Friday, November 14, 2008

Virtual Learning Spaces

Virtual Learning Spaces

Melanie Alt
Christopher Pappas
Christopher Pittman

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
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, discussion boards, virtual conferences, etc.
  • Learning through collaboration – This includes: computer conferences, virtual seminars, the on-line classroom, online games, simulations, and group projects.
  • Learning through storing and information management – This is the way that students handle information they regard as important, searching and finding, remembering and checking, comparing and relating, becomes more significant and is integrated into the learning process.
  • Learning through representing and simulating – Repetition, training or application activities being used to help students retain information they learned. (Otts, 1999, ¶12-44)
Future of Education

There are several factors that will affect education in the future. These factors will enable many changes to the way that education exists today.

Unlimited wireless access

One factor affecting education is wireless access (Slowinski, ¶2). Slowinski (2002) wrote, “Without a doubt, the most powerful emergent trend to impact society is wireless technology,” (¶2). Currently, most locations on the BGSU campus have wireless capabilities, including outside areas around the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, allowing students to access the Internet while sitting outside on the grass,

In addition to surfing the net, the wireless access outside the classroom allows students to be able to choose where they want to work on homework. They are no longer restricted to their home or library. With wireless access in several restaurant chains, hotels, airports, etc. (Slowinski, ¶2-3), students are able to choose their work environment and location. If a conversation arises regarding a certain topic or issues, students can instantly explore online in search of an answer. They don’t have to wait until they get home to search for information.
Smaller technology devices

In addition to wireless Internet access, students will be able to afford smaller technological devices that will aid in their education. Slowinski (2002) wrote:

Students will begin to maximize their learning through customized and individualized learning. With one-to-one computing, brought about by powerful, smaller and thinner devices (PDAs and Web pads), teachers will finally be able to offer meaningful, formative, ongoing assessment targeting individual needs, (p. 18).

Slowinski (2002) also wrote that devices should be available and affordable (p. 18). In addition, Galloway, et al. (2002) describes a situation in which students would benefit from using a small device and wireless Internet access. He wrote, “Students could also fully utilize a PDA by taking it with them for reference – for example a student on a biology field trip could use their device to identify an unfamiliar organism,” (2002, ¶34).

Home schooling

Sanborn, et al. (2005) predicts that “Education will take place in a variety of settings, including cyberspace and virtual reality,” (p. 28). They also wrote, “Everyday computers suffice as classrooms, and software takes care of all menial grading and record keeping,” (p. 28). Sanborn, et al. (2005) mentioned in their prediction that “home schooling is just another modern convenience to keep children where they can be safe and secure,” (p. 28). The authors believe that home schooling will become something of a status symbol by the year 2014 (p. 28).

The Education Divide

Sanborn, et al (2005) wrote, “In 2002, there will be two distinctly disparate social segments: college-educated information pushers…and manual laborers with corresponding demarcations in race and status,” (p. 29). He also went on to suggest that “A class system based on education levels will have developed” (Sanborn, et al., 2005, p. 29). This class system is a divide between the college-educated and the non-college educated people in the world (p. 29). Sanborn, et al. (2005) gave an explanation for the divide. He wrote:

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, larger family households and lower incomes have compelled too many first-generation Americans to put less emphasis on education and more on sending youth into the workforce as soon as possible. Add up the variables two decades later, and that is how the United States in 2020 has created a Third-World workforce. (p. 29)

The result of the “Third-World workforce” will include “the new immigrants, dropouts from immigrant families, and the urban poor becoming trapped in low-paying, menial jobs with no real opportunity for advancement,” (Sanborn, et al., 2005, p. 29).

Our opinion of the future of education

The reason we believe universities will still exist and the style of learning may change is that much emphasis is put on education today and will continue to increase over time. For instance, companies need more college-educated employees and encourage employees to go to school part-time while they work. In the future we believe that a college degree will be required for most jobs. A high school education will no longer be sufficient for the careers of the future.

Another reason we believe universities will still exist is collegiate sports and the effect they have on the economy. However, universities may change the style of learning as far as being in the classroom or holding classes in virtual settings such as Second Life. However, some form of physical brick and mortar where student-athletes will still live on campus or in town will exist. Collegiate sports with practices and games will continue to exist.

Today sports at the college level are becoming more of a business than in the past and that trend is likely to continue. Coaches and athletic directors have million dollar salaries. If they are not winning, they are replaced immediately because losing programs do not make money. Big corporations such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Under Armor, and many more, are sponsoring collegiate teams. Again, this trend is likely to continue in the future. Big corporations are even sponsoring high school athletic teams. For that reason alone we believe that universities with students on campus will continue to exist.

Enjoy the Slide Show presentation!


Brown, M. (2006). Learning spaces, Dartmouth College, and

Dillenbourg, P. (2000). Virtual learning environments, University of Geneva,

Galloway, W., et. al. (2002). Virtual learning environments. Retrieved, October, 2007 from

Holyoke M., (2002). “Virtual Learning Environments”,,,sid9_gci866691,00.html

Peters, O. (1999). A pedagogical model for virtual learning space. Retrieved, October, 2007, from

Sanborn, R., et. al., (2005). Four scenarios for the future of education. The Futurist, p. 26-30.

Slowinski, J. (2002). What will the future look like? The Book Report, p. 18-20.

Learning Space, (2006).


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