The Development Of Virtual Educational Environments To Support Inter-School Collaboration


The introduction of inter-school electronic networks has added a new dimension to education in Canada that has many implications for students who attend schools in rural communities. Collaborative internet-based teaching and learning and the creation of virtual classes within regional intranets now complement traditional on-site instruction in many schools that are located beyond major centres of population. Five stages in the advent of virtual educational environments can be identified starting with the introduction of computers in schools as a foundation for the development of collaborative teaching and learning environments. Inter-school collaboration in rural Canada and the extension of curriculum options for senior students has, in turn, provided a basis for the integration of virtual classes and traditional face to face instruction. Instruction in classes that are electronically-linked to other classes requires different skills from traditional face to face teaching and the development of new strategies and protocols. The implications of open and flexible teaching and learning for the future organization of classes, the preparation of teachers, articulation with higher education and in particular, regional economic development are now significant educational policy issues. The linking of virtual and face to face classes through cybercells is a possible next step in the development of virtual educational environments.

KEYWORDS: Collaboration, Cybercells, Integration, Intranet, Rural, Virtual