EXAMINING THE NATURE OF VIRTUAL EDUCATION AND THE "MODERN" CLASSROOM
Carleton University (CANADA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-7 July, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:This will be a joint presentation featuring Amanda Black and William Wilson. We are both teaching assistants at Carleton University (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada); we work for the Department of Law. Our teaching responsibilities are divided into two parts: 1) we are responsible for running a traditional classroom; and 2) we are responsible for constructing, updating, and running an online classroom. We would like to share our experiences with the latter. The online classroom offers distinct advantages and disadvantages in comparison to traditional classrooms. Specifically, the availability of instant communication, file downloads and peer discussion groups benefits both teachers and students. They ensure a lively learning atmosphere that is rich in information. However, there are also unique problems associated with online classrooms. For example, student activity is generally passive; it peaks during major paper or exam periods. Likewise, students are unlikely to message teachers or their peers unless there is a pressing need for such contact. At other times, it becomes necessary to monitor online discussion groups for improper, erroneous or vulgar content.
Our presentation will highlight the strengths of online classrooms, demonstrating the unique benefits that they provide to teachers and students. It is important to note that teachers and students may not always enjoy the same benefits. From the teacher’s perspective, the ability to monitor online activity will help in determining participation grades; students might hold a contrary opinion about this ability. The presentation will also explore some of the problems posed by online classrooms, including those mentioned above, and offer advice on how to solve or avoid them. For instance, student participation on discussion boards increases slightly when they are allowed to post anonymously and there is a similar increase when non-academic topics are posted. Nonetheless, these tactics contain problems of their own. Anonymous postings can be abused and non-academic topics can preoccupy students, diverting their attention from course material. Bearing this in mind, such tactics should be used with caution and teachers should regularly review all online discussions.
It is hoped that our presentations will provide fellow teachers with a useful understanding of the distinct advantages and disadvantages of online classrooms. In addition, we will provide some suggestions for overcoming such disadvantages and offer insight about possible future uses for online classrooms.
Keywords: virtual learning, online classroom.