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Andrea Ríos Castaño Professor Díaz Reading and Writing II May 23rd, 2011

Virtual Education and its Low Impact on the Universities of Armenia

How prepared are Armenia for the new wave of virtual reality?.

Virtual

Education is defined as the use of new technologies for teaching educational process.

In the past, this education style did not exist and schools were

traditionalists. Nowadays, this form of education has started to take place in our culture and the digital revolution and the media component has grown, even though this process of change possess great difficulties and challenges to all levels of educational community. On one hand, advocates argue institutions had not trained their faculty in pedagogy and new methods of learning-teaching supported by technology, pedagogy of self-learning and virtuality. On the other hand, critics state that Colombia has invested enormous resources in information and communication technology projects. By studying both sides in the controversy it can be said that the impact of virtual higher education in Armenia has been low compared with traditional education.


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Advocates claim that virtual Education is not truly a strategic issue for universities and they are not prepared to tackle that challenge. According to Luz Stella GarcĂ­a, Bachelor of Computer Sciences and Electrical Engineer, new forms of interaction between professor and students were totally ignored (19). I dare to assert that institutions perceived as their major problems to use new forms of interaction between professor and students, the access to the Internet by students, a better technological infrastructure for the delivery of virtual courses, training for faculty and students to use web-based education and the low credibility of virtual education. It is unconvincing that with the wave of virtualization, in Colombia it is more a product of individual efforts of a group of courageous universities than a result of a virtual education system conceived and fostered by the Ministry responding to national strategy.

Besides, advocates assume that new ways of interaction and collaboration, needed changes in the design and organization of study plans. According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology only three electronic services were integrated: access to data bases with the content of courses and grades of the students, electronic mail and chat (Massachusetts 18).

I strongly think that

interactive educational courses, exercises and materials that could be adapted to the needs of each student, and new forms of interaction between professor and students were totally ignored. It is unbelievable that Audio and video conferences technologies were barely used because of the average of computers per institution


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is a very low number and one of the major problems of virtual education is the access to the Internet by students.

On one hand, critics affirm that nowadays the country is one of the leaders in Latin America in terms of investment and is approaching the level of the G7 countries (27). Opponents like David Weber; Director MOT Program Sloan School of Management says that There are zones in the country where the infrastructure to access Internet has been solved basically through community centers and a strong alliance with the local telecommunication company.

However, I frankly

deem that the use of technology does not the only guarantee of better teaching processes and more learning, depends on the mediating role of the teacher who then has to address the educational process. It is disconcerting to say that the media help to develop potential to the extent that facilitates social interactions, unlimited access to information and ensure interaction of technology into the curriculum.

On the other hand, critics state that private educational institutions have showed the most remarkable growth answering to the demand of virtual education. Opponents like Ministry of Education of Colombia says that currently Colombia has programs in more elaborate virtual education, and also there has been a gradual transformation of teaching practice, administrative, intercommunication and interaction in many different educational services (Ministry of Education of


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Colombia 202). I firmly consider that Higher Education Institutions still insist perceive problems, obstacles and internal needs very secondary priority levels, as the needs of training teachers in virtuality and technology, develop serious and efficient teaching methods. It is so important that new technologies, regardless of their applications, should be incorporated into the university culture if we want to stay in the international competition and make us competitive.

The following instance extracted from A Model for a Virtual University in Colombia supports my thinking. Few institutions in Colombia have entered a more sophisticated level where courses and programs exploit powerful tools like multimedia, Internet Capabilities, software simulations, etc., even though they still lack of digital services like virtual libraries and virtual communities.

The latest

research made by DANE about information and communications infrastructure in tertiary institutions in QuindĂ­o showed that the uses of computers were 45% multimedia, 32.6% digital library, 25.7% virtual teaching-learning, 22.3% virtual classrooms, 8% robotics and 8% other (18). Important topics such as the change from printed to electronic materials, skills needed for students to manage a selfdirected and virtual learning environment need changes in the design and organization of study plans that could be adapted to the needs of each student.

There are many expectations that the issue of virtual university or virtual education and different meanings that this term arises (PĂŠrez 10). Communication


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and new possibilities can be incorporated without prejudice to the educational life with all the difficulties it entails and all the paradigm shifts that must occur as a result of educational processes. In itself, this process of incorporation is also a learning process for both teachers and students and interactions with new media and new methods produce new situations, unforeseen possibilities and unexpected opportunities. The uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) open up a landscape characterized by, among others, by two factors: technological change continued and constant positive rehabilitation to new possibilities, which also involves a continuous learning. The following survey is going to prove that the problems, barriers and perceived needs of higher education institutions to the development of virtual education are equally well defined and meaningful, in order: the low effectiveness of the systems of information in the region, and lack of credibility in the virtual programs (12). For this I was observing the Law School at La Gran Colombia University. It is a higher education institution in which students are between seventeen and thirty five years old, and they belong to a social status from two to six. The methodology I used to collect the evidences that was going to prove my point of view was to divide people in three different groups: the principal, the students and teachers and I asked ten distinct questions of each group, related with the implementation of virtual education at the University.

