Friday, 13 February 2009

Virtual Learning

For Matrix* boffins, you'll recall how the future of learning might be about downloading the relevant body content of knowledge and skills direct to the brain - and hey presto - kung fu expert! The whole simulated world/virtual reality issues that form the constant thread in the trilogy of films makes for an interesting starting point for a discussion about Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs).

In an early scene, Neo, the protagonist, trains his mind and learns the art of combat by entering a VLE that simulates a dojo - a classroom for martial arts. So I guess an open discussion on emerging technologies connected to learning might consider any number of possible futures especially considering the rapid scale and pace of change within educational ICT.

A Journey through Virtual Learning Environments: Initial Thoughts

It is an interesting journey that I have embarked on as a distance learning MA student in Digital Technologies, Communication and Education. I sit amongst the desert exotica of Abu Dhabi; the course is run from the University of Manchester, UK; the distance being bridged by the on-line nature of the course. Not quite The Matrix, but virtual learning of a sort? Virtual Learning Environments are currently fashionable in the ever changing world of electronic education, but let's explore:

A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a software system designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting ... [though] ... a more correct term may be a virtual environment for learning, rather than virtual learning environment. (Source: Wikipedia)

Advantages/Disadvantages? Since the MA is also run on-site in Manchester, I will explore some observations, positives and negatives of both the live class situation (face-to-face) and the virtual learning environment.

Face-to-Face (+)
Students operate in a social setting; especially positive if that is your learning style (i.e. group discussions where feedback is instant). Perhaps easier to develop student-teacher relationship and student-student relationships. Fewer restrictions on teaching and assessment styles.

Virtual Learning Environment (+)
Opportunities for communication are increased through various tools, e.g. email, announcement and discussion boards etc. Ideas can be recorded in a more permanent (electronic) form through wikis, postings to forums and so on. Increased field of reach since students can partake in class from a distance with fewer restrictions in time. Less paper-work.

Of course, there are limitations to both approaches:

Face-to-Face (-)
Time-constraints and the physical confines of the learning environment place their own limitations. Most usually a live class is not captured - so there aren't always the same opportunities for review and discussion later. Different learning media cannot be brought together as easily.

Virtual Learning Environment (-)
Technicalities - availability of web access, understanding of how some VLEs operate, disrupted access, compatibility etc. The lack of social contact requires learners to be intrinsically motivated. May suit mature learners only. Lack of flexibility if it means that all access is restricted to viewing a screen only.

*The Matrix appears on my list of favourite films.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your comments Asif, and your use of the program as a case study of sorts!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...