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Brightspace Tips and Tricks: How to Use Virtual Classrooms to Increase Student Engagement

  • 2 Min Read

Derk Riechers, director of the online college at Northeastern Technical College in South Carolina, tells us how using virtual classrooms in Brightspace increases student engagement.


Derk Riechers is the director of the online college at Northeastern Technical College in South Carolina, where he oversees all the distance ed and online programming. In this video and article, he shares why he loves using virtual classrooms in Brightspace to increase engagement for distance and online learners.

D2L: Thanks for joining us today, Derk. Can you tell us what your favorite Brightspace tip or trick is?

Derk Riechers: One of the coolest tricks that really helps engagement within the D2L environment is creating a virtual office or virtual classroom.

D2L: And what are you trying to solve with that?

DR: One of our biggest challenges [when teaching remotely] is having students show up online as they would show up for an on-site class. Having cool pictures, audio, video and a graphical base for students to look at so they can gauge what they must complete in a week keeps them engaged in the course content.

D2L: Can you show us what a virtual classroom looks like?

DR: Of course, more than happy to. I’ll show a few examples of our virtual classrooms that help keep our students engaged. (Please refer to the embedded video above to follow along).

Here is an example of our music instructor and her virtual office. This setup helps students understand who this teacher is.

Moving on, here’s another example, with our psychology instructor. You can see here she loves cats; she loves books. And here is Mr. Ron Stafford, our librarian. He’s also created a virtual classroom in a virtual space.

Let me hop over to D2L in our environment in NETC and I can show you these virtual classrooms in action.

All right. So here we are in Miss Nakia Holloway’s class, CPT101. As you can see, Miss Nakia is a very cool lady. She has some sunglasses on and right behind her in her virtual office is her agenda. We are on week 11, and you can see on top that the first item is the study plan, then going to Microsoft and concluding with the module of the quiz.

Let’s look at another week. Here’s Miss Nakia with her boxing gloves on. Again, this virtual environment has all the stuff students need to be successful. It’s interesting because instead of using only words for the news announcement, when students log in to our environment at NETC, they see an instructor’s virtual space. We’ve heard a lot of great things from our students. They say that having this graphical reference of what they must do for the week is so much more engaging than just having text on a page.

You can put this virtual classroom anywhere in D2L. Here you see it in the news area or the announcements area. You can also post it in the content area.

D2L: Fantastic. Do you have any advice for institutions or educators looking to implement this oin their own platform?

DR: The great thing about this is it’s completely free. The Google Slides are free, the Bitmoji characters are free — and you’ve already purchased your D2L instance. So all you have to do is combine those three together, put it in your shell and you have a great finished product that truly does increase engagement among students studying online.

Find out how you can increase student engagement using virtual classrooms by trying Brightspace today.

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