STUDENTS

1.

What is Virtual Education?

a.

Using new technologies, to the development of alternative methodologies for learning.


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2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

b.

Optimization of time and resources.

c.

An education system unaffordable for education in Armenia.

Which are Education?

the

advantages

of

7.

Virtual

a.

The use of the Internet as a tool for exploration.

b.

A new social and learning experience that includes direct communication with the teacher, discussion with classmates.

c.

Access to anytime.

What are Education?

studies

the

from

disadvantages

8.

anywhere,

of

Virtual

What benefits do you think bring to Armenia city to offer undergraduate and graduate programs through virtual education?

a.

Improving its education quality.

b.

Being at the forefront.

c.

It would be a total failure.

Would you like that La Gran Colombia University implementing virtual education methodology?

a.

Yes, because it is an important change in education.

b.

No, because it is not enough prepared.

c.

I do not care if they implemented it or not.

a.

Technical classes.

b.

The unequal access of the population.

a.

Better than traditional education

c.

This can be demotivating.

b.

It did not like you

c.

You would like that your University will implement virtual education.

failures

that

slow

can

and

disrupt

9.

therefore

In Virtual Education learning responsibility is

a.

Teacher

b.

Student

c.

Both

10.

In regard to Virtual Education in Armenia higher education institutions are

a.

Very prepared

b.

Prepared

c.

Not prepared

If you have ever done a virtual course, thinks this was

Do you consider that La Gran Colombia University is an institution that:

a.

It is enough prepared to implement virtual education.

b.

It is not prepared at all.

c.

It is prepared but still lacks.

Do you think the Virtual Education offers who study with this methodology

a.

Most chance of getting a job.

b.

Less chance of getting a job

c.

The same possibilities of people who study using traditional methodology.

TEACHERS

1.

Do you implement classroom?

a.

virtual

education

Yes, because it is an excellent tool.

in


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2.

b.

No, because I do not like it.

c.

No, because I consider that the University has not the infrastructure.

Do you think that virtual education improves education?

a. b.

4.

5.

6.

Yes, because with the use of technology it is much better.

8.

No, because the access to technology is reduced

When you hear the word “Virtual Education”, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

a.

Technology

b.

Problems

c.

Methodology

Do you think that virtual education cause more dropouts?

a.

Yes, because students can start the course whenever they want without any academic consequences

In Armenia few institutions had implemented virtual methodology, why do you think is it?

b.

No, because the responsibility is the same

a.

Because, the technological infrastructure is not adequate.

c.

Maybe, because the control we have over students would be less.

b.

Because, budget is not enough.

c.

Lack of culture.

c. 3.

7.

It depends on the technology used

9.

Do you think that virtual education arise the cost of education?

a.

No, it is going to reduce it

Which do you think is the better way to implement virtual education in higher education institutions?

b.

Yes, because you need a computer and internet

a.

Training teachers.

c.

No, it would be the same

b.

Training Schools.

c.

Training teachers, schools and students.

10.

Have you ever worked in an institution which had implanted this type of education?

a.

Yes, and I liked it so much.

b.

No, I have not had the chance.

c.

Yes, but I think is a tool that can not yet be implemented in Armenia.

Yes, because they University is ready.

b.

No, because they do not like this methodology.

c.

Maybe, because it is not a daily topic.

think

that

a.

Yes, because they have no requirement

b.

No, because it is the same in traditional education

c.

Maybe, it depends on the student

PRINCIPAL

1.

Do you think that your students would like you will implement virtual education in your classes? Why?

a.

Do you think that students would not put their best effort to finish his career using virtual education?

the

2.

Which do you think is the major problem in Armenia respecting virtual education implementation?

a.

Infrastructure

b.

Technology

c.

Budget

Would you implement virtual education in your institution?


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3.

4.

5.

6.

a.

Yes, because it is an important change that we have to do soon or later.

b.

No, because it requires too much budget

c.

Off course, I have to

c. 7.

Maybe, but they need to improve it

How perceive your teachers the new wave of virtual education?

a.

They are willing to implement this new methodology

What do you think is the methodology to implement virtual education?

b.

