IATED: International Association for Technology,

Education and Development


INTED 2007:

International Technology, Education and Development Conference



Antonio Grandío Botella

Jaume I University

Castellón de la Plana /Spain

E-mail: agrandio@emp.uji.es



The Guided Virtual Learning is the chosen name for bearing on the emerging phenomenon that takes place when using the GIC (English, KIM: Knowledge Interactive Manager), a useful tool of the EVAI: www.evai.net (English, VILE: Virtual Interactive Learning Environment). The interaction takes place in a computer classroom with beamer and audio capabilities. Students are suggested to look for and summarize web pages guided by previous given key words in class or in the textbooks. These pages are inserted in the system and associated to their name. In real time, his or her name and picture is displayed in the screen and “spoken loudly” by a Speech Engine (TTS: Text to Speech). As the links are inserted, viewed and “listened”, the teacher supervises the process and corrects it, making suggestions and introducing new information and knowledge into it. So, the teacher is included in the learning process. Both, teacher and students are involved in a “learning circle”. Furthermore, the learning source shifts from the teacher to be centred in the student. The teacher is no longer a “knowledge transmitter”, becoming more a leader, coacher or “learning catalyst”. These characteristics are getting along to the new European Higher Education Space framework.


Keywords: virtual environments e-learning



1. - Introduction: what is a blended environment?


With the emerging of new features that the Internet and its derivates (as interactive database web based environments) have made possible, in this last decade we have seen also the emerging of new ways of understanding education as a matter of the fact that these new reality is bringing into play. Besides the pure virtual-distance education, those teachers which are involved in the more or less classical education manners have also the opportunity of introducing the new possibilities of the “virtualization” into their daily work and exploring new ways of learning and interacting.


If we look for a definition, Blended Learning can be understood as “ the combination of multiple approaches to learning. For example: - self-paced, collaborative or inquiry-based study. Blended learning can be accomplished through the use of 'blended' virtual and physical resources. Examples include combinations of technology-based materials, face-to-face sessions and print materials”. [1].


Along the same meaning of this definition, we use the term “blended environment” for referring to the daily use of both, classical lecturing, virtual environments and even beyond that: a new way of learning that implies the simultaneous presence of the actors (teacher and students), the emerging new pool of instantaneous knowledge (the Internet) and the assistance of e-learning platforms adapted to these new discovered (in real time the most of cases) ways of education. We can depict this new way in the following picture.



Picture 1.- Blended Learning Environment (Grandío, 2003).


The software platform we have used for this purpose is the VILE: “Virtual Interactive Learning Environment” (in Spanish: EVAI: Entorno Virtual de Aprendizaje Interactivo, with its own Internet Domain Name: www.evai.net). In the case referred in this paper, it has been used another domain name, which is the application of this environment to the subject we are teaching in the Jaume I University: the portal Human Site: www.humansite.net.



2.- What is Human Site?


As a particular application of the EVAI, Human Site is a self-elaborated virtual e-learning platform. As many other platforms it has the usual features to be expected in these ones. For instance, multimedia contents management (text, pictures, presentations, audio & Video etc) by teachers and students, communication tools as forums, chats, automatic massive communication  and even Instant Messaging, planning: calendar, evaluation: marks and test a questionnaire design and many others.


Nevertheless, Human Site has some extra features, related to its adaptation to these new experiences that are being explored. Human Site is conceived to be a complement of the theoretical contents of the syllabus. All lessons have key concepts that can be found in the Text book, but also in the usual lectures given by the teacher (let’s note that all the lectures are video recorded and put in the platform so every student can watch at the class in any given moment only having an Internet connection and a web browser). The key concepts are a matter of study for the student, via selective searching in the Internet with search engines. In particular, the students have to insert in the available database the chosen web pages including a short summary and an optive larger comment. Once done this, the web page is associated to their name, and no one else can insert the same web link. The flowchart is as follows:


Since October, 2001 until now, January 2007 the portal has received about 38.100 links (web pages) related to Human Resources Management in its database.


As we have mentioned, each link is joined to an abstract performed by the student who inserted it (searched for, chose and decided to insert). Thus, each link is associated to his identity (personal profile, with picture, video and additional data) in a permanent way. He is the only one that can modify the abstract or even delete the link. Furthermore, all the students have to assess the other's contribution by means of a poll system updated in real time with statistics (means and standard deviation related both to each link and each identity). So, every student knows constantly how many votes he or she has and the statistics related to his or her contributions (this score has its influence in the final marks). This I one of the ways to maintain certain quality level in the database.


The tool that gathers all these features is called the Knowledge Interactive Manager, KIM (in Spanish: Gestor Interactivo de Conocimiento, GIC). In so far the Internet is becoming the greatest pool of knowledge of the planet, we think it is a powerful tool that complements and, in some cases, substitutes the traditional way of working with books and using the library.


The work of searching and inserting the web pages can be done in anywhere and anytime but, and this is what we are considering in this paper, the best way of doing it is in the practical class they may attend every weeks, where the teacher is present and the “guided virtual learning” is performed. Let us consider what this learning consist of.


