I have been thinking and researching about how to enhance traditional virtual classroom platforms. The obvious improvements over the years have been in standardized tools such as whiteboarding and application sharing, or in terms of modalities such as quizzes, surveys and breakout rooms, or in being able to accommodate audio, video and chat streams.
Not so obvious are the improvements in terms of providing tools to the instructor to teach a particular subject effectively. From what I have seen so far, at the content level instructors and/or students could benefit immensely from adding generic or subject specific online interaction – sort of bringing multi-user games/simulations/interactions into the virtual classroom. Of course, traditional web/desktop applications on which teams could collaborate through application sharing and control, are still very useful in many situations.
However, what I am referring to is to bring structured and creative solutions into the virtual classroom platform itself.
An example of this could be in Sales. When it comes to selling a product, you would need to not only understand what the product is (etc) but you would also need to profile your customer needs in order to suggest the best product for her requirements. When we focus on developing this skill in a virtual classroom session using a simulation or game that multiple participants can use to profile the customer and implement sales techniques effectively, facilitated by an instructor/expert, virtual classrooms can come alive.
These augmentations could be built into the platform, but I would rather that the platform allows plug and play integration and service providers continuously build and innovate to come up with new ways of collaboration.
Obviously, this need not only be restricted to a simulation or game built using Flash or Silverlight, but could be one or more Web Services that could be integrated. These applications could leverage the virtual classroom context – users, presenters, groups, participation data etc. For example, imagine adding emoticons (I think elluminate has those) or blogs or tagging services to a virtual classroom session.
As a corollary, since many organizations like to record and store these sessions for future consumption by its learners, the same web services could be used by individual learners or formal/informal groups to make the recording come alive, perhaps reliving the live session sans the instructor.
I believe that this kind of an augmentation is really important to consider as more and more organizations move towards the virtual delivery platforms. I would love to hear examples of other platforms that have adopted similar approaches and augmented their platforms. Please do let me know if you have come across any.