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Essay from Tyra White – Second ThePensters Writing Contest Medalist #1

The Future of Education: The Virtual Classroom

For as long as formal education has existed, traditionally, students participate in an
on-site session, in which a teacher provides lectures. Traditional education once required library
visits, utilizing the Dewey Decimal System, and neatly printing ten page research papers by
hand. Fortunately, what is considered traditional education has shifted. While traditional
education is still heavily based on teacher-centered instruction, we’ve been privileged with
digital library systems, word processors, and various sources for research and self-study. With
these changes, a more modern, non-traditional method of formal education has become
prominent. Virtual classrooms have become common and they are very different from
traditional teaching methods. Virtual classrooms rely on collaboration, heavy use of technology,
and oftentimes require some level of student-centered instruction delivery. Although this method
of teaching is becoming more common, it does not change that there are various learning
styles, and many students still oftentimes require in-class instruction. Rapid changes in
technology may also change the manner in which students of future generations learn, therefore
replacing traditional education in the future.

Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) Framework has required
educators to “have an increased understanding of the complexities of teaching and learning
spaces, especially regarding the inclusion of technology” (Robinson and Reinhart, 2014).
Although the primary purpose of this framework is to help educators better identify ways in
which technology can be included in lectures, the TPACK framework has more recently pushed
for more technologically enhanced curricula. This is significant because it provides an
opportunity to highlight a more modern solution to a new conundrum: people, whether student
or teacher, now have an expectation that they should be able to learn or work from any location
(Robinson and Reinhart, 2014). With this, it is necessary to incorporate technological mobility
into daily interactions, including teaching. Creating alternative, collaborative, virtual classroom
spaces is a start.

Society is also moving towards a more globalized society. Mobile devices in conjunction
with the internet have enabled us to meet, connect, and do business with anyone across the
globe with very little effort. “Globalization is a progressive transformation of social structures”
(Sethy, 2008), implying that we need to continue to transform in order to keep up with
globalization. Schools, particularly universities, are currently developing strategies to adjust to
rapid globalization. E-learning and distance education are two concepts that have prevailed as a
result. These concepts help students, educators, and institutions participate in borderless
learning environments, which is necessary to keep up with the current global society (Sethy,
2008). Whether working strategies to recruit international students, developing more online-only
curricula, or enhancing the quality and accessibility of educational materials, we have to
recognize that these components are necessary for the globalized, digital future.

With globalization, another concept that has arisen is the need for digital communication.
While traditional learning in a classroom does provide some opportunity for teamwork and
collaboration, virtual learning spaces allow for a more efficient platform for collaboration and
digital communication. As society has moved more towards a digital age, digital communication
has become extremely important. Digital communication has introduced new communication
technologies that have allowed for the empowerment of teachers and students to access
unknown concepts, new theories, and enhanced levels of collaboration (Muntean, 2014).
Top-down communication such as teacher-centered, lecture-based learning, which was once
considered the norm, is now expected to be more interactive. There is some expectation from
students that education should be meaningful, powerful, and engaging (Muntean, 2014). Virtual
classrooms provide an environment for engaging in meaningful and powerful digital
communication, while incorporating the thoughts and opinions of everyone in an organized
manner.

The inclusion of technology, globalization, and the need for digital communication are
not the only reasons for the shift from traditional education to virtual classrooms, however, they
do represent the change in the methods that we use to learn. From a young age, this generation
of children are expected to have a level of intelligence that goes beyond expectations of the
past. Information is readily available at the touch of a finger, companies incorporate “ease of
use” into product designs, and everything is documented. In addition to cost-benefit analysis of
virtual classrooms versus traditional, there are natural progressions in society that are pushing
us towards a more virtualized world.

References

  1. Muntean, C. (2014). Strategic Communications in the Digital Age. eBooks and textbooks from
    bookbook.com.
  2. Reinhart, J., & Robinson, R. (2014). Digital Thinking and Mobile Teaching: Communicating,
    Collaborating & Constructing in an Access Age. eBooks and textbooks from bookboon.com.
  3. Sethy, S. S. (2008). Distance Education in the Age of Globalization: An Overwhelming Desire
    towards Blended Learning. Online Submission, 9(3), 29-44
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