Mohan Baruwal Chhetri, Shonali Krishnaswamy and Seng Wai Loke in their book entitled Smart Virtual Counterparts for Learning Communities, define VLE as “a social space in which teachers and students interact both synchronously and asynchronously”. You may be wondering what this means. A VLE is in plain a virtual space in which students are active participant of the class process without being face to face with the teacher or facilitator. It is therefore not only a distance online classroom, but also an improved innovative place where a bunch of technological educational activities takes place. Moodle, WizIQ, Elluminate, Aladonet and, as mentioned before, Second life are some of the VLEs that can be used for learning.
In the case of ESL teaching, Godwin-Jones believes that teachers “have embraced the world of collaborative opportunities the Internet has introduced” and it definitely offers powerful online opportunities for dialectic collaboration for language professionals as well as learners.
As any other Internet tool, VLEs have pros and cons that are still being debated by many education experts. However, it is important to highlight that VLEs help to incorporate the Internet to the class times instead of using it as just an information source, to facilitate students’ accessibility to live online environments, among many other things.
Professor Izquierdo has used WiZiQ for online lessons in which we listen and interact with our teacher and classmates using a webcam and microphones. Although, not all of us have either webcams and/or microphones, the experiences have been enriching and very interesting. I would really like to incorporate this tool into my class planning.
From my point of view, a VLE is an excellent tool to make students active actors of their learning process, but my only concern is that in the future VLEs totally replace traditional face to face classes in which teachers have the opportunity to meet students and use their words and body language to communicate without doing it through a webcam. I still believe that ecliptic methods always work better.