Three Stages in the Social Construction of Virtual Learning Environments

Three Stages in the Social Construction of Virtual Learning Environments

Ken Stevens (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada & Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0011-9.ch711
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Abstract

Schools located in rural communities are often physically small in terms of the number of students who attend them in person on a daily basis, but through the introduction of e-learning partnerships, they can become large educational institutions based on the enhanced range of teaching and learning they can provide. Small school capacities can be enhanced by e-learning and the creation of virtual learning environments. Structurally, the capacity of schools can be enhanced by internet-based inter-institutional collaboration. Pedagogically, e-learning can enable schools to share teaching and learning within virtual learning environments spanning participating sites to facilitate student engagement with ideas, people and places in new, interactive ways. Three stages are identified in the development of teaching and learning in the virtual structures that complement traditional schools.
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Background: Small Schools In Rural Communities

In almost every society there are families who live beyond major centres of population. In Australia (Henry, 1989; Jarvis, 1990; Stevens, 2007), New Zealand (Starkey & Stevens, 2006; Stevens, 1999b; 1994) and Canada (Healey & Stevens, 2002; Stevens, 1999a; Tucker & Stevens, 1999) access to educational opportunities by students, particularly those in rural high schools, has been a long-standing policy issue. In Australia, for example, the federal government has sought answers why young people from rural areas of that country enter universities and other institutions of higher learning in proportionally fewer numbers than their urban counterparts (Abbott-Chapman, 2001; Commonwealth Schools Commission, 1988; Goulding, 2001; James, et.al., Stewart, 2003). It has been common for rural high school students to either board at urban residential schools or be bussed to larger institutions where they can be taught by specialist teachers (Baker & Andrews, 1991). The development of rural school intranets has transformed many schools located in rural communities that are physically small in terms of the number of students who attend them, in person, on a daily basis, but, through the introduction of internet-based e-learning partnerships, have become larger and more comprehensive educational institutions based on the enhanced range of teaching and learning they can provide.

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