They are reluctant

a.

Training only teachers

c.

They do not care

b.

Training only students

c.

Training both

8.

La Gran Colombia University has started to implement virtual education?

a.

Yes, but it is not our principal goal

b.

No yet, but we are going to start

c.

No, and we are not interested

9.

Do you think that La Gran Colombia University has the infrastructure to virtual education?

a.

Yes, and it is going to be improved

b.

No, but we are going to improve it

c.

No, and we are not going to improve it

Do you think that other Universities in the city have the infrastructure to virtual education?

a.

No, I think that the problematic in the region is the same

b.

Yes, there are some of them that have a complete system

10.

How do you introduce this new methodology to his students?

a.

I will delegate responsibility

b.

I will make many meetings with them

c.

I will implement a policy

to

teachers

the

Do you think that virtual education improve your education system?

a.

Yes, because it is the way to engage more students

b.

No, on the contrary, it causes more dropouts

c.

Maybe, I do not know

What do you think of virtual education?

a.

It is a good strategic of education

b.

It is a problem for universities

c.

I never would implement it


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This diagram shows that eight out of 15 people surveyed were in agreement with my position. The colors represent the multiple choices that people had. Blue represent the answer A of each question, Red answer B and green answer C.

In this diagram it is notable that approximately nine out fifteen people surveyed were in agreement with my point of view.

This graphic shows that the principal knows the importance to implement a virtual education methodology in his institution, but first he needs to adequate the infrastructure, and creates the culture between students and teachers.

“Experiences of Educational Inclusion in Colombia: Towards Useful Knowledge”, an article by María del Carmen Martínez Mobilla, claims that nowadays Universities in Colombia have not implemented virtual education as a new kind of education for the 21st century (Martínez 4). Most of the programs offered were using traditional education and a low percentage was using new technologies. The author states that only short courses from the National Learning


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Service (SENA) have incorporated this kind of education. I agree with María del Carmen Martinez’s idea that SENA is one of the pioneers of virtual education and Universities have to improve and change its mind in respect of new ways of teaching, using tools that today’s world offers, looking with this being at the forefront.

Mrs. Martínez thinks that Universities were neither very interested nor made much effort to offer programs entirely “online” (5). I have seen the effects of virtual education on my own and agree with the author of this article. I studied at SENA “Técnico Profesional en Secretariado” and the teaching methodology was combined using both virtual and traditional education, so this allowed me to learn different subjects at the same time that I could finish my course and do another courses using virtual education whereas nowadays I am studying at the University and the combination of the two kinds of education are lower, since for different reasons there are few subjects that it offers in this way of teaching, and it is the choice of the student if take some subjects in a virtual way or not, so students do not have the culture of using this method.

In summary, the deal stated in María del Carmen Martinez’s “Expiriences of Educational Inclusion in Colombia: Towards Useful Knowledge” and my personal point of view about virtual education are alike. The weakness found in defining and adopting a virtual pedagogical model, the poor use of technology capabilities, the


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organizational structure to support virtual education, and the planning and quality assurance processes demonstrate that, with few exceptions, universities in Armenia did not develop viability studies to decide on the delivery of virtual education, and did not adopt a pedagogical model for virtual education. In other words, there was little presence and consolidation of an organization to plan and offer virtual education, and networks of e-instructors need to be created with advice from other highly-trained teachers with a solid research background (MartĂ­nez 10).

Along the research, it can be summarized that the virtual University would be an open and distance learning university which provides high quality higher education to everyone, on demand, with affordable prices for modest income youngsters and adults, with teaching and learning approaches which are less time-and placedependent, relevant to the needs of the labor market, and with better or at least comparable results with respect to the best universities in the country (75). However, in Armenia is much more than that, it is design a learning system that starts with the student and arranges an effective learning environment for individual study. That means commitment to efficiency balanced with the proper mix of faceto-face and distance interaction, one-to one tutorial supported by the best faculty staff and technology in order to fulfill students’ needs and learning styles.


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Works Cited

García, Luz Stella. A Model of a Virtual University in Colombia. 01 july 2004. Bernal, Edwin. Modelo Educativo Virtual. December 2005. http://www.uoc.edu/ojs/index.php/rusc/article/viewDownloadInterstitial/v8n1martinez/v8n1-martinez-eng. Martínez, María del Carmen. “Expiriences of Educational Inclusion in Colombia: Towards

Useful

Knowledge”

Revista

Conocimiento (Rusc) 8 (2011): 55-65.

de

Universidad

y

Sociedad

del


Virtual Education and its Low Impact on the Universities of Armenia