The future of Virtual Education

A study conducted by Internships.com reported that 50% of current students believe they don’t need a physical classroom to learn. In my opinion this number is high but still has relevance on what the future of virtual education may look like. There is no doubt that the future of virtual education is going to be enormous in the years to come, we see these virtual technologies already being practiced in elementary schools. As technology breaks down barriers that now exist student and teachers will find their experiences to be better and make way for improvements when connecting students and teachers. “As new modes of online higher education develop and students use technology in greater and greater numbers within and for their academic curriculum, it’s clear that the desire for relevant 21st century jobs and career experiences go hand-in-hand,” says Robin D. Richards, CEO of Internships.com. We can see that people are have adopted these new technologies and I don’t believe our society will be going backwards, only forwards in the future. The fact that the younger generations are already being exposed to more virtual ways of education from elementary school, middle school and high school there is no question that this is what they will be accustom to by the time they reach college.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/06/11/millennials-believe-the-future-of-education-will-be-virtual/

Watch this video to get an idea about what I am talking about when explaining how technology is being used to teach children at young ages. Where was this when I was younger?!

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Virtual Education affecting the way we learn and teach?

After reviewing plenty information on the theory of technological determinism we can see a concern with the effect of new technologies, such as course management systems in the virtual world. It is obvious that these course management systems are changing the way we learn. The easiest way to comprehend this change can be understood by a simple example. Before course management systems, whether you may be taking an online class or physical class that you must attend at a university the way we would communicate with a professor was going to his office and actually speaking to them. Face to face conversations, non-verbal cues, longer, more meaningful conversations. We have now replaced this with an impersonal email that begins and ends with absolutely no personalization.

This brings me to the topic regarding the effect of these course management systems such as black board on the aspect of teaching and learning. From a personal stand point I have expressed that the value of complete online courses for me is not as great compared to an in class lecture. We must acknowledge that everyone learns differently. Where I may be retaining information much better through a face to face lecture someone else may be retaining information much more effectively though an online lecture or simply reading the chapters. I found an interesting article that shares the five factors that affect online student motivation. The factors include empowerment, usefulness, Success, interest and caring. This struck me in particular way because all these different factors seem to be effortless when a course is taught in person but when it’s taught online clearly it is much more of a task to achieve these goals.

http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/five-factors-that-affect-online-student-motivation/

Are societal factors leading the usage of course management systems?

With online courses now offered at 97% of the two-year postsecondary institutions and 89% of public universities in the U.S it (Essary, 2014) is clear to see that course management systems have been adopted in the world of virtual education. Demographics has made a big impact on the wide usage of course managements systems. For example, research shows that students are now likely to take online courses at a different university of their choice even if it isn’t in there region. The usage of many course management systems does have a demographic factor because it makes it easier for us as students to go to the school of our dreams without even physically attending the University. When thinking about this factor I immediately thought about the predicament my good friend was in. She was accepted to Nova University for their PhD. Program but the school was in Tampa while she lives four hours away in Miami, my friend at the time did not have the money, nor flexibility to pack up and go to Tampa, then it occurred to her that this program could be done online with flexibility for her to work from home and at her job. She’s now two years in to the program, the online classes are a gift to her and without the ease of course management systems she may not have been able to attend grad school. This I just a simple example of how demographics have led to the wide usage of course management systems.

Another aspect of course management systems I found really interesting was the technological aspect of them. As a student I feel like I can share some insight with my readers and explain how even if we as students do not choose to take an online course and enter the world of virtual education we are still forced to deal with course management systems. Like we spoke about earlier, these systems are now a normal aspect of curriculum for higher education. Many of my classes that I attend twice a week for an hour and forty five minute lecture still require the use of these course management systems in a major way. It’s interesting to see how technology has taken over, we use course management systems to communicate with professors, peers and so on. It does not stop there, these systems such as blackboard at FSU are our home base for our courses. We print our lecture materials, project materials, discussion boards and even check out grades through the systems.  I think it’s safe to say that these technological advances at instantiations all over America has definitely led to the usage of course management systems in our society today.

