Face-to-face small group learning is best done in a physical space, however we can get close to this experience, at a much lower cost, via online video conferencing. Free commercial tools such as Google Hangouts allow individuals with a common learning objective, but living in different geographical locations, to form close mutually supportive learning communities. We have found that one of the most significant barriers to online learning are the isolation, confidence and communication issues of potential learners. Tackling this problem is a core objective of the Viral Academy.
However the Viral Academy is not just about online learning, the methodology is just as applicable to physical space. Viral Academy courses can be taught in traditional classroom settings, or more informal spaces. This practice is what is know as Flip teaching or flipped classrooms, and has been shown to have significantly better course completion rates when applied to online courses.
We believe that it is not necessary to think of courses as either online, or offline. This conceptual separation of online learning versus physical classes is not helpful. Of course online resources and interaction is part of education. The question is what is the best way to integrate these experiences. In the Viral Academy we encourage small groups to get together in physical space and to team up with individual online students, or even another team of two or three students sitting together at another location. The teamwork can then take place by having a video projector at each physical space enabling a natural dialogue between both remote participants and the person sitting next to you. The emphasis is on group work and interaction, not whether this is online or offline.