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Online education is the future of the education system It’s a changing world. We live in the era of technological innovation, digitization and an internet boom, and the education sector has evolved to a stage which would hardly have been believable a few years ago.
Change is often inumbrated by resistance, and bringing about any change to education, likewise has been no simple task. Only a systemic change could prompt the establishment of new teaching methodologies and the application of advanced technology in education.
But despite challenges, online learning is making tremendous progress in permeating all pillars of education, from corporate learning, to higher education, to K-12 schooling. Leaders in these areas have discovered some significant ways in which online learning is better than in-person learning, and as a result we’re seeing the widespread implementation of connected technology to drive education initiatives. With the advent of digital innovation and e-commerce, the world is your oyster where you can get almost anything and everything at the tap of your finger, without leaving the comfort of your home.
There is nothing in this world you cannot get online, so why not education? Gone are the days when the only way to learn and advance was to sit through tiresome lectures. As the number of online users grows by the day, more and more people are taking to the internet for their learning needs. Yet if you’re considering moving to online learning, it’s important to know why you should. Well, there are several reasons why online education continues to grow in popularity and is indisputably the next big thing. The factors range from the wide variety of course offerings, flexibility, and learning pace, to quality of pedagogy and networking opportunities.
Second Life is an internet-based virtual world in which people interact with one another via avatars and engage in a range of activities. They can explore the world, meet and form friendships with others and even exchange goods and services.
You use this environment to build virtual objects with the option to add interaction. You also create and personalise your avatar which can be a representation of you, the opposite sex, an animal or even an abstract shape.
Role of education in Second Life
Where does education fit into all of this? This secondlife enables people to undertake activities which include virtual meetings, training sessions and teaching via a virtual school or university. Many universities around the world have built an online version of their campus within Second Life and use this to give lectures, teach new skills or to enable students to work together on projects.
This is useful for students enrolled on distance learning programmes who are unable to undertake a traditional undergraduate degree due to a variety of factors. This type of system allows them the chance to meet and interact with other students as well as keep up to date with assignments. It can also prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness which can occur in students who work away from a university.
Many students are comfortable with social interaction online such as social networking sites, Secondlife and games. They see this as a challenge – especially if they are keen gamers, and embrace it rather than ignore it.
But there will be students who are less enthusiastic about this technology and shy away from using it. The aim then is to encourage them to overcome any hesitation and learn by exploring. They are free to make mistakes and to undertake tasks in new ways. This means the onus is on the teacher or educators to create a safe environment where they can find their feet.
The aim is to build a community in which students participate and collaborate as a way of learning about a range of subjects. They design and build new places, undertake a variety of tasks – which have been set for them by their teachers, and acquire knowledge in new and exciting ways. This guarantees an experience which they are unlikely to forget.
A new educational model
A virtual world offers a new learning model which is based upon high levels of interaction, engagement and experience. There are opportunities to learn and develop in ways which are not possible in the real world. Plus it cuts down on the need to travel to a college or university which is a boon for students on distance learning programmes.
Second Life enables many students to make connections between abstract concepts as well as understanding the basic theories. They have the chance to experiment within this type of environment and the freedom to make mistakes without the risk of censure or a lowering of their self-esteem.
Is Second Life viable?
However, there are arguments for this type of technology with opponents claiming that it has reached its ‘sell by date’ and is superseded by newer forms of technology, e.g. cloud computing. They argue that Second Life and other virtual worlds have had their moment of fame and that many users are becoming disillusioned with the technology. They are looking for the next big thing which includes cloud computing but this appears to be more of a problem in the industry than academia.
Second Life and The OU
But there are universities who continue to use Second Life. For example, The Open University (The OU for short) provides a wide range of distance learning courses on the television, internet and via Second Life.
So, we could argue that there is still a place for Second Life which should form part of any learning strategy now and in the future.
Online courses, like those offered by UPM Malaya Online, are more than just a modern application of the distance learning/correspondence course model (though they share similarities).
We utilise a virtual learning environment to share our recorded lectures and student resources. These lectures can be watched at any time, enabling students to create a study timetable that fits around their work and family commitments. Students are also able to access module notes and review assignments at any time and all of our textbooks are provided in eBook format (included in the price of our tuition fees) and Learning Management System ( Secondlife).
The difference between distance learning and online learning is that our learners also have the opportunity to discuss questions and chat with fellow students via online discussion forums, providing a valuable network of support and feedback. Our lecturers also run regular live online lectures that students are encouraged to attend, enabling them to communicate in real-time.
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