There has been a significant increase in the number of students enrolled in universities in the United Kingdom over the last two decades (Saunders and Gale, 2012:847). With a larger number of students, this results in larger class sizes in many institutions. Larger classes with traditional face-to-face teaching may not be efficient enough for students to obtain sufficient knowledge. A solution to this problem is the use of virtual learning environments (VLEs). Shea and Bidjerano (2010, cited in Matzat, 2013:40) stated that online and blended learning is likely to become an important part of the educational system. According to Zhang and Xie (2012:2236), nowadays, technology has developed to such a stage where high speed internet and broadband networks allow the access of actual laboratory resources. This will allow students to access laboratory tools and high performance software from their homes. Reid (2001, cited in Khorsandi et al, 2012:481) reported that there have also been the development and use of online faculty evaluations for students. Virtual learning environments, as defined by Leese (2009:72), are described as an environment which is computer-based and involves the sharing of information between learners and tutors. This essay will assert that using VLEs in an efficient manner can help improve the learning experiences of the student and also encourage behavior of students to take part in and out of class activities. The first part of this essay will look at the positive aspects of VLEs starting with how they are beneficial to students and teachers, then how VLEs encourage students to engage with in and out of class activities, and lastly how VLEs can be used to modify and enhance traditional face-to-face teaching in higher education.
To begin with, there are many benefits that both students and teachers can gain from using VLEs. VLEs contain many features, to name a few they include access to course materials, assessments, podcast, and...
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* Khorsandi, M., Kobra, A., Ghobadzadeh, M., Kalantari, M. and Seifei, M. (2012). Online vs. Traditional Teaching Evaluation: A Cross-Sectional Study. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 481-483.
* Leese, M. (2009). Out of class—out of mind? The use of a virtual learning environment to encourage student engagement in out of class activities. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(1), 70-77.
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* Matzat, U. (2013). Do blended virtual learning communities enhance teachers ' professional development more than purely virtual ones? A large scale empirical comparison. Computers and Education, 60, 40-51.
* Saunders, F. C. and Gale, A. W. (2012). Digital or didactic: Using learning technology to confront the challenge of large cohort teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(6), 847-858.
* Sharpe, R., Benfield, G., Roberts, G. and Francis, R. (2006). The undergraduate experience of blended e-learning: a review of UK literature and practice. York: The Higher Education Academy.
* Zhang, X. S. and Xie H. (2012). Learning by Doing Approach in the Internet Environment to Improve the Teaching Efficiency of Information Technology. Procedia Physics, 24, 2231-2236.
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