Little known only a few years ago, the virtual classroom is now synonymous with the e-learning sector. These days, the majority of online training offers a remote component to be completed in real time. The role played by synchronous and asynchronous learning must be examined closely in a remote training situation. As would be expected, employing a virtual classroom model generates a growing interest in the development of synchronous interaction.

Let’s now take a closer look at what virtual classrooms are all about from their benefits to the way it meshes so well with e-learning.

The virtual classroom, also known as a webinar, is a synchronous training model where the trainee is on his/her computer or mobile device from which her or she follows an online training program led by a trainer. They allow for people to exchange in real time through images, audio and text. Often referred to as visioconferencing, it is a collective functionality during which other learners can interact: they can see each other, communicate live or through chat, share files and work in groups.


Private training organizations and those in the education sector are the main stakeholders, but managers and companies are starting to turn to this type of training. This is not to be confused with e-learning in an asynchronous training situation (which can be a method used if the trainee so chooses) where a virtual classroom does not include a trainer.


There are several arguments in favour of virtual classes, here are the main ones:

  • Better absorption of knowledge: Considering a person’s concentration span contributes strongly to it.
  • Autonomy and motivation: Supporting learners via virtual classroom tutorials throughout a classroom and/or asynchronous e-learning training course motivates learners and makes them more autonomous.
  • Reduced feelings of isolation and creating a sense of belonging: This makes it possible to “create a remote presence” which reduces the feelings of isolation which are responsible for most drop-outs from remote training.
  • More interaction and participation: Students question the trainer more, ask for clarifications, rewordings, and examples. The flow of speech is continuous, and there are fewer breaks. Chatting also allows for simultaneous exchanges to occur.
  • Time structuring: learners seek fixed appointments that provide time references and structure the pace of work.

In light of these strengths, it is fair to question the value of the complementarity of synchronous and asynchronous training. The virtual classroom is a good way to reintroduce on-site training to the e-learning classroom which often lacks the exchange between individuals physically. Moreover, most trainers combine the virtual classroom with other teaching tools such as on-site or asynchronous e-learning modules.

To conclude, the virtual classroom is the result an adaptation to the needs expressed by companies over time, namely a need to train on a large scale, often internationally, and both quickly and affordably. While e-learning modules are often criticized for their lack of engagement, the combination of different functionalities is a considerable asset because they complement each other perfectly.

Caroline Irrmann, web editor