Virtual Versus Real Learning

Virtual learning is not going away. It continues to grow in digital leaps. Of course, virtual learning has been around for a lot longer than digital and the Net.

This 2008 video is titled “virtual learning is no replacement for real learning.” It is from the National Institute on Media and Family (which closed in 2009).

Bernard Bull referenced the video in a post that starts by saying that "Real learning is no replacement for virtual learning, not as we begin to consider the affordances of virtual reality." If you watch the video (which uses learning about what an orange is as an example), Bull's comment on the video is: "How many face-to-face classes teach science using pictures from a textbook? Look at some of the best virtual schools. They send out amazing packages of kitchen science projects. It is a myth that brick and mortar school is full of real world activities. That isn't reality in most classes. It is also a myth that virtual learning is 100% screen. Virtual schooling can be packed with real world activities that are far away from the computer screen."

Good learning experiences use both real and virtual learning. I recently made a repair to our clothes dryer by first watching a video on YouTube showing someone doing it. If I had only watched the video and never actually done the repair itself, I doubt that I could explain what I had learned very well to another person who needed the knowledge. But I could never have done the repair without that video. A "real teacher" helping me do the repair in-person would have been great and probably even better as I could have asked questions along the way and have been corrected if I erred. But that experience just wasn't available to me. We have done that as teachers and learners for a long time. Virtual experiences have always allowed us to travel back in time and experience distant places. The opportunity to use greatly enhanced digital learning experiences makes the combination of that with "real" learning much more powerful.

Also posted at Serendipity35


  1. Watching this video of Bernard Bull -- isnt it a virtual experience rather than a real experience?

    1. That's not Bernard. That's an older video that he is pretty much countering.