Experiences with Virtual Classes in Distance Education

K. Baas, H. Vranken, and E. Rusman (The Netherlands)


Distance education, virtual class, f2f-class


In this paper the applicability of virtual classes as an alternative to face-to-face-classes in distance education is discussed. In this discussion the virtual class is considered as a tool rather than a concept of how classes can be modelled on the Internet. By means of a field trial it is investigated to what extent an virtual class can replace a f2f-class. For this purpose students and tutors were questioned, exam results of students in the f2f-class were compared with those of online students and contents of the face-to-face-class and virtual class were geared to one another. The qualitative results of the field trial are very encouraging. The virtual class indeed reached the intended target group of students. Students and tutors consider the virtual class as a acceptable alternative to the f2f-class. Students in the virtual class however miss the informal chat during the breaks in the f2f-class. This may indicate that the tool is less suitable to support sessions for informal, discussion oriented collaborative learning. The quantitative results however currently prevent a general conclusion about the applicability of virtual classes versus f2f-classes in distance education.

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