Virtual Education: 21st Century Educational Tool

In the 21st century, people are enthusiastic to learn things via sources which are freely approachable thereby projecting a way of learning called as Virtual Education. Here we discuss some educational tool for online education.

Virtual education provides diversified fields of studies and creating job opportunities for many people with different professional backgrounds.

IGI Global (a leading international academic publisher, headquartered in Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA) has defined virtual education as “Virtual education refers to instruction in a learning environment where teacher and student are separated by time or space, or both, and the teacher provides course content through course management applications, multimedia resources, the Internet, video conferencing, etc.”

The virtual education can be in the form of a short course, in-depth certificate, diploma and or online degree program(s) via audio-video sources and text material in the form of research papers, articles, books etc. At the end of any virtual education program, certificate of accomplishment is issued. Even more online degrees can be found that can guide you through choosing the right career path.

The fields of virtual education includes business and management, marketing, history, language and cultures, literature, politics and the modern world, law, teaching, science-engineering-maths, computer science and information technology, nature and environment, health-fitness and psychology, arts, music, media and design, photography and personal development etc.

Video based sources of virtual education includes youtube (videos, animations, lectures) and certain TV channels such as National Geographic and Discovery channels.

Advanced professional research based virtual education websites includes researchgate, academia and linkedIn etc. There are different quotes about virtual education, for example, “If you are on social media, and you are not learning, not laughing, not being inspired or not networking, then you are using it wrong.”- Germany Kent; “eLearning shouldn’t be a casual joy ride on a Sunday afternoon with the cruise control engaged.

The sole purpose of eLearning is to teach.”-Christopher Palm; “We need to bring learning to people instead of people to learning.”-Elliot Masie; “Teaching in the Internet age means we must teach tomorrow’s skills today.”-Jennifer Fleming; “Online learning is not the next big thing, it is the now big thing.”- Donna J. Abernathy.

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There are many sources of online courses such as Academic Earth, ALISON, BBC Podcasts, Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, Code, Codecademy, Coursera, edX, Fun Brain, FutureLearn, Harvard Extension, iTunesU Free Courses, LessonPaths, Khan Academy, Lynda, Memrise, MIT OpenCourseWare, National Geographic Kids, Open Culture, OpenLearn, Open Yale Courses, Stanford Online, TEC-ED, Tuts+, UC Berkeley Class Central, Udacity, Udemy, University of London Podcasts, University of Oxford Podcasts and Whyville.

Online audio, video, adobe reader (pdf) and powerpoint (ppt) lectures are available on different websites of universities and online courses. Audio books are also available on different websites. Different online learning sources includes slideshare.net, scribd, wikipedia and encyclopedia.

Now-a-days, webinars and video conferences are frequent means of disseminating information. In this connection, HEC has also established video conference halls in different universities of Pakistan. At present, zoom and skype based teaching is also an emerging teaching trend. Search engines like google and yahoo are crucial part of the virtual education.

Google offers services such as google translation, present currency rates, prayer times, weather forecast, present-past sports activities, age calculator etc.

Online document sharing websites includes Calameo, Dropbox, DocStoc, eDocr, FlipHTML5, FlipBuilder, FlippingBook, Google drive, iSpring Cloud, Issuu, Joomag, OneDrive, PUB HTML5, Screencast, Think-cell, Zyyne.

Online presentation creation and sharing sources includes slidesix, 280 slides. Slideshare alternatives to create and share online presentations includes AuthorSTREAM, Box, Canva, Docdroid, Emaze, Google Slides, Hashdoc, Knovio, Office Sway, PowerPoint Online, PowerShow, Present.me, Prezi, PreZentit, Projeqt, Reel, Speaker Deck, SlideServe, Scribd, Slides, SlideSnack, Slide Rocket, Slide Dog, SlideBoom, Visme, Zentation and ZohoShow.

Social media, for example, Facebook is being used by people sharing different case studies, jobs, scholarships advertisement and their respective field expertise. For example, virtual education is quite feasible and adequate for geoscientists and even other scientists.

It is because usually geology and geophysics (G & G) software trainings are conducted by multinational companies which are very costly, however, using youtube one can easily learn how to use any G & G software suite.

