Ellen Van de Woestijne, Strategic Director of Education and L&D at Barco

Fuelled by the coronavirus crisis driven need for social distancing and spurred on by the evolution of digital technology, it is more pressing than ever for universities, academic institutions, business schools and corporate learning and development teams to embrace the growing demand for distance learning.

However, this shift online is fuelling a debate as to whether a ‘virtual’ approach to education delivers the same quality of social and emotional interaction provided by a traditional classroom setting.

Interactive engagement between students and teachers

A gifted teacher has the ability to bring out the best in their students. They encourage them to socially engage, igniting their curiosity and drawing out their passion for learning. After all, people are social beings and need emotional cues to be inspired and open their minds to new content.

Yet the majority of online learning resources are asynchronous, meaning that learning activities do not take place in real-time. This can limit the level of interactive engagement between students and teachers. Communication is instead reliant on more traditional forms of digital contact, including emails, conference calls, text-led chat groups and one-way video presentations.

While these tools can deliver course content and a measure of student-teacher exchanges, they fail to provide the intense level of collaborative engagement comparable to a classroom setting. In essence, online learning has previously been restricted to ‘hear and learn’ with little scope for social or emotional interaction. This is frustrating for both teacher and student and may result in a mediocre learning experience.

Key components of the learning experience

Despite this, we continue to see an increase in demand for distance learning, in part due to more professionals re-entering education at various points throughout their careers. Learning as a way of improving one’s prospects is now seen as a lifelong endeavour. But for many, work commitments, family obligations and journey times present very real obstacles to attending a fixed class.

We should not allow these barriers to impede personal development so we must now ask more of our technology.

As with students in a physical classroom setting, distance learners also benefit from face-to-face interaction, group participation and the ability to ask and respond to questions in real-time. Moreover, these key components of the learning experience, evolved in a digital format, can enable things that aren’t always possible in a physical classroom, such as collaborating in a workshop with someone who lives and works on the other side of the world.

A truly interactive learning experience

With advancements in digital technology, we can now deliver all of this by inviting students and teachers to collaborate in a ‘virtual’ classroom. It is now possible to deliver a truly interactive learning experience where participants collaborate, engage and respond to each other in a ‘real-time’ ecosystem that is equal to, and often more productive than, attending a physical classroom.

What’s more, the virtual way of learning suits the mindset of today’s distance learners as the majority have grown up in a hyper-connected digital world.

The virtual classroom model is set up much in the same way as a traditional classroom. The audio-visual streaming technologies and interfaces mean that participants are able to interact more naturally with their tutor and peers, so they feel socially included and emotionally involved in the academic process.

The teacher views all the participants’ faces on a wall screen and, inversely, students too can see and interact with their tutor and peers. Microphones and headsets provide the live audio. There are even virtual breakout rooms where smaller groups of classmates can work on specialist projects, the teacher can access these rooms to guide and feedback much in the same way they would in a physical setting, and then groups can return to the main ‘room’ to present back ideas.

The tutor is still able to guide the students through a lesson and undertake activities such as illustrating on a white board, answering questions and adding additional explanation in the same way that they would in a classroom environment. Physical actions, vocal intonations and nonverbal cues can be observed and responded to accordingly.

Intercultural skills are an increasingly valuable commodity in a globalised economy

The online experience is no longer focused on one-way video presentations and never-ending PowerPoints, which students often find underwhelming and unengaging. A further advantage is that students from different backgrounds and locations around the world can be brought together to learn. Intercultural skills are an increasingly valuable commodity in a globalised economy.

Additionally, it is super intuitive and easy to use. For instance, Barco’s own weConnect solution is hosted and accessed via the cloud so students do not need to download additional software and can log into a session from any device.

In this brave new world, the laptop or smartphone screen is no longer a barrier to human interaction but has the power to open up a window of opportunities for enriching hungry minds. Virtual learning will not replace the traditional classroom experience, but it will increasingly be used to compliment more traditional teaching methods, particularly where physical attendance is difficult.

Universities and institutes should welcome this shifting landscape and incorporate ‘virtual’ technologies into their own educational offering – enhancing the quality of their offer and opening up valuable new revenue streams.

Those institutions that take an early lead on this will greatly benefit, and as a society we will see distance learning become a fulfilling emotional and social experience where human interaction plays centre stage.

Ellen Van de Woestijne, Strategic Director of Education and L&D at Barco

About Barco: Designing technology to enable bright outcomes around the world. Seeing beyond the image, Barco develop visualization and collaboration solutions to help you work together, share insights, and wow audiences. 

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Neil Richardson commented on Let’s stop being so quick to axe funding when colleges falter 10 hours 45 minutes ago

Since the call here seems to include Mind the Quality,
in which ways should quality be defined and...

Abertay has published a new article: How do I qualify as a First Aid Trainer? 22 hours 54 minutes ago
FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 23 hours ago

The latest podcasts from FE News for 10/16/2021 - https://t.co/Hyjo6M7BQX
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page