Efficacy of VLE's

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Graham
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« on: November 22, 2007, 11:07:20 AM »

Having recently attend a few Becta events, e.g. harnessing technology seminars and National Conference, I've been speaking to a variety of practitioners, stakeholders and policy makers about VLE's and learning platforms.

In principle, the notion of being able to distribute materials via web-based VLE systems appears to be considered "a good thing" but I haven't been able to find much by the way of evidence that suggests they are making a positive impact on learning. Some people have suggested that they are no better than electronic hand-outs with a student response system tacked on, some have suggested that it's yet another example of old teaching practices with new technology.

I've been doing some digging around but haven't found much solid evidence-based research beyond that published by the developers of the VLE's themselves.

This isn't intended to be a controversial post but it would seem that if we accept that learners are mobile, accessing and manipulating information from different sources and devices, then some form of learning environment is required. If the environment is learner-centric then wouldn't it be the learner that is creating the material for review rather than the other way around?

A lot of VLE's seem to advertise SCORM compliance like it's a good thing but maybe I'm confused because I thought this was a standard for "drill and kill" tuition favoured by the US Military (ok, I guess that was a controversial statement Smiley ).

Can anybody point at some research that shows the efficacy (for learners) of existing VLE / Learning Platform systems?

Cheers

Graham
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stu_mob
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2007, 01:51:46 PM »

Oh! go on Graham be controversial you do it so well Wink

I am not sure how much of shelf life the VLE in its current form has left. If you want personalised learning (which the Government seems to like the idea of for now anyway) then is it really personal to bring all your learners to this controlled gateway and say 'there you are you must use this'? If you look at how Web 2.0 and mobile learning is going then it seems more about users bringing together their own tool kit. Learning providers need to work with that if they really want to provide that individual experience.

Its fairly likely that for now education will remain institution focused e.g. you attend a University, school etc so these places will need tools to track user learning and award certificates etc. and also provide avenues to learning e.g. learning materials.  VLEs do that what. What they don't seem very good at doing is giving the user freedom to chose their own path. Web users today may be using Youtube, Bebo and mobile devices etc.. in lots of different ways. The problem for VLEs is they belong to a different era, an era when everything was centralised - very Web 1.0.

Thats a fairly techie response combined with anthropolgical observations. I suspect it will be hard to find studies saying VLEs don't work because a helluva of lot public money has been invested into them for good or bad.

By the way I am not anti-VLE,  not all, I just think the current approach is not agile enough for the emerging educational landscape. I've seen some great work done by a college I am working with who are developing a mobile interface for Moodle. They have a taken a similar approach to work that I have done with Hairdressing Training materials and are developing an interface that is fit-for-purpose i.e. designed with mobiles in mind. Its these kind of approaches that will help VLEs adapt to the new landscape but longer term, institutions probably need to think about how Web 2.0 technologies are being used by leaners and the freedom that goes with that and is actually required to make it work. There is some great stuff out there but it does not fit with the protectionist approach of the VLE.
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jont
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2007, 05:06:51 PM »

its a long time since so much money and time has been wasted on so much to provide so little. :-)

Inbuilt incompatibilities, people getting hung up on whether they have blackboard or moodle or whatever and most of the time just uploading pdfs of 20 years old lecture notes so it doesn't really matter.

:-)

Seriously though, I think the VLE/MLE whatever you call it concept has not been helped by a desire by some organisations to use it for the wrong things or to integrate it with other systems.
 





« Last Edit: November 22, 2007, 05:13:14 PM by jont » Logged
Michael Wilkinson
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2007, 07:18:01 PM »

The way I view 'Learning Platforms' is as an interoperable group of systems. If we can combine the Web 2.0 type tools together with structured and personalised learning content, school administration systems, e-portfolios and parental access - then we have a platform which firstly supports transmission pedagogy, followed by constructivist approaches where a (mobile?) learner can create and submit user generated content to represent their understanding of a given problem, and then have the tool sets to discuss why their outcome differs from their peers outcomes (i.e. social constructivism) with a more able peer (a tutor?) participating and scaffolding knowledge.
The platform (if and when) utalised properly should provide an infrastructure conductive to learning.
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Graham
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2007, 12:48:57 PM »

Hi Michael

I tend to agree with your concept of how things ought to work but from what I can tell that isn't how the majority of VLE's and Learning Platforms (as prescribed by Becta - http://industry.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=27053) are being deployed.

