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Is web conferencing the classroom of the future for the world’s children? In this blog, educators debate its value, weighing in on both its advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a deeper look at one of the most discussed debates in education today.
“Student-centered teaching,” says lifelong educator Keith Lockwood, “is the apex of the teaching and learning model.” Dr Lockwood, a former official at the New York City Department of Education who now works with Proximity Learning, believes that web conferencing gives students the best chance of maximising their potential.
The reason? With web conferencing and virtual classrooms, students can have access to the finest educational minds on the planet, no matter where they are. Traditional classrooms cannot provide easy access to international experts, but a web conference can connect students with anybody, quickly and effectively. Teachers in a virtual classroom can come from anywhere in the world.
Web conferencing's ability to expose students to a diverse range of teachers bodes well for its place in education’s future. With more and more nations embracing a global economy, the ability for students to interact with and understand people from various cultures is priceless.
Let’s look at some other advantages, as well as the disadvantages.
Whether a school is large or small, web conferencing can help to deliver high-quality learning by connecting students with widely-dispersed experts. Web conferences can be one-on-one or one-to-many. With web conferencing, even students in under-served, under-staffed areas can have access to a quality education.
Using only a computer with an internet connection, students can access classes via web conferencing, making their learning easily accessible from anywhere in the world. This is especially useful for students located in remote communities.
One teacher can educate more students at once as there are no classroom or space limits. High-quality conferencing providers do not set limits on how many people can join a web conference. Rural schools, already strapped to find more funds for teachers, can save money with remote teachers who teach through web conferences.
In traditional classrooms, students may feel intimidated about sharing unorthodox, outside-the-box ideas for fear of ridicule from the rest of the students. In web conferences, students are able to ask questions privately via chat or a one-on-one session and therefore comfortably learn at their own pace.
Web conferencing is convenient for both educators and students alike. Lessons can be held at any time of the day or night, depending on what time zones the participants are in and what time works for them. Students can also easily interact with each other and with their teachers online, just as they do socially on Facebook and other social platforms. This makes web conferencing a popular educational tool with today’s youth.
Some people may worry that students will become idle and not complete their assigned work, since they aren’t in a physical classroom with somebody there to keep an eye on them. However, according to Dr Lockwood, the reverse is true. Most students actually become more engaged in the learning process when using web conferencing as they are able to receive focused attention from the teacher and can learn at their own pace.
Others believe that struggling students won’t get the help they need without a teacher on hand. In reality, web conferencing allows students to learn at a more comfortable pace. Students can ask the teacher for more clarification or an easier explanation of difficult subject matter. Teachers with students whose test results aren’t acceptable can provide more instruction for those students until they do grasp the material.
Those unfamiliar with web conferencing may believe that it’s difficult to monitor students, since they aren’t face-to-face with their teacher. However, there's plenty of opportunity to keep in touch with students online, and students can receive immediate feedback from their teachers. Students can stay on track better with web conferencing, given the immediate results from tests and other evaluations.
Though all it takes is a laptop and an internet connection, some school systems believe they haven’t got the funds to implement web conferencing. However, most web conferencing providers offer very cheap rates.
Training teachers to use the platform could also be seen as a possible challenge. In reality, web conferencing platforms are generally easy to set up and intuitive to use, so with a bit of practice this should no longer be an issue.
Though there are some challenges to conquer before web conferencing becomes the norm in classrooms around the world, it looks to be the way of the future. Savvy educators who want to ride that wave should learn as much as they can now, so they’ll be prepared when learning via web conference inevitably comes to their schools.
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