Essary, Michael L. “Key external factors influencing successful distance education programs.” Academy of Educational Leadership Journal 18.3 (2014): 121+. Academic OneFile. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

Technological Determinism and the growing world of Virtual Education

The selected communications theory I have chosen to examine in order to explain the topic of Virtual education and course management tools to my readers is Technological Determinism. For those who aren’t fully aware of how this selected theory works I am going to give you a run through of the selected theory and make it understandable. This will pave the way for our future discussions about virtual education and course management tools such as Blackboard, Moddle and Sakai that are used at Universities around the U.S.

The overall idea of Technological Determinism is that technology drives social change. To give you a simple idea of Technological Determinism we can start to think about the way smart phones has begun to control our society. I know we can all agree that the idea of smart phones at the dinner table or outings with friends has become sort of an annoyance in our society today, but somehow something that cannot be avoided. We can also agree that younger generations have also let these smart phones have some control over their life and have this desire to be constantly connected.  The infection of needing to be connected to others virtually has become an uprising in the last 10 years with the rise of smart phones. They lead us to have constant access to our friends through texting and social media, we know find ourselves more interested in posting our “selfie” on Instagram then being in the moment and enjoying the ones around us. The most famous technological determinist, Marshall McLuhan expressed his concern with technology by arguing that “in society’s zeal to conquer technology, we might progress in technology, but we would regress as a culture. Whereas technology could extend human capabilities in one way, it would cut off others.” This quote makes perfect sense when referring to virtual education as we will see throughout the blog.

Tying the theory of Technological Determinism to virtual education is just as easy as connecting the theory to the use of smart phones and the impact they have on our society. We see virtual education and course management skills driving our society in obvious ways. For some this information may be irrelevant because they do not take place in the online education community but they can take a quick look at their kids, grandkids, peers, coworkers and so on and realize just how prominent the rise of virtual education is and how it is shifting the way we learn.

Straubhaar, J., LaRose, R., & Davenport. (2014). Media now: Understanding media culture and technology (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Personal Insight on Virtual Education

So the big question remains. Is virtual educating hurting us, or helping us? As I think about the topic I reflect on my own experiences. I have taken over 5 online courses along with semi virtual classes where there is a class one day and is then integrated with the online portion. From my point of view, everything in life has positive and negative aspects. Throughout my blog I plan to bring up recent, interesting topics so together we can gain some insight into the quickly changing world of virtual education.

So when does it begin to be too much? Students love the flexibility of online classes but end up missing assignments, not applying themselves and find themselves uninterested in a topic they might have loved had they taken the course in person. From a personal experience I would say online courses are something you have to master, they are something that can be your biggest downfall or your greatest skill. Like I said, it becomes a skill so you must master these skills and must program your brain a little differently. Things that change from virtual to physical? You need to write down due dates vs. physically going to class and being constantly reminded of quizzes, papers, assignments. This is just the beginning, we replace lectures for readings and professors with google. When creating ideas for this blog I thought it would be a good idea to ask my roommate some questions regarding her experiences with virtual education. Her reply, she hates them. Simple and to the point, so I began to ask her why? How could she hate this tool that has been given to us to create flexibility and ease throughout our college experience? She brought up great points, we don’t learn as much, we aren’t actively listening to a professor that has experiences with a topic you should be interested in considering it’s your major. She’s a criminology major and expressed that all her professors have been really interesting. She explained she wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity of meeting and learning from these professors over a whole semester. She had a point, we attend great universities with professors who are masters in the subject we choose to study. Should we really be encouraged to take online courses and miss the opportunities of learning through physical, active lectures that require in class participation and discussion? The following post will give some insights to virtual education as well as help understand how its impacting our society and how it will affect our future.

Welcome!

This blog will explore a major question regarding Virtual Education in Higher Education. Is Virtual Education hurting us, or helping us? I will use my own experiences, along with information and knowledge to create thoughts on this growing topic.

Stay tuned!

-Shannon