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A framework for online learning: the Virtual-U

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1 Author(s)
Harasim, L. ; TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence, Canada

Much of the online post-secondary education available in North America and Europe has been created piecemeal. This situation arose because educators began adopting computer networking in the mid-1970s, soon after the invention of packet-switched networks (1969) and e-mail and computer conferencing (1971) for exchange of scientific information. In late 1993, the author set out to help design a system using the Internet that would encourage the adoption of a collaborative learning approach. She and her colleagues also wanted to develop embedded tools to meet the needs of both instructors and students. The goal of their system, now known as the Virtual-U (, was to provide a flexible framework to support advanced pedagogies based on active learning, collaboration, multiple perspectives, and knowledge building. With two years of field trials serving more than 8000 students and hosting 300 courses from 14 institutions, the Virtual-U provides a flexible yet well-organized framework for online, collaborative education. It brings together a multidisciplinary research team of educators, HCI specialists, engineers, computer scientists, and database and instructional designers, fulfilling the promise of integrated online learning

Published in:

Computer  (Volume:32 ,  Issue: 9 )