Effective Learning assessment criteria in a virtual environment

Learning is an active and dual social process which occurs within learning environments and culture. It involves an interaction between teachers and learners.
Learning could be done on an individual base or social learning both of which are interdependent and complex in nature.
For learning to be effective, it must be authentic in accordance with the specific tools involved and the learning culture.
Effective learning is the type of learning that ensures that curriculum design becomes output-oriented focusing more on the learning process and its effect on the learner, rather than an input-based which lays more emphasis on the content and its absorption by the learner.
‪Virtual learning environment‬
Learning could take place in a classroom setting, or virtually i.e online or through a combination of the two.. A virtual learning environment differs from a classroom setting in that there is no face to face interaction between the teachers and the learners. It requires an internet infrastructures to take place and occurs over thousands of miles away from the teacher. Examples of virtual learning environments are the online schools or universities, some part of the courses by ISM, many online schools in many parts of the world most especially the advanced communities, video-conferencing and online journals etc
Many organisations in Nigeria such as banks (Diamond Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank, UBA Plc, etc) and many others employ the use of online learning to enhance learning. Guarantee Trust Bank Plc which is founded upon learning (where I presently work) is affilliiated with EBSCOHOST with its vast reading network of materials. The bank also has an e-learning web page where employees are mandated to enroll in online courses on a periodic basis to update their knowledge on developments within the industry and around the globe. These courses range from leadership courses to anti-money laundering courses and other courses that are relevant to the profession. The compulsory courses are assessed with a seventy percent cut off mark which the employees must meet or face sanctions.
The bank and many others within and outside the industry send their newly hired staff for an induction training which is classroom based with students having to sit next to one another, interact with one another and with the teachers from different units of the bank who teach different subjects. Employees are also assessed after the training to ensure effectiveness in the learning. This is in stark contrast with the virtual learning environment where the students do not meet face to face, but interact online via the internet tools.

A virtual learning environment is an educational system founded on the power of the internet to provide real-world access to educational resources (classrooms, educational content, assignments, tests, assessments, grades including external academic resources (museums etc). It also provides a social environment whereby teachers and students interact through chats or discussions or e-mails.
Virtual learning uses Web 2.0 tools for a two-way interaction, including some content management system.
Virtual learning environments form the basis of a distance learning. It can also be integrated with a classroom environment (Blended Learning).
A virtual learning environment involves teachers and students interacting online using various means such as videos, chats, PowerPoint etc. The students are able to talk with other students and the teacher, as well as collaborate with each other, answer questions, or pose questions. Two types of learning occur and are the synchronous and asynchronous types of learning. In the former students meet real time with teachers and other participants. The teachers conduct live classes in virtual classrooms. Students communicate using microphones, chat, or boards.
Asynchronous learning, otherwise called “self-paced” learning involves, students completing seminars and assignments independently through the system. In this case, the student learn at their own pace.

 Students create learning that works for them within the confines of their homes, office etc
 Learning involves portable classrooms which can be taken anywhere, anytime
 Virtual learning promotes high level reflective thinking
 The skills required in the creation of electronic portfolios helps students learn, understand, and implement the information literacy process.
 Online portfolios are dynamic, multi-media driven and support a variety of artifacts thereby allows for greater learner expression. They are easy to store and assist students academically and professionally
 Virtual leaning is cost-effective as learners do not have to travel several thousands of miles to learn. Learning is brought to their doorsteps which becomes possible with the click of a mouse or other internet infrastructures. For example in Nigeria, banks and other organisations do not have to send their staff to the head office in Lagos to get trained. This has saved the organisations millions of naira in this era of cost-reduction which could have been spent to travel and train the staff.
 Time spent on online learning is shorter as staff utilize non-banking hours to learn usually towards close of business or over the weekend.
 Learning is effective as highly advanced and rich learning materials and tools are used which facilitate learning. It also encourages staff to imbibe a learning habit or culture which is alien to the Nigerian people.
 The use of plagiarism checks and strong anti-plagiarism policies to verify the originality of write-ups in a virtual environment makes learning more effective and encourages generating of fresh ideas and greater contribution to research.
 Parents no longer have to send their children abroad to learn with the advent of online universities and other educational institutions. Students learn from reputable schools within the confines of their homes and earn certificates from reputable schools abroad.
 Distance has no effect as skype, googledocs, etc make learning meaningful
 It reduces bias towards students based on gender, race or social status
 Assignments are submitted online and therefore do not require third parties such as a class monitor to collate assignments and re-distribute later on as a result of which submissions could be missing or torn or copied by others
 Geographical diversity
 Standardized delivery
 Part of learning is that one can see the contribution of each person. In a classroom setting, learning is on the spot. Also as one student presents a write-up using presentations and verbal gestures, another student replies or critiques some of the points raised. This enhances collaborative learning. Other students learn and make more contributions. This is not possible in a virtual environment where the students cannot see what the other person has submitted nor make meaningful contributions.
 Distance is a major hindrance as students lives thousands of miles or continents away from the teacher.
 Lack of access to the internet due to power outages especially in the less developed world is a major hindrance
 In a classroom setting, a teacher can give a lecture within days and assess the students within the period. However, in a virtual environment, it takes longer as the teacher has to wait for students to submit before he makes an assessment.
 Virtual learning requires organizations acquire online learning infrastructures which could be cost-intensive.
 Assessment of virtual learning could be difficult as the authenticity of the learning and the identity of the learner could be hard to ascertain. Although many students get caught as in the case of Islam Gaddafi which erodes confidence in the student’s actual ability, and takes away years of hardwork. This could also be a source of blackmail.
 The social face-to-face interaction is eliminated thereby depriving students of the value of the face-to-face interaction.
 Virtual learning is could take place any time, anywhere (24/7)
 In online journals, one can see the contribution of authors. However, one cannot ascertain the claims being made as he or she may not know if the observation actually took place. Even when writings are authentic, one cannot ascertain the true identity of the writer as some people prefer to use pseudo-names.
 With the advent of mass educational sites, the possibility of scams cannot be fully eliminated. A lot has been unveiled in Nigeria with people making claims for providing an online degrees just to realize that it was all a scam.
 Virtual learning seems to focus more on the content rather than the outcome.
 It views learning as an information-delivery tool and does not recognize the social aspect of learning
 A learner operates individually leading to isolation rather in a group setting
 It encourages the use of multimedia to excite (as in games) rather than enrich the learner due to its content-oriented nature
 Less investment is made in the learner as concentration is not only on the acquisition of specific skills but a more generalized strategies and skills
 In a virtual learning environment, interactivity is mistaken for engagement
 Virtual learning tends to focus on content rather than outcomes
 It also tends to mirror traditional teaching method on the technology
 Content could be viewed and searched by many users. This can be recycled by teachers across courses.
Conditions for effective learning
• Learning activities must be shared
• It must be authentic involving authentic tools and artifacts
• It must involve interaction between teachers and students
• It must be focused on what is being invested in the individual learner
• Learning activities and assessment must be clearly related to syllabus
• It must be matched to content, resources and the leaner’s current level of understanding
• It must provide an effective learning experience
• It must be content and learner-centred

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