In the piece Pursuing the Elusive Metaphor of Community in Virtual Learning Environments (Schwier, 2009), there is a lot of discussion about how critical it is to provide a virtual learning community for students. I completely agree that it is a step in education that needs to be taken, however I think as educators, we need to tread lightly.

Students are comfortable when they are communicating through their social networking sites and it is something they are familiar with. Using these social networks and other online communities is an excellent way to get students interested and engaged in their learning. For students who aren’t comfortable having discussions face to face with their peers, online communities provides them with a way to get involved.

At the same time, we need to be careful not to put too much emphasis on these online learning environments. Students need social interaction not only to guide their learning but also to guide their development as humans. As educators we need to maintain a healthy balance of virtual learning as well as group discussions and working in teams face to face. The social aspects of learning are sometimes the most important. On the one hand students may feel more comfortable in an online community but on the other hand there could be students who are more comfortable expressing their views in the classroom amongst their peers. Virtual learning is an essential piece of education in the 21st century but I think that a lot of the meaning in a person’s words can get lost in a virtual community. We need to be careful not to lose the social interaction that is critical for the growth and development of students.

Advertisements