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"Exploring the Virtual Classroom: What Students Need to Know (and Teachers Should Consider) " icon

Exploring the Virtual Classroom: What Students Need to Know (and Teachers Should Consider) 

Technological improvements in many countries have meant that institutions offering distance education programmes now have more options available to them to communicate and interact with their students, and increasingly, attention is being turned to the potential of Web2 technologies to facilitate synchronous interaction. This study explores the affordances and limitations of an online virtual classroom, Adobe Connect Pro, when used in the learning programmes of two groups of undergraduate and postgraduate education students. Results indicate that while both groups gained value from using the classroom, they also found it a completely new environment, and one to which many had trouble transferring the interaction and communication skills developed in other contexts. The reasons for this related to three specific areas of knowledge – technical, procedural and operational, that were identified as being critical to student performance in this environment. The study suggests that educators and course designers need to embed strategies into their online offerings to enable students to develop these, if they are to gain substantial benefit from the availability of virtual classrooms. Additionally, the study identified that when making design decisions about online learning environments, it is very much a matter of horses for courses when selecting tools for specific purposes. While the virtual classroom proved useful for developing social connection and a sense of community, it may not be so beneficial for supporting deeper learning.


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