“Highlighting Best Practices in The Virtual Classroom”


Street art in Lisboa, Portugal. August 2012.
Photo by DMG.

There’s just no escaping it: eLearning attracts an increasingly wide range of students from all over the world to our virtual classrooms. While some of those students may mirror traditional college students, some may work part-time to pay for college, or be professionals who work full time and juggle many life-demands; some have mobility restraints, or they’re stay-at-home parents, single parents, retirees, or may be striving to find their niche or to reposition themselves in the workforce. Most of these students have grown up with the latest technology close at hand; technology is integral in their lives; they’re used to having information instantly, at their fingertips. Thus, they expect to access their education any time anywhere at their convenience. Those are some reasons why eLearning is exponentially appealing.

Pedagogy in eLearning is not the same as in face-to-face learning; teaching and learning in a virtual environment calls for particular methods, approaches, and for acknowledging that:

  • Teaching and learning takes place at different times of the day.
  • Teaching and learning does not always happen during concentrated and focused times.
  • Teaching and learning may be chunked or squeezed into daily routines.
  • Teaching and learning happens synchronously and asynchronously.
  • Skills with computers and mobile devices may vary from novice to expert.
  • Online search skills may vary from novice to expert.
  • Internet connections may vary in speed.
  • Mobile devices may vary in capabilities.
  • Technology evolves rapidly and therefore practices must be reviewed and updated consistently.

Given those realities, those of us who teach web-based courses must pay close attention to the specific practices that have been proved to foster success in the virtual classroom. Following are just a few of those best practices:

  • We must set up a virtual learning environment that is secure, productive and safe.
  • We must comply with accessibility, Americans with Disabilities Act laws, as well as copyright and fair use.
  • We must meet students’ need for particular assistive technology by using multiple tools and applications that help to meet the needs of students’ learning styles.
  • We must foster engagement and a high degree of interaction/contact between 1) instructor and learners 2) learners and learners 3) learners and texts.
  • We must establish clear expectations and consistent routines in the presentation of content.
  • We must clarify netiquette and model effective practices for communicating and problem solving.
  • We must learn continually through formal and informal training opportunities, by attending conferences and participating in professional organizations.

This entry was composed by Dr. Dulce Maria Gray who teaches composition, literature and women’s studies in WVC’s Department of English. She just completed her tenure as Chair of the college’s Distance Learning Committee and the very satisfying project of leading the redesigning of the college’s eLearning webpage. In addition to her active involvement in the WVC Global Citizenship Committee, she is the General Editor of the college’s Global Citizenship blog.


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