This being my second and also final posting relating to the topic of virtual learning, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the somewhat chaotic direction this inquiry analysis has gone.
I began with defining virtual learning within the context of MUVE – as shown in Second Life. This program/platform is new, exciting, and still in its infancy. However, as various academics and instructional designers are beginning to design and develop Second Life classrooms, I think that its important that the deeper issues of virtual learning be discussed. That is, even if a wonderful learning learning environment is created, there will always be the underlying question of: “Are people actually learning?”
Frankly, I am not the biggest fan of Second Life, but I am intrigued by it. At this point, I would like to let the trailblazing academics, doctoral students, and entrepreneurs shape Second Life as a virtual learning platform and instead focus on what it means to be a virtual learner.
Its also important to ask that no matter how fancy and 'real' a virtual learning environment can be, does humanity really want to spend its time there?
Think of the movie “The Matrix” - or go back further and read “The Allegory of the Cave”, or the “Brain in a Vat” argument. The debate then becomes a questions what is 'real' vs. 'unreal' in our experience. Sorry for getting philosophical here, but when throwing around the word 'virtual', I tend to cringe a bit, wondering why 'the real' isn't good enough.
Back to learning then.
So, we create a virtual learning environment (design, develop & evaluate it) and place students in it, then expect learning to occur, but perhaps it is not as effective as we had hoped.
One reason could be due to learner cognitive style – how people think and act to analyze and solve problems. Different cognitive styles could have different experiences within the virtual learning environment. Without elaborating on this issue, virtual learning experience needs to keep in mind how different individuals approach the virtual experience within cognitive styles (global – big picture/local narrow picture; introverted-extroverted) and build into the learning system a way to create some “cognitive flexibility” (Liu, X., Magjuka, R., & Lee, S., p. 845, 2008; Sternberg, 1997 in Liu, et al.).
My future blog will focus more on these resistance issues such as the 'digital immigrant - digital native' divide and hopefully come full circle into understanding how to best design e-learning instruction.
My final question is how can we utilize the technological virtual learning tools AND create the best learning environment possible for all learners without compromising their individuality nor the technological tools?
Liu, X., Magjuka, R., & Lee, S. (2008). The effects of cognitive thinking styles, trust, conflict management on online students' learning and virtual team performance. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 829-846.
Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Thinking styles. New York: Cambridge University Press.