The authors provide a step-by-step framework for creating and establishing a virtual classroom:
1. Needs assessment. Before doing anything, make sure there is a true need for the project you are proposing, as well as the basic infrastructure to create it. There should be a certain number of remote students who would benefit from the initiative. Also, consider issues such as institutional support and interest before going any further, and be sure to address the administrative policies and procedures (registration, admissions, etc.) that will need to be in place to offer an online course.
2. Cost estimate and analysis. Devise a quantitative cost analysis for the project and what it will take to develop it. Figure out how long development will take and what staffing, technology, and equipment will be needed to complete the development stage.
3. Planning. Create a list of your educational goals for the project and determine how those goals will be reached. Also, consider what goals will not be reached because of the limitations inherent in distance education. If there are several ways to reach one of your goals, carefully consider which is the most viable.
4. Design. Now consider how the virtual classroom will look. Consider the structure of your HTML pages, how they should be organized so that navigating them is easy and consistent. Once you have a basic template for course pages designed, double-check the layout to be sure navigation buttons are clearly defined.
5. Preparation and distribution. Consider your web-design tools carefully, remembering platform compatibility. Bring in graphics, images, sound, and video to enhance the sight, but always keep in mind the size and memory requirements that will be needed by the end-user. The host server should be fast and reliable and with a high bandwidth connection.
6. Enable communications. Consider synchronous communications tools such as those offered by ClassPoint or NetMeeting, which allow for live lectures via videoconferencing. eMail capability is a lower-cost alternative.
7. Implement online student assessment methods. How will you assess student performance? Consider methods such as quizzing for immediate feedback and online assignments for a more thorough evaluation. Decide how exams will be delivered and what steps you will take to address cheating.
8. Implement class management. Address the clerical and administrative duties that will be needed to keep the class running smoothly and determine what type of class management information is relevant, such as student progress, class promotion, counseling, and grading.
9. Set up the system. Determine which hardware and software components are needed to run the system, as well as the operating system you will use. Also consider installation, configuration, and security.
10. Maintenance and upgrades. The job is not done with development. The virtual classroom you created will need to be maintained and updated frequently. Have policies in place for backing up the system and schedules for when backups are to be performed. Address the ongoing costs involved with upgrading software and equipment. Course content and web links should be updated from time to time as well.