Do you want to run a virtual classroom online? Creating a virtual classroom online may seem too technical or too expensive. Or maybe you can’t imagine it working at all.
But you would be surprised to hear how many types of classes could become virtual. You can run a yoga class, give math classes, show people how to cook or almost anything you can think of.
Fortunately, there are simple tools that allow you to manage a virtual classroom online without any special technical skills. In this article, we will show you how to set up a virtual classroom and teach an online course with WordPress.
Almost anything can be taught online. Just type your classroom topic into the YouTube search bar and you’ll probably find hundreds or thousands of videos of people teaching that skill.
A great advantage of virtual classes is that you don’t have to teach them live. You can record videos in advance if you wish. That way, it doesn’t matter if it takes you several attempts to explain or show something.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen many classes that were previously in person become virtual. From a unique virtual writing retreat to a Saturday morning children’s soccer class, instructors are going online.
Taking your course online could be the best thing you’ve ever done for your business. It will allow you to reach people from all over the world and you won’t be limited by the number of people that can fit into your classroom or fitness studio.
It’s not just for large classes either. You could offer an individual service, such as math tutoring or career guidance. Much of what we cover will work for you as well.
You can create an online classroom without a lot of technical skills or expensive tools. Here’s what you’ll need.
What you will need to run your online classroom (virtual classroom)
So, where do you even begin to create a virtual classroom? There are a few key elements that you need to put in place.
To set up an online course, you will need these 3 things:
- A website or an online platform for your class. This is a place where students can find and access the content of the class.
- A way for students to register to your class.
- A way to communicate frequently with your students via email.
You will probably also want some of these 4 things:
- A way for students to talk and interact with each other, like a group or an online forum.
- Recorded members-only content (such as video or audio seminars) that students can browse at their own pace.
- Live video content with features such as interactive polls, audience feedback, screen sharing and audience questions.
- An LMS plugin or membership site to manage repeat payments, create members-only content and create different levels of your class.
Don’t worry if it looks a lot like that. We will help you choose the right tools and platforms for your virtual classroom.
Creating an online platform for your classroom
It is possible to organize an online course via a private Facebook group or a mailing list where you access videos that you have posted on YouTube.
However, these are not good options. Not everyone uses Facebook, for example. Also, Facebook or YouTube may decide to ban you without any fault on your part.
An alternative is to register on a site like Teachable. It’s a popular option, but it’s certainly not free. The most basic Teachable plan costs $29/month, and you will pay a 5% transaction fee for each additional student.
Instead of third-party platforms, we recommend that you create a website for your class. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest one is WordPress.
The best part about WordPress software is that it is completely free. However, you will need a domain name and web hosting to create a website. This is necessary to create any type of website.
Once registered, you will need to install WordPress. All hosting companies make it very easy with just a few clicks.
After installing WordPress, you will need to install a few WordPress plugins to get your online classroom ready. Plugins are like applications for your WordPress site that allow you to add essential features such as contact forms, membership restrictions, etc.
We will take a look at some important plugins to help you run your online course.
Getting students to sign up for your class
You will need a way for students to register for your class. Even if you don’t pay for the class, you will want to know how many people are planning to attend. You may also want to get information from them beforehand.
We recommend that you use the WPForms plugin for WordPress. It allows you to create registration forms simply and easily. The lite version of WPForms is completely free, but you may want to pay for the Pro version of WPForms, so that you can integrate payments into your form.
Once you have installed and activated either version of the WPForms Plugin, you can follow the WPForms instructions to create an event registration form.
You can modify the event registration form template as much as you like. Here is what a very simple registration form for a free course could look like.
Communicating with your students in a virtual classroom
No matter what type of online course you run, you will need a way to communicate with your students.
Even if you’re just running a single course, you’ll still want to be able to remind students that this is happening. You will also want a way to follow up, so that you can let them know if you are creating another class.
There are many possible ways to communicate with your students. You can send them messages on Facebook or WhatsApp, for example. However, we strongly recommend that you use email.
Why should I use email? Because almost everyone has e-mail. In addition, most people are used to giving out their email address when they register online. Asking them for their mobile phone number or Facebook details will discourage many students from registering.
It is important to use a reputable e-mail marketing service to communicate with your students. This way you can be sure that your messages will reach them. Plus, you won’t be subject to anti-spam laws.
We recommend that you use Constant Contact. They offer a free trial and excellent support.
If you create a membership site, we recommend using ConvertKit or Drip for your email service. These tools have advanced marketing automation features that you may find useful.
If your budget is very tight and you need a free e-mail marketing service, this is also possible. We recommend that you look at SendinBlue or MailerLite.
All these options are good and reliable solutions for sending mass personalized e-mails to your students.
If you use WPForms to register for courses, you can even integrate your form with your e-mail marketing service. This means that students will be automatically added to the mailing list you choose when they register.
