Luis Emiro García, Vice President of Full Sail Online at Full Sail University
Online line education has given a new rhythm to learning dynamics. Universities and education centers now have a new type of student, and students can now reach spaces that would have previously been impossible to reach
The digital revolution did not leave education behind. On the contrary, the digital revolution has established new standards and dynamism for the learning patterns of students formed in the classroom, and even more of students who are digital natives.
Founded in 1979, Full Sail University in Orlando (Florida, United States) has not lost sight of the new paths that technology provides to teaching. This university, ranked by Shift Journal as one of the first three New Media universities in the United States (jointly with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University), currently offers 33 education programs directly on campus and through its distance platform.
Venezuelan Luis Emiro García, vice-president of Full Sail Online at Full Sail University and in charge of the distance learning division of that institution, reels off the ways and opportunities opened in this context to teachers and students.
How has teaching evolved since the arrival of the Internet?
Teaching has evolved in several aspects. First, support-teaching materials such as books are no longer the information source they used to be. Today, the most varied and updated information is not in the books, but on the Internet.
Secondly, students have assimilated the concept of searching and synthesizing information available on the Internet. In this manner, students evolved the process of only learning in the classroom to learning constantly.
Thirdly, inevitably the role of the professor has drastically changed. The teaching model where the professor is the owner of the information is not valid anymore. The professor is now the facilitator of the information and the learning process.
What do virtual studies represent for universities?
They represent "opportunity." It is the opportunity to give access to students who otherwise would not receive teaching. These "new" students are basically from two groups that are not mutually exclusive. First, students who are active members of the workforce. Secondly, students who do not live close to the university.
Which are the prejudices around this model?
The main prejudice is lack of a forward-looking approach regarding their development. When traditional universities decide to incorporate this teaching format, their own policies do not usually allow them to implement it successfully. For distance-learning students to be successful, universities have to provide all their distance services. This means, for instance, to be available outside office hours. Most distance-learning students have jobs and families, so if they are going to contact the university they will do so after seven in the evening. Accordingly, universities need to have available staff at that time. This also applies to professors.
What kind of teacher does a university need in this virtual space?
This is a great question. Again, the introduction of technology and the access to the Internet have drastically changed the role of teachers. Now teachers, in their role as facilitators, have to adapt their methods to customize teaching to each student. For this reason it is now said that distance teaching requires a greater effort than teaching in the classroom. Also, as any traditional means that ventures into Internet, using merely the same materials, homework and evaluations in a distance environment is a recipe for disaster. Teachers have to learn to "recreate" content and adapt it to this medium, as well as prepare to facilitate instruction at all times, not exclusively a few hours per week.
What is the student's profile?
The student's profile also changes. Distance-learning students have to be more disciplined, capable of motivating themselves and of learning from many places at the same time. Students with the expectation of merely sitting at a desk, listening to a lecture and being prepared to learn only at that point in time will not be successful in that environment. Again, right now this type of learning is undertaken by an older and mature student, given his/her personal circumstances in his/her job and with his/her family.
How effective is this type of learning?
This is a key question and the most important one. Nothing matters if the student does not learn. If we consider it from a practical point of view, distance learning is more similar to our natural learning process. Traditionally we have grown with the idea that in order to learn we have to take a seat in a classroom, in the presence of a teacher, with a group of people around us, and for a specific number of hours. But those are not really the only conditions that make the learning process possible. The truth is that we all are constantly learning, in a different way, and not really in parallel with other students. Distance learning allows us to individualize, and thus optimize, the learning process. We learn from many different places (books, websites, videos, news, etc.), at a convenient time for us (in the morning, during the day, or in the evening), and interacting with many people, not only colleagues and professors.
Translated by Mercedes Alonso