Racial Issues in the Virtual Classroom

Racial Issues in the Virtual Classroom

Alfred P. Rovai, Louis B. Gallien Jr.
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-563-4.ch076
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Distance education has burgeoned over the past decade and it continues to rapidly expand. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that U.S. enrollments in postsecondary distance education courses nearly doubled between 1995 and 2000, with 56% of the nation’s two- and four-year institutions of higher education offering courses at a distance during the 2000-2001 academic year (Walts & Lewis, 2003). The Internet is the favorite medium of colleges and universities for presenting such courses. The anytime, anywhere delivery of courses by the Internet, known as ALNs (i.e., asynchronous learning networks) has become a viable alternative for students who either cannot or choose not to travel to campuses to attend traditional class meetings at predetermined times. Additionally, synchronous networks, such as chat rooms and MUDs (i.e., multiuser dungeons/dimensions/domains), are frequently used for educational purposes. Unlike ALNs, MUDs are real-time, text-based virtual realities that allow as many as 20 (and sometimes more) individuals from around the Internet to be simultaneously connected to a simulated physical space, such as a classroom or laboratory, populated with virtual objects that can be examined and manipulated. As a result of using the Internet for coursework, students will not usually meet one another face-to-face as they exchange ideas and construct knowledge through computer-mediated communication (CMC). The end result is the formation of a virtual community in which students and instructors engage in text-based conversations along with other diverse pedagogical tasks. They can do almost everything students do in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment, but they do it separated by space and/or time. This personal separation can contribute to weak feelings of community.

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