Teaching in a virtual environment provides for unique experiences for both teacher and student. Synchronous or live instruction in a virtual class reveals unique characteristics about the teacher, and the students, in the context of behavior which suggests unique and thought-provoking possibilities.
Traditional classrooms designed around teacher directed instruction demonstrates through literature, and anecdotal experience, that students are cautious at best and risk aversive at worst when it comes to teaching and learning. Students have a tendency to be quite concerned with the perceptions of their peers and the feedback they may receive from the teacher. Best practices in instruction are characterized by a motif of supportive environments where students are provided emotional support and constructive feedback when making errors. Therefore, it is critical that students feel supported in making errors--it is the manner in which human beings learn authentically.
Curiously, the virtual environment provides a rare opportunity for students to experience learning environments in a virtual construct, channeling peer interactions, towards positive learning outcomes. In other words, students seem less inhibited in terms of engaging the curriculum and generating their own thoughts and ideas through a reflective process. In observing students and their concerns or questions through the transactional process in the virtual class their “ego” is less of a priority. Students exhibit a greater willingness to participate and engage teachers in their learning with a diminished fear of peer or teacher feedback. This can have profound implications for virtual learning and the future of education globally. Thus, teachers or facilitators must be aware, and capable, of designing an instructional methodology matched to the individual students learning arc. With thoughtful attention paid to the student’s instructional plan in virtual environments there exists an opportunity, and an increased possibility, of cultivating independent and recursive thinkers committed to lifelong learning.
Current research and educational pundits theorize that burgeoning initiatives in artificial intelligence (AI) and rapidly accelerating technological advances, that it will be incumbent upon students and the future generations of society to perpetually self-educate, prepare and nurture individual students in a process of lifelong learning. Virtual teaching is a new frontier in the evolution of education. Student and teacher preparedness is the best means by which to ensure the long-term viability of a free and independent democracy. When considering the unique challenges and opportunities in the virtual educational construct there can be nothing but profound implications for how we teach and how students learn.
Keith Lockwood, Ph.D.
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