REAL AND VIRTUAL LEARNING SPACES
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18-10-2010, 03:42 PM
The past two decades have been a time of tremendous social, economic, and institutional change for all sectors of higher education, including the research library community. While responding to the unprecedented development of technology, colleges and universities have also addressed issues of social relevance, accountability, diversity, and globalization. Although academic institutions are notoriously slow to change, they have experienced considerable ferment, prompting shifts in priorities and constituencies within disciplines.
The rapid strides made in the field of ICT have also led to a paradigm shift in education and training in all fields and the borderless library plays a vital role. More and more individuals are taking courses through distance education to relish their dreams (Ibohal Singh Madhuri Devi, 2009). The web collects and creates knowledge resources from any place any time. Thus, it acts as collaborator between the creators and users of knowledge and becomes a part of the global knowledge network.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
VLE is a term that contains the online learning services. This is also called learning platform that organizes and provides access to online learning services for the students, teachers and administrators. These services include access control, provision of learning content, e-learning tools and administration of user groups.
According to Anil Kumar Dhiman (2010), e-learning includes all forms of electronic supported learning and teaching, which are procedural in character and aim to effect the construction of knowledge with reference to individual experience, practice and knowledge of the learner. Information and communication systems, whether networked or not, serve as specific media to implement the learning process.
Wang and Hwang (2004) say, e-learning “denotes information and communications technology enhanced learning by delivering learning contents and activities via internet, intranet/extranet, audio/video, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, and CD-ROM.”
Krishnamurthy (2005) defines digital libraries as “electronic libraries in which large number of geographically distributed users can access the contents of large and diverse repositories of electronic objects”. The range of electronic resources include online catalogues, databases, multimedia, online journals, digital repositories, electronic books, electronic archives, and online/electronic services (Barton, 2005; Lukasiewicz, 2007). Today’s another form known as consortia (Dhiman and Rani, 2007) is coming out in digital environment, which provide access of many documents to multiple participating libraries. INFLIBNET, DELNET, CALIBNET etc. are making their utmost efforts in this direction; particularly the INFLIBNET is providing free access to more than 4500+ e-Journals to participating university libraries in India (Murthy, Kembhavi and Cholin, 2004).
Web-based reference service is an emerging field in reference services, which enables students and faculty to get seamless access to relevant resources on a 24/7 service. Moyo (2004) points out that the “24/7 availability of the web has resulted in users expecting 24/7 online help” at the time of need. Virtual learning environment is also an upcoming area which according to Hall (2001) is a Learning Environment based on software and designed as an all- in-one solution that can facilitate online learning for an organization. It includes the functions of a learning management system for all courses within the learning environment; however, it may not be able to track online courses that were not created within this particular learning environment.
Management of VLE
Many academic institutions nowadays use D-Space open source platform for accessing, managing, and preserving scholarly works. Institutions can customize the D-space system for management of their digital materials. IISc; IITs (Delhi & Kharagpur); National Institute of Technology (NIT), Rourkela; National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore; National Chemical Laboratory, Pune; INFLIBNET, Ahemdabad; National Institute of Oceanography, Goa; Raman Research Institute, Bangalore etc. have established Open Access Institutional Repositories (Singh et al., 2006) in India.
Advantages of VLE:
Interaction: The lack of interaction between learner and subject specialist is another problem. It may net be possible because of subject expert non-availability, but for teachers it may be possible to access experts via e-mail. Sometimes, face to face interaction can be made possible through online conferencing. E-learning designers also need to increase the interactivity.
Speed of Network: Internet connectivity is essential to access the information or learning materials. As e-learning involves multimedia file, higher speed of network with sufficient bandwidth is required. Sometimes, low speed and connectivity cause frustration among the learners or the users of Internet. Further, Internet has not reached remote areas and has limited reach to users, only in urban areas.
Budgetary Support: Considerable infrastructure such as hardware, software and manpower require heavy investment. Organizations which want to start e-learning system should have enough funding. The lacuna on this part hinders the creation of better and interactive environment.
Quality of the Services: Regular user surveys are needed to test the materials to ensure the higher quality of the services to its users, hence they should be repackaged periodically.
Copyright: Libraries need to distribute copies of the same information to the distance learners. So librarians must be familiar with the rights to intellectual property, especially in digital environment. Thus, the above mentioned major problems need the attention of the policy makers and of the librarians to be solved out for creating better e-learning environment.
The extraordinary development of Internet has made noteworthy upheaval in all the areas of science and technology. As a tool for searching and retrieving information, Internet has become the sovereign of all media, by which we can access virtual information and can build a virtual library to provide timely and excellent service to the users. Librarians of this digital epoch are in position to revolutionize their role as arbitrary information scientists/gatekeepers and to meet the challenges of the online access in the knowledge society. So they must enrich their knowledge with special skills of the latest IT developments, to browse, access and retrieve a particular information across the global networks and to organize and manage the information by building digital libraries and by which they can provide quality e-information service to the knowledge society. In this, as in other skills, library staff must develop the ability to educate faculty members, helping them to understand the power and applicability of e-resources.
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