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Her conclusion, developed by examining changing physical environments, is relevant to the argument being made in this paper about the influence of the physical on the virtual: "mobile interfaces make us aware of the importance of physicality when dealing with digital spaces" . As shown below, fixed–location interfaces also allow physical aspects to become part of digital spaces. Viewing the online classroom as a "hybrid space" including both physical and online space shows something more complex than a consistent, seamless learning environment. Each student and instructor is involved in a shared learning experience, but all students and instructors are also lodged in idiosyncratic local environments that shape their experiences and indirectly shape the experience of everyone else in the virtual classroom.
Online instructors build the learning environment by controlling variables such as how materials are presented, the kinds of interaction allowed, and customization of the interface. Some example systems range from fairly early projects such as CRUISER (Root, 1988), RAVE (Gaver, et al., 1992), and Portholes (Dourish and Bly, 1992), to newer systems like Team SCOPE (Steinfeld, et al., 1999), Babble (Erickson, et al., 1999), and Loops (Halverson, et al., 2003). Most of these design projects support work teams or groups, although there are educational systems such as Viras (Prasolova–Forland and Divitini, 2003). Online instructors build the learning environment to create a shared learning experience, and designers of course management software reinforce this consistency. Examining the online classroom as "hybrid space" — comprising physical and online space — reveals a more complex reality than a seamless learning environment.
Classrooms also have persistent physical characteristics like carpet, chairs, paint color, technology, lighting, and smell.