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A virtual classroom where you’ll actually want to be

Written by 
Aletta Hiemstra

Schools around the world are pressing pause on in-person instruction this month, but that doesn’t mean that instructors and students have to return to a grid of squares.

Kayvon in his office hours room with virtual boba drinks.

Kayvon Fatahalian, a computer graphics professor at Stanford, is convinced that virtual can be a lot better than you think. To give instructors everywhere a taste of what’s possible, he created a free virtual classroom template that supports synchronous live lectures (with recording) for up to 500 students, small working groups, and office hours.

Key elements in the virtual classroom, including a question board, chat, and step to mic feature.

Since Fall 2020, a number of Stanford professors have successfully leveraged the virtual classroom. They've found that they can easily tailor it to their specific needs, from selecting theme colors to the number of social rooms.

Instructors can customize the main menu with just a few clicks.

Not to mention that instructors can keep their virtual classroom forever and return to the same familiar space whenever they want. Some are even using it for group study and office hours alongside in-person instruction.

As for the students? In ohyay, they can: 

  • Leave their cameras off the majority of the time while still engaging via chat, a question board with upvotes, and emoji reactions — including a “sheesh” audio reaction
  • Step to the mic when they want to be seen and heard
  • Hang out around an animated fire pit and invite their friends to join
  • Bring virtual boba drinks to lecture and hand them out to friends (instant popularity, anyone?)
  • Talk to teachers 1:1 in private office hours rooms and sign up to receive text notifications when it’s their turn 
The "Hipster Prof" office hours option.

PhD student Tzu-Sheng Kuo, who hasTA'd two Stanford classes on ohyay, believes that "the platform offers teaching opportunities that were not possible within physical classrooms," he said. "For example, we played a talk relevant to our lecture in a movie theater each week."

For one Human-Computer Interaction class with more than 200 hundred students, Tzu-Sheng used ohyay to host a project expo with virtual check-in tables, an auditorium, poster areas, and multiple social spaces.

"Students really enjoyed the emojis, chat, question boards, and more. The variety of rooms and features make ohyay worth a try for remote teaching," he said.

Click here to make the virtual classroom template your own and find some other helpful resources below: 

Email us at team@ohyay.co or DM us on Twitter if you'd like help setting up your space!

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Aletta Hiemstra

Community & Communications at ohyay