SPATIAL DIMENSION IN VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
Nowadays Internet enables social interactions and, therefore, personal development by presenting different orders of space. There is a significant dimension generated under the interrelationship between the subject and the virtual learning space, mainly based on spatial variables. This complex relationship it is manifested throughout perceptual, emotional and socio-cognitive aspects evidenced by individuals when they are interacting with those virtual environments. Thus, the spatial factor, and how it is felt and perceived by subjects in a virtual environment necessitates a deeper analyze, as well as new ways of understanding, different from the traditional spaces, in order to improve educational and social processes developed by the technologies.
According to these statements we present the results of a recent research in which we have investigated around the spatial character of technologies integrated in virtual learning environments. We have analyzed behaviors and experiences manifested by university students from an Educational Technology Master's degree. They were asked to undertake some online activities of a unit course (Moodle built). We observed their interactions and examined their perceptions through a questionnaire, which we have designed in a preliminary stage. Data analysis was developed through quantitative methods, in order to compare their manifestation along the different technologies.
Results evidenced a combination of attitudes, feelings and socio-cognitive processes that showed how students experience technologies, which are very different one from another. The most important insight was that these evidences –some of them that did not aware for the students-, turns their practical interactions with technologies into a more or less positive and satisfactory social experience.
As a result, living via the Internet, using and transforming virtual spaces, involves converting the Web into a new area of socialization. In more tangible terms, we noticed a number of characteristics of these spaces that generate a sense of place. Thus, technologies did not originated a socio-territorial single model, but, as it has been happening always, it depends on how it is used and occupied.
1.-R+D+i project: “Interpretación del espacio en los contextos virtuales de aprendizaje”. Funding by the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (Spain Education Ministry). Dirección General deInvestigación. Plan Nacional de I+D+I 2004-2007. Ref. SEJ2005-06517/EDUC. Investigador Principal (project coordinator): Ángel García del Dujo. Tanto el director de la investigación como los autores firmantes pertenecen al grupo de Investigación de Excelencia, reconocido por la Junta de Castilla y León “Procesos, espacios y prácticas educativas”.