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Getting started with setting up a virtual classroom

Bryan Smith
December 19, 2019

The act of transferring knowledge from one person to another always has some technological aspect to it. We note the beginning of history as when writing was invented for a very good reason, after all.

As an educator you will likely already be acquainted with how teaching fundamentally follows alongside technology. From the first clay tablets to handheld tablet computers, and everything in between – standardized textbooks, overhead projectors, whiteboards replacing chalkboards, and smart boards replacing whiteboards – teaching has adapted to every technological medium it has needed to in order to pass knowledge and skills from one generation to another.

In the age of social media and the internet, virtual classrooms are just the next necessary step in that process. So it is important for the survival of your teaching subject for you to understand and use this technology in order to effectively get it absorbed in the younger generations.

How to get started

Before creating a virtual classroom, it’s worth doing some research on what software solutions are available to you. There is some importance in selection, because of certain technical and practical requirements that your individual case may have.

Samba Live is in the goldilocks zone for institutions like universities. It’s more professional and focused than a YouTube stream, and it’s not quite as dense as other webinar software solutions.

Modern specialty software solutions that cater to this need are point-and-click levels of easy for instructors to start with. Nothing should be unfamiliar to the point of feeling as though you can’t use or understand the software for what you need.

If you have ever used Skype or FaceTime, you can take a traditional classroom into a virtual based educational experience for your students to digest either as a supplement or even as a replacement to the physical classroom for pupils who can’t physically attend.

Take the first step

Once you’ve found the solution that you want to use, you will have to make an account with the software provider that you will be using. From here you’ll have to familiarize yourself with what the platform can do for you, and importantly, where you can find technical help with any problems you may encounter when familiarizing yourself with video streaming and recording.

It’s useful to have access to tech support forums and platform-specific guides for how to use the platform itself. But beyond that, it’s supremely helpful to be able to contact an actual person to assist you if you can’t find what you are looking for on FAQ threads. Samba Live by Digital Samba has dedicated technical support staff for university and institutional users, which is a must-have resource for long-term support.

Set it up

During your research phase, you may want to look into what types of software requirements or technical limitations that each solution has. Some will require screen-capture or video streaming software to be used along side it, like OBS. Others have that built-in (Such as Skype).

Some options will have restrictions and limitations.

You may have some need, or want to change something for your audience that may not be available with all platforms. Most of the time though, what you need are screen-capture, and a live feed from a video camera in order to present your material.

You may want other options as well, such as recording, polling options, and Q&A – so make sure that if you want to use those that the platform you select has those available.

Get a web camera or perhaps several, and make sure that you have a computer that can handle multiple video feeds. These will capture your physical presence for your digital audience. Prepare your presentation material either physically or digitally on your computer, and dry-run your set-up to make sure that your set-up is what you envisioned.

Go live, for the first time!

Once you are set up with a software platform and configuration that works for you, the rest quickly becomes second nature. It really is just like normal instructor led classroom environments.

Education is fundamentally about the sharing of ideas, and ideas flourish in digital environments. You, as the instructor, will quickly form productive habits of presenting, recording, and refining the process in which you teach your students.

Watch your teaching flourish in the digital landscape

As you refine your process, you will discover how to leverage all the features of your chosen platform to truly revolutionize your entire job. Some of these very powerful tools include built-in scheduling, assignment-management, notifications and updates, back-ups of your live lessons, and archivable student questions. You can utilize on-screen whiteboard features to sketch out or explain an abstract concept as intuitively as you would use a physical whiteboard.

Students will be engaging with your material from the devices that they are most comfortable with and spend most of the day using. Your lessons will be as accessible and interactive to them as their newsfeed. Building the skill-set of conducting a virtual classroom is the single most important habit to integrate your learning experience into the way people live today. If that does not happen, then what you have to teach will be competing against the entire lifestyle of young people today rather than working with it.

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