual classrooms will only continue to grow, since they are making learning more accessible while also reducing the costs of education. If you’re interested in learning more about the future of education, request more information about the School of Education today.

Features and Characteristics of a Virtual Classroom

Virtual classrooms have many distinct characteristics that set them apart from an in-person classroom. A few include:

Asynchronous learning

In a virtual class, or online class, professors typically give students assignments to complete each week. For example, week 1 coursework for the class will become available on the site on a Monday. Students will have the full week to review video lectures and complete any readings or assignments by Sunday evening.

Message Boards

The platform that hosts the course will often include a message board where students can ask the professor a question or pose a question to the class.

Video Conferencing and Recorded Lectures

Professors will typically include a video lecture to accompany each week’s coursework. Some professors may also schedule a time for the class to meet via video conference to discuss assignments and ask questions. This gives students the opportunity to speak directly to their professor and classmates. Recognizing that not everyone may be available at a set time, Drexel professors will record the meetings and upload the video into the course folder for future viewing.

How to Create a Virtual Classroom

  1. Choose the right equipment: Crafting a virtual classroom setup from scratch is actually a multi-step process. Doing so requires compiling a list of all the hardware and software necessary for the task, as well as reflecting on their compatibility, cost, and so forth.
  2. Leverage your school's LMS, if applicable: Schools which offer virtual classes typically have their own learning management systems (LMS) to help teachers along. LMS are made to be capable of facilitating a laundry list of teacher requirements, often aiming to be able to do everything a teacher needs to do within a virtual classroom. Naturally, that includes online chats, conferencing, and assignment feedback. In a perfect world, one virtual classroom platform would allow every student unlimited access to everything necessary for the course. But in actuality, virtual class activities may occasionally need to be assembled in formats or programs that aren’t supported by an institution’s LMS.
  3. Consider how students and instructors will be impacted: Because virtual classrooms aren’t traditional classroom environments, people who endeavor to develop their own virtual classrooms have to think about how working in a digital environment will impact the workload placed on students and instructors alike. Instructors also must learn more about adapting learning techniques to digital formats, and how to create a more personalized learning experience for each student. Furthermore, coursework needs to be selected and developed with accessibility in mind. For instance, you may want to distribute a presentation through PowerPoint, but you must be sure that all of your students are able to access PowerPoint.
  4. Set Expectations and Rules for the Virtual Classroom: Either through a video posted on the opening page for the course or through the syllabus, instructors can set clear expectations for how they expect their students to conduct themselves in the course. Schools typically have policies against cheating and plagiarism that make it clear that the student must conduct their own original work. Professors usually also make it clear that students are to conduct themselves civilly and professionally on course message boards and not act with any hostility towards the instructor or their fellow classmates.
  5. Test it Out: Before launching the course, review each section to ensure that the content is visible, attachments, videos, and links are working properly and that nothing is missing. Schools typically have course design professionals to ensure students can access courses, but each instructor should review their course prior to the start of the academic term.


Rather than following a schedule dictated by someone else’s availability and someone else’s convenience, students can decide to study at the times that work best for them, while also maintaining or pursuing a career outside of school, if they are interested. Having that kind of flexibility means you can face fewer distractions, too.

Learn More About the Future of Virtual Classrooms with Drexel

With more than 25 years of experience, Drexel University is a leader in virtual learning. The School of Education offers dozens of online degree, certificate, and certification programs. Browse our programs today, or contact us to request information.