Higher Education in a Virtual World

Higher Education in a Virtual World

Patricia Genoe McLaren (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada) and Lori Francis (Saint Mary’s University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-800-2.ch019
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Following years of discussion surrounding the characteristics, both positive and negative, of generations X and Y, we are seeing the emergence of what is referred to as the virtual generation, the net generation, or Generation V. To some, the virtual generation includes 15 to 24 year olds who spend significant amounts of time playing video games, browsing the Web, and communicating over the Internet (Proserpio & Gioia, 2007). Tapscott (2009) defines the net generation as the first generation to have grown up in the digital age. To others, Generation V is a generation that transcends age, gender, social demographic, and geography, and encompasses everyone who participates in a virtual environment (Sarner, 2008). Regardless of the exact parameters of the generation in use, as the virtual generation enters our academic institutions en masse, we need to ensure that we are providing educational environments that encompass the technological world in which they live, that defines who they are. Rather than requiring them to be confined solely to traditional lecture-based pedagogy, let the virtual generation learn in a virtual world.
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Teaching The Virtual Generation

The days of post-secondary students accepting that sitting in seats and frantically taking notes, while being lectured to by professors, constitutes a valuable education have ended (Tapscott, 2009). Students of the virtual generation want to learn through teaching strategies that emphasize interaction, technology, experience, and activity (Zeliff, 2004), and they want entertainment and play to be part of their education and work (Tapscott, 2009). As a generation they believe more strongly in a meritocratic environment than preceding generations, and they place great value on collaboration and sharing, as can be seen by the success of open-source technologies such as Linux (Sarner, 2008). Student-centered learning, in which students take an active role in their education and instructors become both learning facilitators as well as content deliverers (Shrivastava, 1999), has emerged in the forefront of education. High levels of exchange, including the free exchange of ideas and opinions among and between students and instructors, have been linked to increased levels of motivation, positive attitudes toward learning, and lasting learning outcomes (Brower, 2003; Sitzmann, Kraiger, Stewart, & Wisher, 2006).

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