Virtual Learning Spaces
What is a virtual learning space?
The term virtual learning environment can mean different things to different people. According to Holyoke (2002) “A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is learning management software that synthesizes the functionality of computer-mediated communications software (e-mail, bulletin boards, newsgroups etc) and on-line methods of delivering course materials”. To put it simply, a virtual learning environment is a set of teaching and learning tools designed to enhance a student’s learning experience by including computers and the Internet in the learning process.
The principal components of a VLE package include curriculum mapping to support breaking curriculum into sections that can be assigned and assessed; learner tracking; online support for both instructor and learner; and electronic communication tools such as email and Internet links to outside curriculum resources. Furthermore, a VLE is not only a well-structured information space but also includes the functional relationship between how information is structured and represented and how it can be used in learning activities and interaction (Dillenbourg, 2000).
Furthermore, a virtual space is any location where people can meet using networked digital devises. A learning space in a VLE is designed to extend classroom-based learning where students are not only active, but also actors (Dellenbourg, 2000). As a result a Virtual Learning Space encompasses the full range of places in which learning occurs, from real to virtual, from classroom to cyberspace, (Brown, 2006). But what are the characteristics of a virtual space?
The key features of a learning space are:
1. True-to-life - more or less fidelity to real-life models
2. Synchronous - more or less requiring real-time chatting with others to learn (v. self-paced)
3. Asynchronous – email discussion threads
4. Interactive – chat, blogs, wikis
5. Generative - more or less generating mental models through metaphor - leading to learning outcomes
6. Dynamic - more or less flexible to revision (vs. permanent)
7. Situative - more or less supporting a learning community's existing social framework
8. Authoritative - more or less enforcing a single speaker's authority (vs. collaborative)
9. Institution itself – institutional in scope, their implementation involves the institution’s culture, tradition, and mission (Learning Space, 2006). The Institution itself has to do with the Design of Learning Spaces. The Virtual Environment Designers used existing physical environments in order to create the virtual learning spaces. For instance the BGSU Island we can say that it remind us the BGSU Campus.
Based on the learning spaces described on Wikipedia we visited the five categories:
1. Auditorium classrooms,
2. Informal and personal classrooms,
3. Open box classrooms,
4. Self-paced classrooms,
5. Hybrid self-paced and community gathering classrooms.
Pedagogical Model for Virtual Learning Spaces
Peters (1999) developed a pedagogical model for virtual learning spaces and online education. Peters developed several different ways that students learn in an online environment:
* Learning by discovering and experiencing – Students are capable of planning, organizing, controlling, and evaluating their work themselves.
* Learning by exploration – Students can select the learning paths themselves on the basis of their own interests and associations, and at their own strategy.
* Learning by searching for information – Students can use digital libraries, search engines, etc. Information can be found on an international level.
* Learning by communication – A digital communication space is used, specifically email, d