Book Review ~ Socio-Economics of Virtual Universities: Experiences from open and distance higher education in Europe. Edited by Friedhelm Nickolmann and Gerhard E. Ortner
Author(s)Reviewed by Paul Kirschner
Special aspects of education
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AbstractIf I begin on the “topicality” of the content, I can stop immediately. But that will not yield the promised review, so let’s do it a different way. I’ll begin with the content and with the title itself: Virtual Universities. How do they think up such titles? Isn’t virtual reality, a reality that does not exist? Instead, isn’t it a combination of interaction between the digital zeroes and ones of my computer (often networked with other computers) and the perceptions of my sensory organs and how they are processed by my brain. The feelings, people, and things that inhabit such virtual worlds don’t really exist, except in my own mind. But now a “virtual university?” As I understand from this book, virtual universities really do exist, real people work there (and are paid real money), real students study there, and real diplomas are awarded. Nothing virtual about this! Or is “virtual universities” just a sexy new buzzword to set apart what used to be called correspondence or distance universities from traditional, contiguous universities? If this is the case and the “campus of a VU is globally open, electronically accessible . . . free of real time constrictions . . . ” (p. 10) then I am again back to my first problem, namely that topicality renders the term “virtual” virtually useless? Most universities are already partially virtual or are rapidly becoming so. So what’s a poor vacationer to do?