Is your virtual learning environment an obligatory passage point?

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Michael Callon defined the term "obligatory passage point" to describe the essential element that enables a function to occur.

For example, search engines have become the obligatory passage point for finding facts, replacing encyclopaedias and other reference books. Facebook has become the obligatory passage point for connecting with friends, replacing post cards, telephone calls and catch ups. Email has become the obligatory passage point for business communication, replacing letters and faxes.

All of these things, search engines, email and Facebook, became the obligatory passage point for many people because it improved the experience for them. If the experience wasn't improved for them then they wouldn't have changed their behaviour and the technology wouldn't now be seen as essential for performing the function that it does. That is not to say that everyone agrees, some people still rather to look up facts in books, write post cards and catch up with their friends in person!

When we introduce virtual learning into our school learning program it will only be successful if it becomes the obligatory passage point for one or more functions of student learning.

If the old function is still available then the virtual learning will need to be seen as superior in order for it to be used, that is, it must meet a need. If most students believe it is easier to ask a teacher than look up the information or ask it on the discussion board then the discussion board won't be used. If learning discussions happen both in the classroom and virtually, then how does the virtual environment improve the discussion? Does it allow more points of view? Does it allow great depth? Does it encourage a more wider range of experiences? If the access of resources are part of the virtual learning environment then how does it improve what is already available via search engines or in the textbook?

When designing virtual learning environments it is useful to consider the concept of obligatory passage points. Ask yourself, what are the functions of the virtual learning environment, what are the existing and competing obligatory passage points and what improved learning experiences are being offered to students?

I'd love to hear from you:

  1. Is the concept of obligatory passage points useful as we plan virtual learning?

  1. What obligatory passage points does your virtual learning environment provide?

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