Navigate 1 – Commercial vs. Open Source Virtual Classrooms

I am writing this post  for Navigate unit of Georgia Professional Online teaching course.  Here, we will compare commercial versus open source software with respect to synchronous learning in a virtual classroom.

In a previous post, we observed that in a virtual classroom,  Synchronous Learning takes place when both educator and students interact together at the same time using tools such as:

  • Video Conference/Skype / WhatsApp Group video Chat
  • Live Screenshot /Live whiteboard
  • Live Classroom/
  • Instant message / Chat
  • Facebook Live


These software may be commercial or open source.  Even Though, usually the school district decides which kind of software is allowed in a classroom, an educator should be familiar with them.  



Often, the combination of open and commercial softwares are used to provide maximum benefits to students.   

What are the issues when choosing between Open Source vs. Commercial Software?

Cost, control over the software, ease of use, security, training required to operate as well as maintain the software and support are some of the issues when choosing between open source versus commercial software.  Below we are comparing some of these attributes.

What is the Open Source Vs Commercial Software


When would an open source application take precedence over a commercial product?

The Open Source  Software will take precedence over the commercial software when both have same ease of use and requires similar expertize to use and maintain them but the commercial will cost more while open software will save $$ to the educational institution.  Let us concentrate on Video Conference as Synchronous application using the comparison table from GA Professional Learning.


Synchronous Learning Tool

Looking at the information above, at this time BigBlueButton, an open source software for a video conference seems like a good choice over multiple commercial softwares available for the same purpose. 

Navigate 1 – Delineating Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning

For this post I have  created a flyer using Smore  to describe Synchronous & asynchronous learning in a virtual classroom as discussed in the Navigate module of GA Open Teacher Training Course.

In a virtual classroom, the educators and students are not required to be in the same classroom, or even the same continent.  In the same virtual classroom, I may have a student from same town and another from a continent away.  By its design, an educator & the institution they are employed may choose to deliver content by various means such as blended learning, hybrid learning, synchronous learning and/ or asynchronous learning. It is common to have some overlap of these styles as well.  The common elements in each of these methods are: 

  1. The instructor facilitates learning by having content available to the students as per course guidelines.  Students are required to be familiar with the syllabus and expectations and take proactive approach by making sure that they have access to internet, learning device and know how to get help when needed.
  2. There is a set time frame where overall learning needs to take place. e.g., a unit may be completed over 9 weeks in a K-12 virtual school or A student at City University must how content mastery by end of the semester. 

 A = not,        Syn = same,       Chrono = time

Synchronous Learning: Students and educator(s) meet at online at set time to learn and collaborate online in real-time.  The educator aims to present formal instruction and offer continued student interaction.  A video conference between Dr. J and his students of Critical Reasoning Class to discuss effects of passing of Net Neutrality bill is in example of synchronous learning.

Asynchronous Learning: Educator facilitates content delivery such that students learn access the material, lessons & activities  at their own pace & do not require to working in real time.  A discussion board question among Dr. J and his students of Critical Reasoning Classon effects of passing of Net Neutrality bill where students are required to response and give feedback to three of their peers is in example of asynchronous learning. 





The Asynchronous & Synchronous learning pictures are made using Quotes Cover

Will Rogers picture is created using adletters


Further Reading: 

San Francisco-based writer, Paul Signorelli‘s Building Creative Bridges blog post, Synchronous Sessions, Asynchronously: Blending Meetings, Learning, and Digital Literacy

Michigan State University College of Education’s Learning 3.0: Face-to-face, Online, Hybrid

The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation’s interactive Blending Learning Model Definitions

eLearners article: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Classes