While the option has technically been around for awhile in some capacity, within the last few years an increasing number of students have been learning remotely instead of in a traditional classroom.
Unfortunately, not all students and teachers have been doing well with remote learning, but this may simply be because they are trying too hard to replicate what would go on in a physical classroom. Their expectations and experience are not necessarily working well within the remote learning environment, creating frustration for students and teachers alike.
Well, like it or not, this kind of distance education is probably here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Therefore, perhaps it is time to move away from trying to reproduce exactly what happens in a physical classroom with remote learning and really begin to embrace the idea of virtual learning and all its possibilities for the future.
What is virtual learning? Let’s take a look.
What is Virtual Learning and How is it Different from Remote Learning?
If you or your children are currently involved in remote learning, you may already know that a lot of remote learning is trying to replicate what would happen in a physical classroom online.
Students are often expected to attend certain classes at certain times and can interact with their teachers and peers in a virtual classroom. You can log into these classrooms from anywhere, but you are basically still doing what you would do in a traditional classroom: listen and learn from your teacher’s lesson plans.
By contrast, virtual learning is not trying to replicate the physical classroom. Instead, it involves using computers and online tools and resources to extend and enhance the educational experience.
By using the Internet and/or other educational software, students can be exposed to different environments, activities, and ideas that may have been out of reach within the facilities of their educational organization.
Essentially, the difference between virtual and remote learning comes down to this: students can be in a physical classroom with a teacher and their peers and still be learning virtually, while the whole point of remote learning is that they don’t have to be in a classroom.
How Can Virtual Learning Improve on Remote Learning?
Virtual learning can help improve a student and teacher’s remote learning experience in a number of ways. Still, first, it’s important to reiterate that virtual learning isn’t an alternative to remote learning. Rather, it is meant to help extend and enhance the concepts learned in a traditional teaching environment, whether online or in a physical classroom.
Virtual Learning Can Be a Form of Active Learning
Some teachers have actually been incorporating virtual learning practices into their curriculums for years, such as virtual field trips and science labs. These types of experiences allow kids to explore places and do experiments that they may not have been able to do at home or in the classroom, especially those from underprivileged areas.
By incorporating these types of virtual learning experiences into their lesson plans, teachers are allowing students to passively learn and apply their knowledge to different kinds of activities and situations. As a result, there is a shift from just basic memorization of facts and figures to active learning, enhancing the student experience.
Virtual Learning Can Be Personalized to the Student
Another way that virtual learning can help improve remote learning is that it can help individualize the student experience, even though everyone may be engaged in the same activity.
This depends on the program, of course, but take, for example, interactive quizzes and tests. A student may be tasked with completing a math quiz to check their knowledge. If they get everything right, fine, but if they get something wrong, they may be presented with different options to help them solve the problem.
Perhaps they are given visual cues or provided with formulas to help them figure out answers for themselves.
A teacher in a classroom, whether in-person or online, may not have the time to address every problem or question a student may have in this type of situation. And a student, if they are having trouble, may not want to reach out to a teacher for each and every mistake anyway.
A virtual learning program that helps students work through their problems on their own can help everyone in the classroom.
How is Virtual Learning a Way Forward for Educators?
With so much uncertainty surrounding education these days, it is hard to say when brick and mortar schools will once again be fully open to students. And when they do happen, there will be even more questions.
What will become of remote learning? Will it still be an option for everyone? If not, will students and teachers have trouble transitioning back to the classroom after establishing remote learning techniques and routines?
These questions are exactly why educators should consider incorporating virtual learning into their classrooms now. Since it can be done in both physical and online classrooms if we establish good virtual learning practices and routines, it shouldn’t disrupt any transition from one place of learning to another.
Besides, as previously discussed, there are significant benefits to virtual instruction that you just don’t get from attending online and in-person classes alone.
Also, if interest and awareness of the advantages of virtual learning increase, perhaps teachers will have more access to professional development opportunities to increase and refine their virtual learning skills in the classroom.
The more educators learn about online learning, the more innovations in the field will be possible. However, who truly knows the limits to virtual and distance learning, especially if used on a widespread scale?
Instead of bringing the traditional classroom environment to remote learning with mixed results, a virtual learning environment can help educators establish a curriculum appropriate for both brick and mortar and online classrooms. Technological advances are already enhancing our lives in so many ways – why shouldn’t this be extended to education?