Virtual education was not created to replace traditional education. However, it was created to broaden the availability of education to all learners regardless of geographic location and regardless of learning style or type of intelligence. Both traditonal and virtual learning have their advantages and disadvantages. Both environments require a certain amount of conformity to be functional. Conformity is a concept that is often frowned upon in society because many equate it to the loss of freedom and individuality. However, conformity, in moderation, is necessary to maintain order and function. Without a certain level of conformity, things would devolve into chaos. Basically, this is the reason that rules exist. Two basic types of conformity found in a school environment are- formal and informal.
Formal Conformity includes:
- Academic Classroom Conformity
- Social Classroom Conformity
Academic classroom conformity refers to the behaviors to which one ascribes to develop productive study practices to successfully master content. Clearly defined objectives by the instructor are essential to helping students have a clear definition of what is expected of them academically. Social classroom conformity refers to the behaviors to which one ascribes to develop relationships with peers and instructors to successfully master content. It is about communication. In both traditional and virtual learning environments, one must strive to develop acceptable basic communication skills to most effectively receive information and exchange ideas with others.
Informal Conformity includes
- Interactions with peers outside of the classroom
- Interactions with instructors not directly related to the daily lesson
Informal conformity involves relationship that aren’t directly related to class studies. Peer interactions and social adjustment are issues that, although not directly related to learning can very much impact one’s ability to learn at their maximum potential. Bullying, ostracization, and marginalization are issues that can have a devastating effect on a learner’s attitudes towards school and learning.
These two types of conformity are made even more diverse depending upon other factors that impact the learning environment. There are rules that must be followed in both classrooms to facilitate fluid functionality to build a productive learning environment. Traditional classrooms have been the most reliable and practical solution for learning for centuries throughout the world. The only other venue of learning that has proven to be just as effective if not more is on-site apprenticeships in which hands-on experience can be gained to learn a specific skill set. The physical classroom room itself is an organizer in which instructors can customize to suit their teaching practices and the needs of their learners. Also, person-to-person interaction is particularly important in the traditional classroom environment where there must be a certain amount of unison to accomplish set goals. Learners who need to work at their own pace, be it slower or faster than the general student population, or those who are more independent and self-directed as well as those who need differentiated instruction and/or one-on-one instruction will find that the virtual environment gives them the independence and flexibility for their learning needs. Indeed, as virtual learning becomes more common place, it is steadily becoming the learning option of choice for these learners.
Conformity inVirtual Classrooms
Social development is a major concern of those considering virtual education and opponents of virtual education. In a virtual environment, particularly in an asynchronous learning environment, there are concerns that there isn’t enough peer-to-peer interaction for team collaborations that foster character building skills such as compromise, tact, and selflessness. These are social skills that not only essential to having order in school, but they are essential to having order in society. Most importantly, these skills help students learn how to relate to others as individuals in the most appropriate manner. Online social ettiquette are the rules that govern the social interactions of the virtual classroom. Rules of online social conduct in a virtual classroom typically include:
- Basic respect for one’s isntructors and peers
- Be clear and concise
- Respect everyone’s right to an opinion
- No yelling
- No Badgering or harassment in any form
- No profanity
Violation of any of these rules can be appropriately addressed because all social activity in a virtual classroom environment is recorded. Whereas in the traditional classroom environment, unless witnessed by an authority figure or caught on video, most social interactions are a matter of he-said/she-said. In addition to online ettiquette, areas for assignments, discussions and other activities are designated in the online classroom. Specific due dates are given for assignments and projects. Multimedia communication tools such as web cams, chatrooms, and discussion forums can be used to for person-to-person communication.
Many question how a sense of community built achieved in an online learning environment? Common interest is the key to building community. Common interests bring people together all the time. They are the ties that bind. Online, people frequently form groups to learn more about their interests by immersing themselves with others who share the same or similar interests. Websites such a Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, and MySpace have proven this over and over. In the virtual learning environment, the class is the online group that shares the common interest that is the course. Sub-group (work groups within an online course) and hands-on learning activities are tasks that can become more highly detailed specialized tasks to be executed to create complex assignments and projects that can be the effort of the individual group or collaborative effort of many groups.
Where distance may be a barrier of communication and community in the physical world, it becomes a valuable tool in the virtual world. Distance in the virtual world means broadening one’s knowledge by learning about and from other cultures. Distance means gaining a new perspective and adding new dimension to one’s understanding of that interest. In this way, for the very first time in history, perhaps, will learning institutions be able to fully focus everyone’s attention on course matter, thus eliminating any other extraneous issues while also teaching a vastly expanded audience of learners.