Although the phrase “virtual learning environment” (VLE) is commonly used, there are others that point to similar concepts of distance learning (DL), such as telematics learning environments, distributed learning environments, and e-learning; VLEs are online domains allowing both synchronous and asynchronous collaborative interactions among teachers and learners (Barajas, 2002). Briefly, DL and VLE are the mechanism and maintenance of virtual universities (VUs). The Internet-based VLE will gain increasing importance in the future for academic education as well as for lifelong continuing adult education (Hutten, Stiegmaier, & Rauchegger, 2005).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Virtual Community: A group whose members are connected by means of information technology, existing in discussion groups, chat rooms, listservs, and newsgroups. Terms such as online community and mediated community are used synonymously.
Online Education: A general term, which encompasses any kind of learning that is done exclusively online. Online courses may be delivered synchronously or asynchronously.
Globalization: The worldwide integration of humanity and, in essence, international exchange or sharing of labor force, production, ideas, knowledge, products and services across borders.
Virtual Library: Library resources (e.g., indexes, journals, and reference materials) or online reference services are available over the Internet. Terms such as electronic library and digital library are used synonymously.
E-Learning: It involves the use of a computer or electronic device in some way to provide educational material. It also involves a greater variety of equipment than online education. Online learning involves using the Internet or an Intranet, including CD-ROM and DVD that can be used to provide learning materials.
Virtual Networks: The ability for users to transparently communicate locally and remotely across similar and dissimilar networks through a simple and consistent user interface.
Lifelong Learning: Idea that learning can and does occur beyond the formal structure of an educational institution and occurs throughout one’s lifetime. In a wide sense, the ongoing acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Virtual University Consortium: No degree granted, but accredited academic institutions linked online, and supplying centralized services to students with mutual articulation among consortia members.