The aim of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the learning experiences of upper secondary school students in a virtual learning environment. The focus of the study is younger students aged 16–18. Virtual learning environments are defined as collaborative, interactive and communicative digital environments. The main research question was to distinguish the meaning of learning given by the participants. Did the participants perceive learning potential in the virtual learning environment, and if so, what signifies learning potential? Sub-questions were: What enhances learning? What might inhibit learning in a distance course? How do the participants relate to their role as distant learners? Four upper secondary schools in Finland took part in the study. Thirteen upper secondary students were interviewed after a distance course in social studies. During the analysis, four main categories were identified: responsibility, freedom, time and communication. A constructivist approach to learning was adopted while analysing the interviews, and the categories were understood through cognitive, affective and social dimensions of learning. The implications of the study are that a student-centred pedagogy and a social constructivist course design have the potential to motivate students to interact to learn, while the software, such as Second Life, Google+ and Wikibooks, offers them the possibility to do so. The study introduces an empirically supported concept, virtual learning. Virtual learning assumes an active learner who manages different learning spaces while communicating with people and metacognitively assessing the learning process. At the same time, students get used to the virtual and everchanging nature of information and knowledge.
|Publication status||Published - 2016|
|MoE publication type||G4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)|