3.- A "Guided Virtual Learning"


In a global sense, the guided virtual learning (GVL) refers to a “new way” of education based on the student’s self-learning. Actually, this is a  very close concept to that of the new orientation of the European convergence process (Tuning Project), where there has been a change from the educator as a knowledge transmitter to the educator as a “coacher” or facilitator.


But in a concrete sense we also use the concept of GVL for addressing the particular situation created in a computer classroom with the following infrastructure:


Computer Classroom with beamer and audio. Each time a student inserts a link, it is displayed in the screen in real time.

Besides the displaying the link, the software has a Text To Speech Engine (TTS SAPI 5.0, via a Microsoft Agent). A TTS software is a tool that converts written text in human voice. Until the SAPI (Speech Application Programming Interface) 5.0 version, the voice was generated by an artificial FM synthesis, but this version supports “natural voices”, very close to real human voice. This feature increases dramatically the “immersivity[1]” of the environment.

This TTS engine announces:

Each new inserted link and its title.

The name of the student that has inserted it.

The group that he or she belongs to with the slogan associated (and created by them) to the group.

The student that has inserted the most number of links (each 5 minutes).

In the wide screen is shown a list of links with their abstract and the picture and name of the student.

The teacher oversees the process one by one and comments it guiding, suggesting concepts, authors etc. This is part of the “guiding” process, and let us note that everybody is aware of the work done by the classmates.


We have mentioned above that one of the sources of learning are the keywords. We have said that we can find them in the textbook and that are cited by the teacher in their usual lectures. Many times, the teacher writes the concepts and the author’s and theories name etc. in the blackboard for making them easier to grasp by the students, and gives a general description of the main distinctive characteristics of a conceotual framework or a theory for example.


As we have also mentioned, all lectures are video recorded and put into the platform so every student may access the videos at any time. This only has been possible since the MPEG4 codec appeared and the computer power was enough (that is to say no more than 3 years ago). The recorded classes have a length of 1 hour and 40 minutes and their size is not higher than 200 Mb. So they are easy to manage. Moreover, the practical classes are recorded only in audio, because of the teacher has to move too much along the classroom assisting the students fixing any kind of problems.


One of the objectives during all the time developing the project has been to increase the motivation and the implication of students. Among many others, we have been inspired by the Hackmann & Oldham Job Characteristics Theory [2]. And, as a part of this aim, there is an anonimous questionaire whith 5 items referring this theory that provides us of feedback. Up to the present the most significative items are the following:


1.- The Education in the future will be like this.

2.- A Quality Education should include this way of working.

3.- Learning implies less effort and is funnier.

4.- The teacher deserves a mark of 7,9 (over 10).

5.- It enhances the autonomy of the student.

6.- It enhances the feedback of the student.


4.- Emerging Patterns


In earlier investigations [3], [4], [5], we have found some “emerging patterns” that


One of the results of our exploring

Synergy between new European Higher Education Space and emerging patterns found.

From teaching to self-learning

Teacher looses knowledge monopoly (i.e. Guided Virtual Learning in Human Site).

(The Internet is a more competent source of knowledge).

From knowledge transmitter to learning catalyst (coordinator, mentor, coacher, leader).

Control Locus (authority) Displacement, from outer to inner.

With the Internet, the teacher becomes a learner (cooperative) as well.

No timetable, instant messaging-forum-e-mail instead office hours. Fuzzy boundary work-leisure.

Immediate Feedback


Identity Declaration. Degree of immersion.

Personal Data: picture, “more about me”, “interesting”, “wow!”, video. All subject to public poll.

Virtual (social) reference as coordination mechanism.

Motivation as Online/Offline vs. Degree of Implication.



5.- Reflections.


Thanks to these new technologies, we think we are moving into a new paradigm that could be summed up in the word “creativity”. In oder to deliimitate more clearly the differences with the existing (old) paradigm we use the term “idealism” for addressing it. The differences are shown in table 1.1.















Achieving, Acquiring

Realizing, Understanding

Animal Realm








Catalyst Leader

Human Archetype

Idealist, Mystical, Devotee, Saint

Creative, Practical Mystic, NGO

Table 1.1.- Shifting Paradigms: from idealism to creativity.






[1] Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning. 01/26/07.

[2] Hackman, J.R. & Oldham, G. R. “Work redesing”. Massachusetts: Adison-Wesley  Reading (1980)

[3] Grandío, A.;  Pinazo, D.  & Gimeno, M. A. “ Emerging Patterns within “Blended Learning Strategies” in Education. 26th International Congress of Applied Psychology. July, 16-21. Athens Greece, 2006.

[4] Grandío, A. Agut, S. & Peris, R. “Perceived Efficacy and Achievement in Virtual Learning Environments”. 26th International Congress of Applied Psychology. July, 16-21. Athens Greece, 2006.

[5] Grandío, A; Peris, R.; Pinazo, D. & Jiménez, A. Features of the Interaction Lecturer-Student in E-Learning.


[1] Degree in wich a person “feels/believes” to be “into” a determinate environment (from the Virtual Reality field).