Many have been exploring ways for building a "virtual university" either from scratch or by virtualizing the educational experiences at already existing colleges and universities. Yet, a few institutions of higher learning, such as Virginia Tech, have been laying the foundations for such online learning environments since 1993. With its support for the Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV), a state-wide broadband ATM network (NET.WORK.VIRGINIA), the Faculty Development Initiative (FDI), the Cyberschool project in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the campus-wide Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning (IDDL), Virginia Tech has been uniquely positioned as a site to assess the benefits and costs of virtual university instruction. Drawing upon this six years' experience, the College of Arts and Sciences at Virginia Tech will continue the serious, sustained, and on-going debate about the merits of online teaching and distance education launched at "Learning Online '98" in June 1998 with "Learning 2000: Reassessing the Virtual University."
The purpose of this conference is to gather colleagues from around the world who are interested in the shape and substance that the virtual university is acquiring in practice. In addition we hope to debate the advantages or disadvantages of digital discourse, learning online, and virtual university life. By reviewing the quality of faculty life, the pressures on support staff, the impact on student learning, the demands on university administrators, and the potentials for reaching new types of learners, a series of paper sessions, round-table discussions, panels, and keynote speakers will address the wide range of issues that emerge in this domain.
Included in these discussions will be a meeting for the university administrators and faculty involved in creating the Electronic Campus of Virginia (E-CVA). E-CVA is the Commonwealth of Virginia's experimental effort at creating a statewide virtual university, and this group will have much to contribute to the discussion with the other conference participants.
Reviews of our Learning Online '98