In the past few decades, technology has advanced at an extraordinary rate. It has beneficial applications in a variety of professions, but in recent years its effects have been particularly notable in the education sector.
Virtual learning environments, also known as VLEs, have challenged the normal boundaries that education systems have adopted for centuries and transformed how students learn and teachers teach. Now, it’s difficult to imagine a world without them, given they offer an array of benefits compared to a typical classroom setting.
But, how exactly have virtual learning environments benefitted the two primary groups in any classroom - the student and the teacher? In this article, we delve into the benefits of a virtual learning environment for both teachers and students so that you can better understand how they have shaped and supported education systems worldwide.
Simply put, virtual learning refers to an environment in which students can learn outside of a physical setting with the support of digital platforms and a digital-based curriculum. This is taught entirely online, with students needing access to the internet and electronic devices to complete their studies virtually.
This allows students to complete their education from almost anywhere, connecting in real-time with their tutors or instructors and learning from their digital instruction. This is equally relevant to teachers, who are also able to deliver their curriculum entirely remotely and create an online environment in which it’s easy to connect with their students much like in a traditional classroom.
A virtual learning environment (VLE) - sometimes known as a Learning Management System (LMS) - is the future of the classroom. It’s a digital space and platform where employers or education providers can host e-learning courses that they'd like their staff or students to complete. As long as people have access to an electronic device, they can access e-learning or m-learning anytime and anywhere.
This can be done synchronously or asynchronously, providing a lot more flexibility to both students and education providers. VLEs can also offer the opportunity for students to complete assessments and for teachers to form an online community that opens up communication channels to support students during their learning journey.
VLEs don’t have to replace the physical classroom, as e-learning can complement more traditional approaches to teaching, which is known as a blended learning environment or a flipped classroom.
At Virtual College by Netex, our VLE is known as Enable, and it allows learners to study at a pace that suits them, automatically tracking their progress as they go. This means you can go over course information as often as needed until you have absorbed it.
Research has been carried out into the benefits of virtual learning environments for students and teachers across the world, indicating that there are a variety of benefits of online learning for both parties.
Research in the UK utilised an online survey to ask students at Sixth Form level their thoughts on their own VLE that they used in school. The statistically significant results indicated that the use of a VLE increased students’ motivation to learn and had a positive impact on student learning, including helping them to learn independently.
Further research found that in higher education the use of a virtual learning environment, when correctly implemented, improved student performance (in terms of students’ academic results), which also had a positive correlation with the level of engagement students had.
For teachers in particular, sources reveal that VLEs have been shown to have improved confidence and have enhanced their practice and collaboration when delivering a virtual education. So, it's without question that there are advantages of online learning in virtual learning environments for both students and teachers, which only further supports the continued adoption of virtual learning across education systems around the world.
A virtual learning environment has a range of benefits for students. Below, we’ve broken down some of the key ways in which VLEs help to support students and improve their learning experiences.
One of the advantages of online learning environments is that they allow students to benefit from self-paced learning.
All students learn in different ways and at different paces, so virtual learning supports this as multiple resources can be accessed at any time, allowing students to look back on lessons should they need to whenever.
This relieves any pressure that students may feel if they have to try and keep up with their cohort in a traditional classroom, which could hinder their understanding of certain subjects.
Another advantage of online learning for students is that it opens up the opportunity for them to learn new skills without having to travel or arrange childcare to attend courses. To attend in-person classes students will have to commute, which creates an added complexity to receive their education.
Thanks to virtual learning environments, students do not have to commute to attend their courses, nor do they have to spend additional time and finances, or put in place arrangements such as childcare, to have the same education experience.
Whilst many may believe that a virtual learning environment does not offer students the same level of recognition and praise as an in-person education, VLEs still give pupils a sense of achievement that motivates them as much as it would if they were to attend classes physically.
For example, with our courses, there is always a certificate to download and print at the end as a record of this achievement, allowing students to reflect on and be proud of their educational experience.
Virtual learning environments can offer a more personalised learning experience for students. Unlike traditional classroom settings in which children are delivered the same resources to work through in unison, each student can be given access to specific activities, resources, and tests based on their achievements in previous sessions.
This way, the student is receiving the correct resources in line with their current level of learning, offering a more individual learning journey.