WPForms Lite works with Constant Contact, and if you pay for WPForms Pro, you can also choose from many other e-mail marketing integrations.
Student collaboration and group interaction in the virtual classroom
Do you want your students to be able to interact with each other? If so, you will need to provide them with a simple and accessible way to do so.
There are many options here. If most or all of your students are on Facebook, a private Facebook group might be a good option. You can also create a forum on your website. We recommend that you use the bbPress plugin for this.
Another option is to create a private slack channel for your students.
If you want students to be able to interact live with each other, you will want to see how you animate your classes. Zoom, which we will discuss in a moment, is a great tool for live interactive video lessons.
Important: If you are running a course for children, it is certainly not a good idea to allow them to interact with each other. This could create serious legal problems. You can, however, provide a space where the parents of your students can interact.
Providing pre-recorded content for online classes
One way to run an online course is to record the content in advance and add it to your site. This is a good option if you feel nervous or unsure about the technology involved.
You will need a webcam if you are recording a video of yourself. You will also need a microphone.
If your budget is very tight, you can use your computer’s built-in microphone and webcam. However, better quality equipment will certainly help you produce a more professional class recording.
You can also record your screen, perhaps to display PowerPoint slides. You can do this by using specialized screen recording software, or you can run a Zoom call and record. We’ll talk more about this in Zoom in a moment.
Pre-recorded content is a great option for a class that you want to repeat over and over again. Students can easily take the course at their own pace.
When you put your content on your website, it is very important not to host your videos yourself. If hundreds of students want to watch it at the same time, it could slow down or even crash your website.
Instead, you should use one of our recommended free video hosting sites. That way, you can simply embed the video on your site, so students can watch it without using your site’s valuable resources.
If you want to password protect your content or restrict it to members only, we recommend that you create a membership site. This also allows you to charge different amounts for different levels of access.
Offer live content in online classrooms
You may want to teach your class live. This could work very well for a course that you used to teach in person and are now taking online.
For live classes, we strongly recommend Zoom. It is a tool that allows you to host video calls with as many people as you want. The free package gives you access to many features, with the only key restriction that your calls cannot last more than 40 minutes.
You can schedule meetings in advance and send an invitation to your students. They can click on a special link to log in on their computer or use the Zoom application on their phone.
Zoom has many useful options. For example, you can use it to share your screen with students. This means that you can display PowerPoint slides or illustrate an online process.
You can even use Zoom to present using an iPad, and then you can combine with the Notability app to create visual notes as you go.
Zoom also lets you see your students. They can connect with their cameras on, if you want. They can also talk to you live, but you can mute them!
We recommend that you disable everyone by default while you are teaching your class. You can let students ask questions at the end.
Zoom also provides a text chat feature that students can use to interact with each other while you teach. You can even quiz your students to find out what key topics they most want you to cover.
You can also record Zoom calls. This means that you can set up a live class and recordings that you offer to students who cannot attend live.
The paid version of Zoom also allows you to hold webinars. You can integrate your WPForms and Zoom registration form using Zapier. This allows you to automatically register people for the webinar when they register for your class.
Using an LMS or membership site plug-in
Do you want to turn your website into a virtual classroom? Or maybe you want to lock down content to ensure that only paying members can access it?
You will have to pay for this feature, but it could be worth it if you are running a series of courses. Using your site as a learning platform works well for courses that last more than a few weeks.
For example, you could run a 12-week course. Students need an easy way to refer to the material from previous weeks, and it will be difficult if you simply send all the content by email.
With a Learning Management System (LMS) solution, you can even offer quizzes and performances to students. You will need an LMS plugin for WordPress.
Our main recommendation here is LearnDash. It allows you to create as many different courses as you want, with lessons, topics, quizzes and categories. You can schedule lessons to be published over time, if you wish.
With LearnDash you can also offer quizzes and tests to your students. You can even define assignments that you can approve and comment on. It also allows you to create course-specific forums where your students can interact.
What if you don’t want a complete learning environment, but want to lock down the content on your site? You can do this with a member site plugin.
We recommend that you use MemberPress as a member site plugin. It is easy to configure and has powerful access controls. You can restrict access not only to posts and pages, but also to specific categories, tags, files, and so on.
You can use MemberPress to “broadcast” content to your students. This means that they only have access to certain content after they have been a member for a specified period of time. You can even integrate it with LearnDash if you wish.
We know that there is a lot to consider when creating a virtual classroom. You can set up a simple class on your WordPress site for free. All you will have to do is pay for your website’s domain name and web hosting, which is inexpensive.
Make sure you use a reputable email marketing service to contact your students. If you want a completely free solution, try SendinBlue or MailerLite.
For live video or screen sharing, Zoom is a great option. The free level offers a really generous feature set.
To run an ongoing class on your website, you will need an LMS plug-in or membership site.
We thank you for reading this article and hope it has helped you learn how to run a virtual classroom with WordPress.