Going Virtual – #3

Defining some terms!

I realized after writing #1 and #2 that there are differing uses of the terms ‘virtual’ and ‘digital’. I’d like to offer the following – even if just to help you, dear reader, interpret my posts!

Virtual:  Simulating a place or process that would otherwise be physical. 

So think of the terms ‘virtual learning’, ‘virtual world’, ‘virtual reality’, ‘virtual meeting’ or ‘virtual office’. In each case we are describing a substitute for an otherwise physical, in-place location or process enabled by physical elements.

I’m a bit of a word geek as well, and I’ll note that the root of ‘virtual’ is from the Latin terms ‘virtus’ and ‘virtualis’, which is defined as “possessing certain virtues”. I think we may agree that any of the virtual solutions we are considering should be examined for their particular pedagogical ‘virtues’!

Digital / digitization / digitalization:  The application of digital technologies to existing (analog / physical) objects, systems and processes, following a particular strategy.

I note that people writing about this have not agreed a particular term, and often use these interchangeably. I am not fussed about which term.  I am, however, quite fussed about the last piece of my definition – ‘following a particular strategy.’

I added this because far too often we see the leap to digital technologies to create virtual solutions with little or no thought as to strategy. Strategy, in my view, operates in two layers:

  • Design and Pedagogical Strategy: Are there particular technologies that fit the design specification – what the end user or participant will get most value from? What is your pedagogical strategy for achieving the stated learning outcomes, and what digital tools best fit that strategy?
  • Corporate / Organizational Strategy: Is there an imperative to reduce the carbon impact within the organization? Are there particular technologies that make strategic sense for the organization in terms of investment and application? Are there tools that have already been built, provisioned or purchased? How can we make the most out of these?

My belief is that design and pedagogical strategy should lead the way, informing corporate and organizational strategy (most often).