What does it mean to say we live in the “information age”? Twenty years ago most people would agree that in order to complete a course they would have to be sitting at a desk with a hundred other students, watching their teacher write on a chalk board and lecturing students on streams of media communication – the traditional university schooling one would call it. Who would have considered or thought that a virtual classroom could be possible for completing a course?
According to Robins and Webster (2002), “The ‘virtual university’ is becoming a commonplace idea or trope.” I feel there are a lot of positives when it comes to learning in a virtual environment, such as convenience and time. Many of us are so busy trying to juggle work and family matters that if we wanted to pick up a course, it would be difficult to fit the location and schedule of a traditional classroom setting into our lifestyle. However, the information age has brought the virtual university to us, by giving us the opportunity to engage in online learning. It is shocking to think that 20 years ago this would be not possible! Bennetsblog claims that, “I feel like with virtual universities there are a lot of positives for people such as convenience, time and the fact that you don’t have to pay as much as traditional schooling.”
Despite the positives of the virtual classroom that Bennet mentions, such as, time, convenience, and cost, Robins and Webster proclaim in their book that virtual classrooms also pose many issues toward higher education. For this post I will be discussing some of the issues Robins and Webster claim about the virtual university. One of the many concerns is the importance of distinguishing the futurological predictions of the “University of the Future” (Robins & Webster, 2002). It is great to have access to an online classroom. However, I feel learning in a more traditional classroom is just as important. Attending university can teach students to attend class on time, be punctual, and learn oral and communication skills more so than an online setting can. Most importantly, students are able to work/participate together on projects where they are able to learn to work as a team towards a common goal. It is practically impossible to acquire such skills if a student is learning online, yet these skills are essential to the working world.
Still, an online classroom can give students a chance to educate themselves because taking a course online is very accessible and flexible. On the other hand, the effectiveness of the education medium depends on the learning style of that particular student as well. I am a very visual and hands-on learner (I have to see the teacher, put a face to him/her and hear/see the lecture). Therefore, I find it very challenging to learn in a virtual world. Hence, the virtual university may not be for everyone – but, with the ongoing enhancement of technology how many more courses are going to be taught in a virtual classroom? Educators might think increasingly that the virtual university may be a great tool to increase the intellectual society; however, many students who learn better the way that I do may get left behind.
The Virtual University By Kevin Robins and Frank Webster