Another advantage of online learning in VLEs for students is that they can reflect on and correct their mistakes. This is largely facilitated by virtual learning environments allowing students to revisit topics again and again, meaning that they can look back on their previous responses and correct any mistakes they’ve made. These exercises can be revisited and reattempted in many cases, meaning students can continue to improve and achieve the best results that they possibly can.
Whilst students can reap a host of benefits from receiving their education in a virtual learning environment, teachers can equally benefit from these spaces, making their professional experiences all the more convenient, flexible, and easy. We’ve divided into this in more detail below:
Thanks to VLEs, teachers can set lessons or training courses for their students to complete all at once, no matter how far apart they may be in the curriculum timeline. This makes it much easier for teachers as they can place all of their resources in one place at one time, and catalogue these accordingly for convenience and easy organisation.
Virtual learning environments also benefit teachers from a planning point of view. These online classrooms allow for teaching resources to be stored in one central location, maximising organisation and making it much easier to access their curriculum whenever easily. Not to mention that, in the future, if lessons need to be removed or adapted this can be done quickly and easily because of this.
Similar to students being able to receive their education remotely thanks to virtual learning environments, the same is true for teachers. Teaching virtually means that teachers can work from almost anywhere to deliver their lessons to students, as long as they have an appropriate device and a good wifi connection.
This enhances flexibility for teachers, who can better balance their personal lives with their professional lives.
Can Adopt a Blended Learning Approach
Thanks to virtual learning environments, teachers can adopt a blended learning approach. This refers to students receiving an education combining practical tasks and in-person sessions with studying in a VLE.
Blended learning approaches have been proven to improve student engagement and also increase their academic attainments and achievements, according to research. So, teachers being able to implement a blended learning approach by utilising VLEs ensures that they can support the best possible outcomes for their students.
VLEs make it more possible for teachers to easily monitor the progress and performance of their students. Thanks to this, teachers can have more control over the academic focus points necessary for their students, and therefore customise their learning journeys to boost their academic performance.
Teachers can monitor students’ progress via a virtual learning platform and customise the types of resources, tasks, and revision materials that they have access to during sessions. This means that students can access the right resources at the necessary time.
Virtual learning environments can be a very supportive place in which teachers can more effectively communicate and collaborate with their students to help them to achieve their best academic results.
The online nature of VLEs allows for multiple communication channels to be opened between teachers and students, providing an increased number of opportunities for students to receive feedback and improve academically.
A virtual community is built up of a group of individuals with shared interests, goals, or motivations. They share their similarities and discuss them in virtual communities, which are groups on social media and online forums.
This forms a sense of community, despite geographical or political restraints that mean they couldn’t otherwise meet face to face, opening up more opportunities for people to share their love for a certain topic with like-minded individuals.
Virtual teamwork refers to teams collaborating remotely with the use of technology. This allows for professional teams to be able to work together and accomplish shared goals despite geographical boundaries.
Thanks to technological advancements, teams can collaborate just as effectively as they would in person online through the use of developed video conferencing and communication platforms. This facilitates employees to maintain a flexible way of working whilst also staying productive within a workforce.
Virtual training refers to when a trainer emanates an in-person training experience using virtual platforms. During a virtual training session, these trainers meet with a group of individuals at a set time and deliver a training session to them using video and audio chat platforms or tools.
Trainees are still able to ask questions as they would in an in-person session, and many video-chat platforms now facilitate the options for breakout rooms for smaller group activities to take place. This helps to further bridge the gap between virtual and in-person sessions.
As the world continues to shift towards using innovative technology in every aspect of our personal and professional lives, virtual learning environments are proving to be a very beneficial way of learning and teaching for students and teachers respectively. Offering accessibility, flexibility, and a personalised and customisable experience for both parties, the future of our education systems certainly has a place for virtual learning environments.
At Virtual College we offer a variety of online courses and resources developed by professionals and leaders in a range of topics, from education to retail and hospitality, to offer you the best learning experience possible. You can search through our online course categories to find the resources you need to develop professionally.
Or, If you'd like to know more about how using a virtual learning environment could benefit your students or yourself as a teacher, follow the link to find out more about the Virtual College Learning Management System.