Psychological factors in virtual classroom situations: a pilot study for a model of learning through technological devices
Multimedia Communication Systems (MMCS) are particularly promising for the realization of advanced virtual classroom situations, in which people spatially distributed can communicate in real time using text, voice, sound, still and moving pictures. They could provide the opportunity to improve flexibility of learning and cooperation in the learning team. On the other hand, there is evidence that the availability of MMCS in a distance learning situation does not ensure their use and adoption by the users. Among the barriers to the diffusion of these forms of distance learning, human factors, in particular psychological factors, may play a prominent role. On these topics further theoretical and experimental work is needed. In order to examine these topics a new tool has been implemented at Fondazione Ugo Bordoni (Roma): the distance learning laboratory (DLL). This tool is being utilized in an investigation concerning the use of virtual classroom situation realised using multimedia systems. The present paper is related to the explorative phase of the investigation. In particular its main obectives are: a) to present a pilot study (realised using the DLL) to gain some insights on the psychological variables that can affect performance in virtual classroom situations; b) to propose a Model of Learning through Technological devices (MLT) in a virtual classroom situation. This model has been developed from previous research on computer acceptance, attitudes, social learning, and from the outcomes of our pilot study.