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Virtual Classroom Success: 5 Attributes You Need for Online Learning

Every college has unique needs, but providing the flexibility to teach and learn remotely can benefit all students, instructors and administrators. Virtual classrooms offer options for students  who can’t attend class in person for a wide range of reasons, and for faculty who need the flexibility to teach remotely.

When done well, virtual learning engages students with high-quality education. In order to find success in a virtual classroom environment, however, these experiences need to be carefully planned. Here are the five attributes all successful virtual classrooms share.

Bite-Sized Digital Content

When creating a virtual classroom, some educators rely on a structure that mirrors an in-classroom experience, including live, long-form Zoom lectures, similar to the traditional in-person lecture format. Unfortunately, there’s little proof as to whether these long lectures conducted exactly the same way are as effective in virtual classrooms.

Gen Z students, born between 1995 and 2010, learn differently than any previous generation. A LinkedIn Learning survey found that Gen Z students prefer bite-size learning and seek instant gratification. Therefore, it’s fair to assume that the longer you try to hold Gen Z students’ attention, the less effective your online courses are likely to be. You can work with this aspect of Gen Z attention spans by offering more frequent but shorter online class periods, or by providing “bite-sized” digital content that students can watch at their own pace.

Content Variety

According to Inside Higher Ed, courses that adhered to a particular set of best practices for remote learning saw higher levels of student satisfaction. These instructional practices included things like live discussion sessions, videos from external sources, personal messages from the instructor, and group projects.

To keep students engaged, try providing different forms of mixed media as a part of your classes. For example, you might build a class session with a short introductory lecture followed by supporting videos and small group breakout discussions. The combination of media will keep students engaged more than a single long-form talk. It also offers opportunities to incorporate multiple viewpoints, by sharing videos from other experts in the field or creating videos featuring discussion among multiple professors in your department.

The more interactive the class, the better it will be at capturing and keeping student attention. Be creative and try different strategies for keeping students engaged, and solicit student feedback to improve future offerings. Consider offering a class forum in which students can interact, discuss class topics, and ask questions. Create mobile quizzes to assess the performance of mixed media classes and reveal what students may need further review.

Online Engagement

Forty-three percent of Gen Z students prefer an independent approach to learning. They are more likely to prioritize learning if they have the flexibility to fit online courses into their schedule rather than planning their day around a fixed class time.

Technology allows educators to monitor students’ progress, so giving students this freedom to learn at their own pace is easier than ever before. For example, you can assign online readings or video clips, paired with quizzes where students must demonstrate understanding. By monitoring both engagement with class videos and quiz scores, you can gauge student involvement and understanding. Depending on class progress, you can then decide if the entire class needs additional materials in a given area, or if a given student may need one-on-one support.


Whether class sessions are held in-person or virtually, not all students will be able to attend every class. Instructors who incorporate flexibility in their virtual classroom set-up make education more accessible and help students feel supported and empowered to continue their studies.

In light of the pandemic, many instructors are observing a new set of day-to-day challenges some students face and the importance of giving options for students to engage with coursework in different ways. Students may be balancing school with a work schedule, along commute, family responsibilities, illness or injury. Different learning styles mean certain students may learn better through one type of activity over another. 

More options translate to greater accessibility and learning success. For example, some students may choose to engage in a group project while others prefer to submit an independent video assignment. Some may retain more information from watching a series of videos, while others learn better by listening to a lecture.


This past year-and-a-half has been stressful for students and teachers alike. To keep students coming back to class and motivated to learn, make class the most enjoyable, engaging experience possible. Build rapport in the class with discussion opportunities and chances for students to interact. Allow students to share resources that they found helpful or interesting in building their understanding beyond the assigned classwork. Try new ways of conveying information and respond to student feedback about what’s working for them.

Find Virtual Classroom Success with Panopto 

Panopto is committed to ensuring every student has access to education. We support colleges across the country so  students and instructors can find virtual classroom success. Contact us today for a demo on how Panopto can work for you.