An enormous amount of investment is being made in the acquisition of such systems yet their use seems to be at odds with the notion of personalised learning because it relies on a teacher to distribute and present content rather than the learner finding materials that work for them and demonstrating their learning in a constructivist or co-constructivist manner. A VLE that simply allows a bit of banter on a forum isn't what I'd call personalised learning, just seems like old teaching practice with new gadgets as previously mentioned.

My interest is in finding examples where the use of VLE's has improved learning. Like the use of Interactive Whiteboards this seems to be difficult to find but I remain open-minded.

Cheers

G
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Tony P
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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2007, 12:38:58 PM »

It is just great to come to a thread where many of your own ideas are already crystallised in the earlier comments.  Smiley

So I will be able to shift to the other perspective... There is an awareness both out there (see above) and also in the educational system of the tension between the web 1.0 controlling teacher-led nature of many of the online learning environments currently being touted to schools and the learner-centric user-led web 2.0 nature of the current online world. The DfES (as was) actually used the term 'Learning Platform' over 2 years ago in an attempt to avoid confusion with the VLE/MLE top-down approach underpinning much of the traditional thinking in the area. And their booklets spoke strongly of the emphasis on communication and collaboration, rather than that dreaded term 'content delivery'.

However given the cost in time and effort of developing both the technology and the thinking, I think we have to prepare ourselves for an extended struggle in this arena. Makes turning oil tankers look like a piece of cake...

If one looks around, away from the big traditional VLE providers, there are some exciting developments in online learning environments, with as ever the innovative schools pioneering exciting stuff using web 2.0 technologies and thinking. I would cite the Assessment for Learning tools developed by SmartAssess as one example.. and it is impacting on the thinking of others. VLE providers are seeing the success and enthusiasm and trying to play catch up. So we need to keep the faith and plug successes to help keep the pressure for change on....
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Leeg
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2008, 02:43:27 PM »

HI All

We are just in the process of rolling out a VLE by RM and handheld devices and i have to agree that there is an element that this kind of learning is more structured than the learner finding chunks they want to learn. Lets not forget though most of the teachers i have had dealing with strugle with a white board let alone planning lessons around web 2.0 technologies. I think this is going to be a gradual transition into individualised and personal learning which unfortunatley maybe a little to late for some of the pupils with high tech abbilities. At the end of the day you cant just let young people learn what they want when they want there needs to be some structure and uncontrolled learning surelly is bad practice. How many times have you all researched something on the net only to find that it's garbage teachers should be there to filter that garbage and find the roses and deliver that content in a way that the learner wants and understands.

I'm a network manager at a school and very keen on implimenting mobile technologies to link up with the VLE and talented teachers to create a more organic way of learning and allow some of the pupils at least to benifit from a 24/7 mobile classroom. I just hope that we can capture some of the talent in school before its way to late, but better late than never.

Cheers
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Graham
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« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2008, 09:53:21 AM »

At the end of the day you cant just let young people learn what they want when they want there needs to be some structure and uncontrolled learning surelly is bad practice.

I would argue that this is excellent practice and should be encouraged. Learning happens in both formal and informal environments not simply within a physical building with somebody dictating what should be learnt and when. Mobile technology and learner mobility is intended to enable uncontrolled learning with a structure defined by the learner (s), e.g. social constructivism.

How many times have you all researched something on the net only to find that it's garbage teachers should be there to filter that garbage and find the roses and deliver that content in a way that the learner wants and understands.

Smiley Do you think that a 21st century skill for learners might be an ability to compare, filter and interpret information from sources such as the Internet? After all we teach children at a young age how to cross the road...

I also wonder whether young learners have greater skills in this area than many of their teachers?

I'm a network manager at a school and very keen on implimenting mobile technologies to link up with the VLE and talented teachers to create a more organic way of learning and allow some of the pupils at least to benifit from a 24/7 mobile classroom.

Out of interest, why would you believe that talented teachers require a VLE?

