Distance learning has been around for a long time, and even though course work requirements tend to be similar for both distance learning and classroom instruction, communication methods have changed. Recently, corporations are beginning to rethink the benefits of providing their employees the option of working virtually because recent studies indicate communicating and knowledge sharing in a virtual environment are less effective than in a face-to-face environment. Are we living in a world where increased mobile technology is actually starting to hinder communication?
Face-to-face communication and learning can differ from virtual communication and learning. Some university instructors use a large movie theatertype classroom environment to conduct their lectures, which is less likely to encourage feedback compared to classrooms with fewer students where interaction is often encouraged. Conversely, in a virtual learning environment, feedback from fellow students on discussion assignments is required to receive a minimum passing grade. Virtual communication can be just as effective, if not more so, because of the fact that students have time to ponder their thoughts and thoroughly compose their views for other students to comment on.
Do you feel communication and learning are hindered in a virtual environment? Below is a list of benefits and challenges students face when choosing between learning in a traditional classroom environment versus a virtual online learning environment. If there are other items you would like to add to either list, please submit your comments on our DL forum.
Traditional Classroom Learning Environment:
Face-to-face classroom environment
Room designed and furnished to provide optimal learning space, closed and free of outside distractions
Limited time frame for hours of instruction
Diversity limited to local student participation
Classroom environment imposes accountability
Students motivated to stay alert, concerned about what the teacher will think
Teachers are better positioned to motivate and inspire students
Extroverts thrive in this environment
Introverts are hindered in this environment
Verbal feedback on topics usually involves only a few brave souls
Student projects are often fostered in a group environment
Traditional classroom takes more time
Virtual Online Learning Environment:
Any online area where instructors and students meet for course activities
Virtual learning space could be more distracting if designated area is not established
Students tend to be located in different states, sometimes different countries, which encourages diverse interaction
Knowledge of virtual collaboration tools and computer equipment is necessary
Open for operation 24/7
Virtual environment teaches students how to work independently
Virtual classroom saves time, especially for working individuals or full-time caretakers
Students need to learn to be self-motivated
Students learn the importance of time management
Writing discussions are required in every class if you want to pass; student writing abilities improve
Students find it easier to seek assistance from fellow students in a virtual setting
Students are free to brainstorm their own theories, which fosters creativity
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