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Benefits of Using a VLE

Page history last edited by Christine B 15 years, 3 months ago

What are the benefits of using a VLE in Teaching and learning?



This wiki was compiled from discussions in the Best Practice Models for E-learning community during autumn 2007. If you would like to add your own contribution, please do so by requesting the password from Helen Walmsley (h.walmsley@staffs.ac.uk). If you do add your ideas, don't forget to add your name to the list at the bottom!


Administration and organisation

• For tracking student engagement in learning

• Using notice board features for announcements

• post FAQs – saves you and them time

• Interactive and collaborative work

• For reflective learning

• For collaborative peer learning (forums, discussion boards)

• Students can be asked to summarise articles for others to read and discuss

• The Groups tools can encourage a stronger sense of belonging and collaboration within groups, offering an area for members to 'privately' discuss and exchange files during the drafting phase of a project. 




• For peer review of student work

• For formative assessment (online quizzes) self marking, immediate feedback, no marking for me. 

• The use of friendly, helpfully worded feedback can be much appreciated by students and clarify areas of common difficulty.  Well-written feedback does not feel like a machine talking to you - it feels like your tutor talking

• Where class sizes are large, the requirement to give interim formative feedback to students has led some staff to incorporate use of CAA for formal class tests or in weekly practical sessions.

• On line multiple choice assessment give quick feedback to the students, and they then like to discuss where they went wrong as a group.

• Staff can collaborate in building quiz pools (shared workload) then encourage students to take certain tests regularly for revision purposes - every time they take the test it will be slightly different as the questions will be randomly drawn from a larger pool - can be a greater incentive for students to take the test if they know it won't always be the same. 



• Links to specific web sites for extension activities are also helpful.

• Use a forum 'ask here for help' in which learners and staff can respond.  This kind of peer support can save staff time too.

• Chunking content: We had the experience of a Child Care class at Dundee College who were given access to the online version of the same materials they had been working from in paper, and they couldn’t believe it was the same material – yet, in essence it was.

• We got all our curriculum staff to break their unit content into topics, and the materials were then reauthored in screen lengths. The consequence was two-fold – the students find it easier to absorb information in these lengths, and they in effect have a conceptual map through the navigation menu down the side. In turn the staff are forced into the discipline of identifying the discrete topics they teach within their area, and sequencing these.

• Where students are on placement and completing written assessments, discussion forums help to keep students focussed on readings etc. 

• A few lecturers are also offering "revision discussions" towards the end of modules rather than devote a face to face session to this. 

• As a balance I produce a gapped handout style workbook which they (students, mainly adult learners) like. This summarises, with graphics and text, the main points.  If they don't grasp the text, they can use the online materials for further enrichment.  This means the competent learners can press on at their own speed, while the slower ones can be identified and supported as required.


Hints for engaging tutors in using the VLE


• Provide good training at the basic level to get staff up and running, and then ensure there's some support during the first few months when they might get stuck.  This might be identifying someone in their department - academic or admin staff - who is confident or able to answer questions/provide encouragement.

• A lot of staff are reluctant to engage because they worry it will take a lot of time.  We try and just get them to use the VLE a little bit in ways that will save them time and be helpful for students - some staff will stay at that level, which is fine, but some will become interested and want to learn more.  Eg's of 'little ways' to use the VLE is to use the Announcements page as an electronic bulletin board, - use the Email tools (in Blackboard they're so easy, I presume they are in all VLEs) etc.  These tools have obvious benefits so you don't have to over-sell them. 

• Another way is to showcase good practice eg's of what other staff are doing - of how they're saving themselves time, or making admin easier, or supporting students.  These examples should speak for themselves.

• Another way in is to highlight weaknesses which might be solved by using a VLE.  For example, if the student evaluations show that they loved the course but the dept. was a bit disorganised and communication was all over the place - there you have evidence that something needs to change.

• Before getting their hands dirty on the VLE, I invited teachers to build their systemic ways of working; from identification of learning needs to assessment of teaching and learning, obviously passing through course planning, lesson planning, materials design (and yes, the VLE was perceived as a great helper in storing and sharing resources produced by the teachers), sharing of course and lesson aims and objectives, and formative and summative assessments.

• I took it in chunks and invited volunteers to investigate over a term the use of the VLE to share web links while others investigated how to share course content, email (teacher-student; student-student; student-teacher), quizzes to identify learning needs, check and assess learning, work assignment, self-evaluation/reflection, course evaluation and the use of chat rooms.

• To cut a long story short, at the other end of the journey, teachers came up with ideas to keep high achievers busy (differentiation?) through extended VLE-based activities, online marking of assignments, language analysis of logs of online discussions, “talking to the expert” – an activity in which a former student or an expert would be invited to engage in an online chat with students; sharing and analysis of video production done by learners, start- and end-of-course quizzes; lesson evaluation quizzes; I feel I’m running out of space… oh yes, these were all part of courses entirely delivered f2f.

• I've found that putting the college documents (such as the pay claim forms, annual leave forms, blank schemes of work etc.) onto the VLE is a good start to getting members of staff to actually log in and get them familiarised with the VLE environment.

• I was advised to use it in small chunks rather than on a massive scale.

• During my time at Henley (Coventry) we used WebCT as a means of supporting staff in making course planning transparent.

• To get our staff use to using Discussion Forum we created a staff area which had a discussion area as a part.  We had the Principal give her name to an initial discussion on 'Sustainability'.  It's a topic on which practically everybody can give an opinion.

• One way of getting academics on board is to try and remove the jargon so they feel as if they can engage. Rather than feel like outsiders looking in on "educationalists" or "IT developers".

