Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


Novel Recipes



Virtual education

core definition

Virtual education is delivered, usually via information technology networks, without restricting the learner in space or time.

explanatory context

Virtual education is often seen as synonomous with on-line learning (for example the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (2011) Online Learning Definitions Project simply cross refers). Virtual education, in the past would have included distance education but in the second decade of the twentieth century it would usually imply learning via the Internet without any formal requirement to attend a physical campus.

In some cases virtual education complements on-campus learning and as such is closer to blended learning

analytical review

Farrell (1999, p. 148) states:

It is not uncommon for terms such as virtual and online to be used interchangeably by individuals to describe different approaches to technology integration.... We described the virtual university as primarily having two forms: one existing independent of a physical location (although, like the Open University in the U.K., it might otherwise resemble a traditional university), the second denoting an online institution with some or all parts of the virtual campus replicated using information technology. We later expanded that definition of virtual institutions to include organisations that broker educational services; these may take the shopping trolley approach to education and training, providing a basket of goods and services drawn from partner institutions.

Elaborating on this, Vitangcol (undated) states:

The term "virtual" is derived from industrial and systems engineering and the concept of "virtual reality". Today you find "virtual" classrooms; "virtual" libraries; "virtual" organizations; "virtual" learning environments, to name a few. It is a common knowledge that so called "virtual" universities or technology supported academic and non-formal teaching and learning opportunities are expanding rapidly. What is “virtual” education then? .
Virtual education can be defined in two ways (Farrell, 2001):
1. The application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to core institutional functions such as administration, materials development and distribution, course delivery and tuition, and the provision of learner services such as advising, prior learning assessment and programme planning.
2. As an organisation that has been created through alliances and partnerships to facilitate teaching and learning to occur without itself being involved as a direct provider of instruction.
A third definition is given by Alfieri (2002), “Virtual Education is an effort to complement the curriculum taught in the traditional educational setting with virtual curriculum that makes use of the vast potential of the Internet. Its goal is to provide information equity for all students, regardless of disability, geographical location, socioeconomic status, etc.”
There are many labels used to describe this evolving process of adopting Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to enhance educational processes. This educational strategy is interchangeably referred to as “distance education,” “distributed learning,” “online learning,” “Web-based learning,” “e- education,” “e-learning,” or any one of a number of other labels. Current strategies typically involve the use of digital networks, and information and communications technology infrastructures.

Under the heading of 'The definitions of virtual education', the Finnish Online University of Applied Sciences (Suomen Virtuaaliammattikorkeakoulu) (2010) states:

eLearning studies are studies that are not connected to any time or place. They are study entities (or course entities) offered for students via information technology networks or by CD-packages. The eLearning studies are planned, clearly independent entities which are graded independently and should be worth 1 credit at least. eLearning studies can contain supervising, guidance or exams that are not virtual.

Tavakol (2012, p. 152) states:

Let us start with the definition of virtual education. It means instruction in a learning environment where teacher and students are separated by time and/or space and the teacher provides course content through ICT based methods such as Internet, multimedia resources, and videoconferencing. Students get the content and communicate with the teacher via the same media.

associated issues


related areas

See also

blended learning


Alfieri, C., 2002, VirtEd Virtual Education, available at, accessed 13 March 2013, still available 12 January 2017.

Farrell, G., (Ed.) 1999, The Development of Virtual Education: A global perspective, Vancouver, British Columbia, Commonwealth of Learning, available at, accessed 13 March 2013, page not available 12 January 2017.

Farrell, G., 2001, The Changing Faces of Virtual Education, London, The Commonwealth of Learning.

Finnish Online University of Applied Sciences (Suomen Virtuaaliammattikorkeakoulu), 2010, The definitions of virtual education, available at, accessed 13 March 2013, page not available 12 January 2017.

Tavakol, M., 2012, ‘Virtual Applications and Real Problem: Education and Higher Education in Iran’, Journal of Social and Development Sciences 3(5), pp. pp. 152–60.

Vitangcol, A.S. (undated, c. 2003), The Implications Of Virtual Education In Higher Education Institutions, available at, accessed 13 March 2013, page not available 12 January 2017.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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