Generación McLuhan
Primera Edición Especial
Julio 1997

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New Directions For Virtual Classroom and Remote Education

por: Enrique Tamés, Isabel Vallejo


A research was held at the ITESM where multimedia programs for classroom- usage with pedagogical validation where created. Learning styles, teaching styles and effects on cognitive processes were observed to identify and evaluate variables that change the traditional learning-teaching model.


The mission of the ITESM (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey) is to form professionals to excel in their major fields. That is why faculty and professionals at the Mexico City Campus worked together in a project named "Toward the Virtual University" that created educational multimedia applications and validated their use from a pedagogical perspective.

The teachers who participated in the project taught one class using the multimedia software and another one in traditional mode. The classes in the project were Advanced Written Expression (H .002) and Social and Cultural Values in Mexico and Latin-America (H. 099) at undergraduate level. An observer attended both classes in order to obtain the information that was needed to validate the use of these programs.

After all the experimentation which includes psychometrical tests, behavioral obsevations in classrooms, questionaires and one focal group it was noticed that a change inside schools is needed because teachers must understand that a new model for the teacher-student relationship has to take place. This new relationship will help the students live an interactive relation with the computer information because it stimulates different learning skills. Classes that use multimedia software as a means of teaching implicate that the teacher needs to modify his/her role in the classroom from being an informer to become the bridge between the student and the new knowledge sources.

In conclusion, to make a successful usage of technology in the classroom, teachers need to cooperate in a moderating rather than in a directive attitude toward his/her students during class. It was noticed in the project that the directive role of the teacher became an impediment for the student-computer-knowledge relationship to take place while the role of witness-moderator represented the most adequate form to address this learning mode.


At the México City Campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology, we have been working on a project for virtual education for over a year. As part of this project, psychological and pedagogical validation has taken place, and it has developed ideas and proposals to manage role conflicts inside and outside the classroom that derive from this class modality.

The model we have used to validate our concept of virtual education has gone through several stages. First of all, we created multimedia programs to be used in the classroom. Once we had all the material for the courses, we organized information sessions for the students in order to introduce them to the class modality and give them instructions for the registration process. Then, the class-sessions took place in a computer lab and we made observations and interviews; kept grading averages; made a course-program evaluation; and gave an interpretation to the data and results we obtained.

With all the information and results we obtained, we came up with two proposals: one was to study the students' study habits and learning; the other one was create a program to train and prepare teachers for this new class modality.

The first proposal was founded on the idea that we could find relevant information about the success or failure of our programs depending on the students' learning styles. Therefore, our research followed a qualitative structure based on observations (case studies), interviews (focal groups), and the application of learning-style and field-dependency tests.

Through all this methodology, we thought we could find the student with the "perfect" profile for this type of class. For example, a hypothesis was that a student who demonstrated a tendency to construct knowledge based on echoic information was more likely to fail in an iconic structured course such as our virtual classes. However, this hypothesis proved to be false; we had many students with echoic profile who succeeded in the class and only one who failed. However, we now understand that the learning style categories are not enough to explain the students success or failure in the virtual modality. Actually, we are convinced that other variables prevail and they influence the learning process such as the role of the teacher inside and outside the classroom. In fact, the teacher's role became one of the most determining issues to be discussed in this investigation.

The traditional teaching role sees the teacher as the holder and literal transmitter of knowledge and an authority that influences the alumni in their study style. This influence shows up in aspects such as study strategies, perception of contents, feeling toward the course, commitment with homework and essays, attendance and failure.

In order to analyze the role conflict experienced by teachers, we had first to define the different roles that have been played inside and outside the classroom. The roles are ordered as follows:

Traditional Classroom Virtual Classroom Magister Dixit Magister Proponit o Disponit Director of discussions Share Experiences Instructor Create-ideas Expositor Counselor Informer Keep up with new information Traditionally, the teacher has two areas in which to play such roles: inside and outside the classroom. In the virtual modality, these two areas tend to become one. As the teacher turns into a "virtual guide, counselor, director and facilitator, it becomes less important for him to teach classes and advice the students personally.

It is a problem for the teacher to accept this virtual role. Not all professors are willing to deal with a non-authoritative role in their classes. We have discovered the great importance teachers put into being the masters of knowledge. They have the need of being recognized not only during class answering questions and giving information, but also outside the classroom, advising (cabildear) student's and justifying the different interpretations others give to information and knowledge.

This issue has risen several questions for us as a research team:

1. What should we say to teachers about these classes in order to make them join us?

2. Are they willing to overcome their fears toward the technological "monster"?

3. How do we deal with teachers who have begun the project and later kept their distance?

4. Are the students receiving any messages of acceptance or rejection from the teachers?

5. And to what extent is this message influencing the students development in the course?

We open the discussion with theses questions. Although we have some answers to them, we would like to enrich our experience and theories with your comments and opinions.

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