Understanding modern virtual learning environments

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In this first post, I want to introduce a three step methodology for understanding modern Virtual Learning Environments.

Step 1: Identify the new possibilities of the virtual learning technology

Modern technologies are more than a substitute for previous practice. They offer new possibilities beyond the practice they are replacing. Unfortunately, these new possibilities are not always easy to recognise. To assist us in identifying them, it is useful to ask three broad questions:

  1. Does the virtual learning offer new possibilities for students to learn together?

  1. Does the virtual learning change the nature of the learning activities that the

students are undertaking?

  1. Does the virtual learning enable students to make better decisions about their own learning?

Note: In subsequent posts we will unpack these questions in more detail.

Step 2: Rethink our current practice

The next step requires us to rethink our pedagogical practice, our assumptions about learning and our technology policies. How do we structure our curriculum and classroom activities to leverage the benefits of the new possibility? What can we do in our own context to encourage new practices? Are our technology policies, such as our access policies, consistent with the new realities of the virtual learning?

Step 3: Develop higher expectations for student learning outcomes

Thirdly, understanding how these new possibilities lead to increased student learning outcomes is the key to sustained higher expectations. Does using virtual learning to learn together result in broader and deeper learning? Is learning more relevant when the learner is better informed to make decisions about their own learning? Are these better informed learners more curious? What evidence do we have that modern virtual learners, who build upon the work of others, produce more creative work?

In coming posts we will use the three step methodology to deep dive into a number of key Microsoft technologies and applications so that together we can identify the new realities, challenges and outcomes they offer. Please use the comments to leave your thoughts and to join the conversation.

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