As we move into the future, there is a continuously growing need to create diverse and inclusive learning environments that offer equitable access and availability not just to live teaching, but to classrooms, buildings and learning spaces.
There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online and remote learning, highlighting the importance of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) by providing ongoing education in a crisis. The widespread adoption of software such as Google Classroom™ and Blackboard™ for example offers a more diverse, inclusive, and accessible learning experience for all students – and is now used frequently to supplement, stand-in or replace a physical classroom.
Virtual Learning Environments – The actual challenge
Reproducing the actual physical learning environment virtually, however, has been a bit of a challenge, until now. Virtual venue builder V-Ex, part of the Marketing + Technologies Group, is actively creating digital-twins of physical buildings and campuses that can be used as a seamless transition from online to in-person for remote access students.
Dr Chiara Civardi, who works within the Marketing + Technologies Group, has written a white paper highlighting how universal, personalised education is key to help learners maximise their potential and lead a thriving life. To achieve this, educational institutions of any level need to adopt online, virtual learning environments that can be accessed remotely to support participation from a range of different identity groups that may find it challenging to attend traditional physical classrooms.
Key points raised include how VLEs can complement conventional setups, offering engaging, interactive activities that foster valuable learning experiences and the exchange of ideas among different learners and identity groups.
The future of accessible education
The availability of high-quality learning settings is vital for good educational outcomes, and VLEs leverage a variety of solutions and systems to shape up more inclusive, diverse, and equitable learning. Through VLEs, educational institutions can offer new ways of getting information, continuous access to learning materials, as well as unique opportunities for cost-effective active learning.
They can also foster meaningful relationships between educators and learners, with learners able to interact and study together as well as contact educators, improving access to ‘office hours’ for revisions and clarifications. Furthermore, VLEs can generate large volumes of data by means of digital technologies that track key learning and testing activities, offering valuable tools to measure engagement and the progress from individuals.