VLE adoption – approaching meaningful use of virtual learning environments

By Matt Cornock

This post is a plain-text equivalent for the ideas presented in the Prezi: VLE adoption – approaching meaningful use of virtual learning environments. The presentation provides an overview of the reasons why course tutors/lecturers decide to start looking at the possibilities a VLE can provided, typically through a blended (face-to-face and online) learning approach. It also touches upon the thought processes that occur when considering VLE use.

A common prompt for module covenors to start to consider the role of a VLE as part of their teaching is when they evaluate the current success of a module.

Think of success as a measure on a scale:

At one end students’ learning experience is perfect, grades are excellent and the teaching experience is enjoyable. At the other end of the scale, the student learning experience is dreadful, grades are poor and the teaching experience is painful.

Everywhere in between is where most modules sit. For the vast majority of modules there is scope to look at where carefully developed, structured online materials and activities can supplement, complement or even substitute face-to-face teaching.

What about the really good modules? A common utterance is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. However, how can you as a tutor differentiate between the excellent students and the good students? The VLE could be used as a way of providing stretching exercises to allow excellent students to flourish.

What about the really bad modules? In this case ‘the VLE is the least of my worries’. However, by identifying what the major problems of a module are, the VLE could be used to support or rework these aspects.

VLE integration: Take up of the VLE in the middle of the module success scale may range from a single, relatively minor activity to more integrated approaches which span the whole module. VLE usage at the extremities of the scale normally come about after a major rethink of the module curriculum. In these cases, the module may adopt a blended approach where significant, credit-bearing activities are incorporated.

Taking things forward: In either case, a good place to start is to consider the existing module aims, and whether the module in its current form enables those aims to be met by students and tutors. Don’t be afraid to try something out, but also don’t use a tool or VLE method for the sake of it. Every resource or activity should add value to the student learning experience. This is important as when using the VLE, you may be competing against the students’ expectations of face-to-face teaching provision. Non face-to-face teaching must be meaningful and of perceivable value to the students. Easily achieved by being explicit about your expectations of students and what students can expect of you. Consider methods that have worked for others by talking to your colleagues.

Always consider whether the inclusion of VLE resources and activities enable the module aims to be met. If the answer is ‘yes’, then how so? How has this changed the learning process for students? What have you as a tutor learnt from this? If the answer is ‘no’, is your use of the VLE a meaningful contribution to the learning process? Is it perceived to be of value to students? How can your use of the VLE improve?

If you are left scratching your head, then perhaps use of the VLE may not be appropriate for you. If you question your motives for using the VLE, chances are so will your students. It could be that extra resources and online activities don’t fit in with your module aims, structure or learning process. This is fine.

Remember though that VLE advisors can help you through this process.

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