Introduction to the VLE

It’s crazy to think that this conversation was happening in 2003…

Becta's definition from 2003

… and it’s still going on 12 years later.

The Moodle hub shows some excellent examples of interactive learning and just what is possible with a Moodle learning environment. That said Moodle isn’t the only answer and just the mere mention of it can strike fear into the hearts of some, especially those who last engaged with it in the 1.x days! Memories, of a clunky system that is hard to engage with, often needs dedicated and knowledgeable support and lots training and staff development time to deploy. Rightly or wrongly Moodle has got a bit of a reputation as being an academics platform for academics. In the day job I’m seeing providers moving away from using Moodle, and those providers new to realms of virtual learning environments looking to a more business focused solution. Moodle is open source software, that doesn’t mean it is free, although you can use Moodlecloud it is unlikely to be a complete solution for a learning provider.

So what are these other solutions? A couple come to mind. Google Apps for Education is emerging as a popular solution with the Gmail, and Google drive functionality to support Google Classroom. If you are still interested in the free route then another popular choice is Edmodo with it’s Linkedin/Facebook social media look and feel. Providers who are using e-portfolios forsummative assessment for formal qualifications are looking to Edmodo as a way of encouraging collaboration amongst learners, useful for those who are entirely work based, and delivering an engaging learning and formative assessment platform. I’ve also seen WordPress effectively deployed as a learning platform, but I don’t know much about it personally although there is a guide here.

The most important feature of any VLE is that it has to be interactive. All too often they turn into document repositories. There can be a lot of factors at play, I know I have been guilty of it in the past, it’s easy just to dump documents for learners to access with the best of intentions to develop an interactive learning experience around the important bits you need to share. The problem is, if the experience is poor and not engaging then your learners are going to be disengaged from the online learning. They’ll start to treat it as a document repository too. A little bit of time and effort really does pay dividend, so you have to remember the return on investment.

Planning Your Online Course

Should you be an influencer within a provider at the begining of their digital learning experience I urge you to consider it holistically, rather than opting for a product based on one course, or one recommendation. Whilst aimed more at HE and FE the ‘Enhancing the digital student experience’ cards should be your first port of call. If you’re a UK SFA funded skills learning provider then your Jisc account manager can certainly support you. If you don’t know who your account manager is, get in touch with the contact centre.

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