• One way to increase VLE usage is through adding value to the VLE by, for example, integrating ILPs. However, if you need all staff to use ILP's putting the ILP exclusively into the VLE is likely to be counterproductive. This might then lead on to ways of integrating curriculum data with CIS data and to giving parents and students remote access to progress reports. This could have a bigger impact on learners and teachers than VLE have had to date.

• If you can get a group of teachers together who all teach the same or similar subjects, get them all to create a quiz, share the quiz, tell them to use it as homework one week.  Moodle will track who has accessed it, automatically mark it, then hold the grade in the grade book.  Teachers love the no marking aspect of it.  Getting them used to working collaboratively can be the hard bit.

• I agree with a previous poster that the "everyone must do" line is unsustainable, and that any staff development is about people choosing what's right for them to augment their course in some way.

Following on from the latter point re staff development, initially demonstrate to tutors just the tools they need to do the job.


Tools for creating content for VLE's

• Using a learning unit students can be directed to "do something" with the materials, or reflect on the activity, etc all in one container rather than the resources being in a store. The other major advantage of the 'learning unit' function in Blackboard is that you can use it to 'force' a sequential learning path - what I mean by this is you can provide information etc, then set some questions based on this, and the student can only progress once they have answered the questions to a satisfactory standard.


Moodle and Course Genie

• Moodle does work better with CourseGenie, in that it easier to create seamless integrations between the 2 (and you can create the links from CourseGenie to activities e.g. discussion areas).

• One piece of advice that I do give with CourseGenie is that you have the option under settings to export the CourseGenie package in different formats (e.g. Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT, or HTML) - personally I always go for HTML. There may be a slight loss in performance when used with the VLE - but you can rest assured that the package will work without the VLE, and be transportable between systems (should the college or university change VLE for example). I think this far outweighs the slight functionality that you lose.

• NB that course genie is designed to have a menu - but so do VLE's.  So you can potentially end up with two menus, and course genie isn't designed to link easily in and out of the course genie materials and any other VLE content you have - only via the main VLE menu, which isn't always what you want.  There are ways around this, depending on how technical you are.


Course Genie and Reload

The benefits of putting Course Genie output into Reload were:

• We then had a package which was truly interoperable - we used IMS standard and we have not found a VLE yet which won't accept our packages.

• Reload lets you create supplementary course organisations, so we created a second organisation for each object called Assets, which gives you access to a download page from which you can download any of the embedded powerpoints, worksheets, etc, plus the master Course Genie document for editing or repurposing.

• Using Reload as the skin let us put fuller metadata on than Course Genie would allow

In summary

• Blackboard better at HE than FE

• Moodle cheaper (but higher installation and maintenance costs)

• Moodle better for longevity but ultimately at some point in the future may become redundant.


Online learning means more than just VLEs


• Modern advancements in technology (mainly social software) have meant that there are loads of different ways to make content available on the internet, so the debate could move away from 'the use of a VLE and its benefits' to 'the benefits of making learning materials available on the internet in an organised and supported manner' as at the end of the day the VLE is just a vehicle.


Useful E-learning tools - podcasting, presentation etc.

• Services like Podomatic and Springdoo make podcasting a very easy process, presentation tools like Voicethread are frighteningly simple and effective whilst blogs or services like Pageflakes or Netvibes offer a very simple means of creating personalised learning spaces for individuals or groups.

• Positive: Teachers felt genuinely excited about producing content that could bring them in contact with, and get feedback from students and other teachers outside their institution. Several expressed the pleasure of creating learning materials independently outside the 'institutionalised' VLE.

• On the negative side, very valid questions have been raised about the robustness of the business models of these companies that offer free online services and whether the tools, and the teacher's content (!) will exist this time next year.

• I've also used the exe learn software to create similar, navigable resources for VLEs and this, too works much better in Moodle than in Blackboard


The next step for VLEs

• The new technology on the horizon that will define the boundary of the VLE and what we want of it is the development of personal learning spaces (e-portfolios) that offers even better opportunities for personalisation, differentiation and federated teaching.

• If the VLE is seen as a set of tools, really a subset of the broader range of teaching tools including F2F, then it is a matter of choosing the right tool for the task.

• So putting lecture notes or PPTs on Blackboard is fine, but what can be even more helpful is to be conscious of what you want the students to do with them - revise before the exam, preview before the lecture or practical, use them as outside preparation for a piece of assessed work, or...?

• In our 'elearning team', we try to fuse the pedagogical planning with technical training whenever possible.  It sometimes needs to be done gently and diplomatically.


Cultural issues and VLEs

• My thoughts are that we should be doing much more to understand the cultural uses of the VLE in Hong Kong by staff and students - experiences welcome please.  My other thought is that we (i.e. me) should be doing more to give Hong Kong students quizzes etc in a VLE context to improve experience and familiarity of VLE usage.

• Both ourselves and our course members value the face to face formal and informal interaction where we can both learn from each others cultures first hand rather than virtually. Of course we also need to consider the level of infrastructure and access to on-line facilities available. We hope our on-line activities will support rather than drive the programme and evolve as we all learn to use the available facilities smarter.



This wiki was compiled from discussions in the Best Practice Models for e-learning community during autumn 2007. Thanks to all the contributors:

Anthony Rosie, Cheryl Reynolds, Christopher Smith, Dave Foord, Dick Cervantes, Elisabetta Lando, Fiona Mylchreest, Geoff Rebbeck, Gill Kelly, Graciano Soares, Henry Keil, Ian Radcliffe, John Edmonstone, Karl Florczak, Kathryn Daye, Kevin Reiling, Lorraine Lavery, Mary Jacob, Naomi Hoyland, Nigel Wynne, Peter Travis, Peter Trethewey, Ruth Nagus, Clare McCullagh


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