THE CHALLENGES OF VIRTUAL EDUCATION
Mr Alejandro Franco J
E-dUCO Research Group Moderador
Psychologist, Specialist in Psychoanalysis
Software & Systems Engineering Undergraduate Student
Research Group E-dUCO Moderator
Social Sciences Faculty Professor
Eastern Catholic University, Colombia
The article shows the challenges at administrative, teacher-student and technological levels that should face the University to enter virtual education: the teachers� resistance to the technology and the pedagogic change; the students� resistance to take the responsibility of their learning process in an active way; and the technological, administrative and legal challenges that implies the three levels of virtual education (totally virtual, half-virtual and virtual support to face-to-face courses). It outlines that the university should lean on research for not entering this process without an appropriate strategic planning, and it suggests some strategies to advance quickly toward this goal. Virtual education is a teaching-learning process based on the principles of active pedagogy (the student should take the responsibility of a frequent and effective participation), with the characteristics of distance education (during all classes, or most of them, the students and the teacher will not meet personally, although this could happen in a virtual space), and with the possibility of synchronous or asynchronous interaction (for example, they can chat with each other in real time using internet services, but also by e-mail or participate in e-groups that are asynchronous technologies that don't require that both are on-line at the same time). In the international arena, virtual education grows every day, offering programs in basic and secondary education, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Today it�s possible to take virtual courses at some of the most popular universities in the world, which certifies the credits that the student acquires at the end. Many other universities, sensitive about the distance problem of many of their candidates, and of the schedule difficulties in others, have begun to implement virtual programs with the purpose of reaching those students that can�t assist to their campus. Nowadays, Eastern Catholic University at Rionegro (Colombia, South America) is advancing toward three levels of virtual education: totally virtual, half-virtual and virtual support of Campus education, not only with the intention of increasing the number of students (reaching those that are far away or whose schedules make impossible to assist to the campus), but also with the goal of improving the quality of the educational process, adding active pedagogy and multimedia tools to the "on Campus" programs. Having that in mind, the University created a Virtual Education Committee that begun their work around two years ago. The process has been delayed partially due to problems in the acquisition and assembly of a virtual educational platform, but probably also because of the natural human resistance to change. Right now, the process begins to take a new impulse from research, with the foundation in May of the Research Group on Virtual Education and Multimedia Technologies for Teaching and Learning, "E-dUCO"; this group has already begun to carry out the first experiences of virtual courses in this sense, as well as to present the first research project that look for to open him the one in route to the whole process. The group works interdisciplinary, this way: from the skills of engineering we have the technological support, from the education specialists we have the pedagogic support and from the ability of social sciences we worry about the motivation component and also about educational and social psychology (analyzing the best way of awake motivation and to promote interaction in the course). Among the "E-dUCO" objectives is to give support, from research, to the Virtual...
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