Young learners are already creating blogs, podcasts, social pages etc. Perhaps teachers could interface with these rather than learners having to travel back in time to view primitive pages from VLE systems?
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Spike Town
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2008, 11:29:27 AM »

Hello,

A very interesting debate. It basically comes down to the fact that schools are judged (rightly or wrongly) on the standards they achieve in a certain set of outcomes, i.e., tests. It would be lovely to allow children to simply go off and learn whatever intereseted them but unfortunately they may end up with very disparate and "useless" knowledge, not to mention underdeveloped skills in terms of accessing and filtering information. One part of my day to day role is working with a primary school who have a Smartphone (no voice, just unlimited data contract), using windows mobile, in the hands of every Y5 child (about 70 of them). The children are very adept at using the devices to research info, collate information in various applications, etc. All the sorts of things that learners have and should ahve been expected to do in classrooms for years with perhaps books and pens and paper. The devices make that much more personal, and effective in terms of being able to access stuff anywhere and edit their ideas as they evolve. The VLE that they use is seen by them as essential, their words, not mine. They use it to store their work (so as not to overload the device) access info that they know the teacher expects them to know about and use blogs, forums etc to share information with the other children. 90% of that use, communication, is used to discuss the relative merits of whether ice cream is better than chocolate, zac efron is better than someone Jonas (? lol) and what their favourite football team is. They wirte loads, often repetitive stuff, about exactly the same thing. They usually write in some form of text speak - which is interesting because there is not exactly a "standard textspeak" and many children complain that they can't undretsand some of what others have written. Maybe that is why standard english is perhaps a good thing. Certainly several children have told me that they will be writing in "proper" english more now as they see what a pain other forms are to read. Their point was that they were unsure of the audience and so went for the best fit type of writing.

When the teachers have put on key pieces of information, or assignments the children tell me that they think it is great because they know then what they have to do and can focus their attention on it. Comments include, "we don't have to trawl the web where there's all that rubbish" and "we know we are safe on the VLE because it is a secure site and the teachers know who the members are". Esafety is a huge worry for children and they tell me (I've had this from pretty much all the classes who share a page across our LA) that they like the VLE for it's safe element. The teachers have capitalised on this and used the safe microcosm to then teach them about the wider issues which Graham rightly mentions, such as esafety and effective use of the web.

It is also clear that given an open search, or even directed tasks and activities to do on a secure page, the vast majority of primary children do not have the abilities or inclination to look further than the explicit blog there are looking at or a forum. Children have constantly asked for help guides for example on using sommat like Windows Movie Maker. These have been made available in "plain" view for them, yet they ask the same question!!!

What is clear is that a VLE of whatever form is a wonderful starting point to teach the children about web responsibility, safety, use of etc whilst in a safe environment. By all means as children develop they will be able to use the web technologies in a more sophisticated way but certainly as a starting point the idea of children as "just able to use these things" as I once heard a man in braces tell me is nonsense. I have hours of taped interviews that are massive evidence of it but you can't see because of child protection LOL!!!

What we have found is that close liaison with parents is essential in all of this as what happens and is learnt at school can be reiforced or monitored at home. The local response from parents has been immense as many are unsure of what the technology can do and how vulnerable their children may be. The VLE has been incredibly warmly welcomed from that set of stakeholders.

Right off, to talk to 70 odd kids and their parents about what they use the web for and if they would like a secure site that only they could access and use to share work, access school stuff and collaborate on stuff without the rest of the world potentially seeing. I wonder what they'll say?  Grin

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Graham
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2008, 04:51:47 PM »

By all means as children develop they will be able to use the web technologies in a more sophisticated way but certainly as a starting point the idea of children as "just able to use these things" as I once heard a man in braces tell me is nonsense.

LOL!!!

naughty, naughty  Grin
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Groovephase
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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2009, 10:31:13 AM »

Dragging up an old topic  Wink

I'd be interested to see how many Colleges have developed their own VLE?

We developed our own way back in the late 90's called seeNet:http://www.icthorizons.com/seenet/index.aspx, we've performed incremental upgrades over time but we are redesigning the system from scratch over the summer.

Why?

To make it a more valid learning tool.

We're providing our users with personalised content, course centric learning resources that provide students with one click access to the relevant content for their course and a range of add ons http://www.icthorizons.com/research/seespace.aspx to enhance their time spent on our VLE.

If you were designing a VLE today, what would you use it for?
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