Virtual learning embraces the range of teaching and learning activities which take place in an online environment, utilising a mix of synchronous and asynchronous technologies. It is an effective way of providing access for those who may not otherwise be able to participate. Virtual learning services are expanding internationally, with the development of virtual schools in many countries.
In the virtual learning environment there is opportunity for three key areas of activity:
- Programmes of learning are provided for students who may not otherwise be able to access them in the school they are attending. These are generally a part of the formal educational provision.
Examples of progammes include:
- A full year's programme in a particular subject-area (particularly at senior secondary level).
- Specialist programmes for identified groups of students, (e.g. gifted and talented, extension maths etc.).
- Specialist tuition or coaching in a certain area, (e.g. music, languages, art, scholarship mentoring).
- A block or semester course offered by a tertiary provider as part of a Secondary and Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR), Gateways, or Careers placement.
- Projects refer to the special interest topics or themes that are usually for a fixed period of time and usually involve a high level of collaboration. Projects are usually one-off events, and are less formal in terms of organisation and commitment than programmes.
Examples of projects include:
- Students from several schools collaborating to explore a global issue and find a local solution (e.g. bullying, global warming, urban wastelands etc.).
- Virtual field trips to areas of interest.
- Gathering data from a variety of sources to develop big picture trends and patterns (eg water quality, weather patterns, pollution levels).
- Connecting with authors and illustrators for a virtual 'book week'.
- Professional Learning While much of the attention in planning for LCO development is focussed on the needs of students, there are significant opportunities for staff as well to engage in areas of professional learning.
Examples of PL activity may include:
- Virtual staff meetings with invited experts.
- Scheduled online PD to develop specific skills or knowledge (e.g. ICT skills or introducing a new assessment method).
- Participation in national or international PD events, including webinars, online conferences etc..
- Access to formal qualifications through online providers.
- On-going mentoring of action- research projects.