Most often the people from developing countries are quite excited to have some kind of degree/certificate/diploma etc from world’s top class universities so their dreams come true through virtual education, for instance, a couple of online courses, Reservoir Geomechanics and Unconventional Reservoir Geomechanics are regularly offered annually by Stanford University, United States of America (USA).

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Most of the geoscientists are taking advantage of these otherwise very costly courses free of cost. Even the power point presentations, lecture notes, recommended book(s) and videos of the courses are very adequate and up-to-date. Likewise, people studying and working abroad records videos live for assisting the inhabitants of Pakistan by educating them about the submission of application forms, requirements of different study programs and life style in the foreign countries.

Recently, the people have shown great interest in pursuing higher studies in People’s Republic of China. Most often the students are supposed to study Mandarin (Chinese) language for their first year and its one of the important requirement for the award of the degree.

So Coursera (very famous platform of online courses) can be easily approached by students to study different courses covering various levels (HSK-1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) of Mandarin language so that they can communicate with Chinese people conveniently while they are studying and living in China.

In Pakistan, there is a very vital virtual education program called as Virtual Education Project of Pakistan (VEPP) working under the auspices of Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan and Latif Ebrahim Jamal National Science Information Center, International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi.

In VEPP, online courses are offered in the fields of basic, applied and social sciences and also vocational trainings and courses are designed for different levels like schools, colleges, universities and vocational trainings centers.

Likewise, there are certain virtual education programs of Government of Pakistan introduced to produce skilled human resource at different levels. One of the key program is digiskills (sara jahan hamara).

The mission of digiskills (sara jahan hamara) program is “to offer one million trainings to the Pakistanis to gain marketable digital skills that can transform them into successful freelancers, employees and entrepreneurs”. Likewise, there are different institutes offering online courses such as Pakistan Institute of Computer Sciences (PICS) and Pakistan Institute of Technical Skills (PITS).

The importance of virtual education can be envisaged by the functioning of a Government University named as Virtual University of Pakistan. “The Virtual University, Pakistan’s first University based completely on modern Information and Communication Technologies, was established by the Government as a public sector, not-for-profit institution with a clear mission: to provide extremely affordable world class education to aspiring students all over the country.

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Using free-to-air satellite television broadcasts and the Internet, the Virtual University allows students to follow its rigorous programs regardless of their physical locations. It thus aims at alleviating the lack of capacity in the existing universities while simultaneously tackling the acute shortage of qualified professors in the country.

The Virtual University uses a combination of video lectures, reading material, audio/video tutorials and on-line interaction (e-class rooms) for imparting knowledge”.

Currently, due to the outbreak of coronavirus across the world, online teaching has been adopted by the educational institutions in People’s Republic of China, United States of America (USA), Australia and in so many other countries.

In Pakistan, educational institutions have been closed up to May 31, 2020 due to outbreak of coronavirus. HEC-Pakistan is focusing on online teaching and hence in the stage of providing online teaching facilities for all universities across the country. So, online (virtual) teaching is a vital tool and can help the inhabitants of the planet earth when the world is experiencing worst circumstances due to pandemic coronavirus.

The beauty of virtual education is that it provides complete flexibility and freedom to study at the student’s own convenience, pace and place. For each and every organization and event there are websites and even Facebook pages demonstrating the importance of virtual technology and education in today’s world.

There are several merits and demerits of computers and other electronic gadgets (smart phones, ipods, ipads etc.) as far as their usage is concerned. So virtual education gained through these electronic devices make them vital tools of getting education and disseminating knowledge in the 21st century.

It is pertinent to mention that in October 2018 an article was published on cnbc.com (business and financial news network), which emphasized that  Google, Apple and 12 other companies are no longer interested in employees’ college/university degree. Hence, today’s world is in great demand of skilled workers which can be developed and nurtured by virtual education tools and ways.

In short, virtual education encompasses people from all walks of life such as medical doctors, researchers, professors, engineers, freelancers, tourists, sportsmen, artists, chefs etc and the people are free to take great advantage of this innovative tool and means of education.

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