Category Archives: 100 ways

100 ways to use a VLE – #97 Visual Discussions

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Using forums on a VLE is a great way of providing a place for text based discussions. The asynchronous communication medium offers a very different experience to a face to face discussion in a classroom situation; one that some learners may prefer. I have never thought that online discussion forums replace classroom discussions, no much more they complement what happens in the classroom. Different learners will prefer different discussions, some will enjoy the spontaneity and immediacy of a face to face discussion, others will prefer the reflective thoughtful aspect of a text based asynchronous discussion. Similarly the context may affect the choice by learners, they may prefer face to face for certain topics and textual for others.

It can be easy to focus on text when using online discussions, but it is very easy to use images (even video) in a forum to create a visual discussion.

Images can be used as the stimulus for a discussion or learners can use images for their responses. In a similar manner you could use video.

Video and images can be really useful for those learner for whom writing is a challenge and can make what was a text based discussion an accessible discussion.

Adding images and videos to a text based discussion on the VLE is one way that you can engage learners to make use of one of the more useful and interactive features of the VLE.

100 ways to use a VLE – #45 Adding an URL or a web link

I have often thought of the VLE as a portal for learners to discover new things, undertake activities, assess their learning, communication, interact, create, understand, apply analyse and evaluate.

The web, of which the VLE generally is part of and connected to has a wealth of knowledge, information and content waiting to be discovered and used.

In terms of discovery adding an URL or web link to a course on your VLE, will allow learners to make that journey to support their learning.

However one of the very advantages of the web, putting in a link, is also one of the key disadvantages. A link placed on its own lacks context and direction.

Now in some cases this may be sufficient, think of a reading list of useful websites.

However even then providing guidance to learners about not only why they should be browsing to those links but also what they should do on those web pages is important if the learners are going to get some value from them.

We sometimes think providing a reading list of books is useful for learners, but unless they have the necessary study skills to make use of those books they may find they either don’t find them useful, spend too much wasteful time looking through the books or not making the most of what could be a real valuable resource.

Likewise with a series of web links, without the digital literacy skills to deal with the content on those web pages then learners will not get the real value from those pages that they could and should.

Similarly just pasting a link into your course on the VLE without context or guidance may result in the learners not using the link or if they do browse to the web page not understand what they should do there or how to use that web page. Of course there are exceptions and sometimes it will be very self-explanatory, but generally it won’t be.

For some links, rather than adding them as they are to the VLE, it would make more sense to add them to a “page” with extra content, or maybe even more logical to put the link into a forum post with the context and suggested activity. A forum would then allow learners to ask questions about the link, or post their reflective thoughts about the link.

The VLE can be a fantastic repository of content and learning activities, sometimes though using the wealth of stuff on the web means adding links. Adding context to links is an important part to ensure that those links enhance and enrich learning and don’t just confuse the learners.

100 ways to use a VLE – #84 Collaborating on a Wiki

Working together in groups is a key part of most organisations, it makes sense from an educational perspective that learners work together on group assignments in preparation for when they will work in teams in the workplace.

The process of working together on a collaborative assignment brings a lot of challenges, one of which is where should learners collaborate when working on a document. There are various public tools such as Google Docs and public wikis that can be used. Most VLEs have a wiki built in to their functionality.

Regardless of which tools is used, the VLE can be the staging post that will allow the learners to jump into their collaborative document. Learners may choose to use the built in wiki, however as a group they may choose to use a tool such as Google Docs or a public wiki such as PBwiki.

Wikis allow multiple learners to work on a single document, you can break the document down into pages with links between the different pages.

Wikis allow learners to work on the document when and where they want to, at a time and place to suit their circumstances.

Wikis can often be edited and worked on using mobile devices, enabling easier access and collaboration when required.

Wikis are often more accessible than working together on a word processed document and will work with screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Unlike simple word processed documents, wikis also enable learners to embed rich media into them. Short video clips can be embedded, as can audio and images. You may also be able to embed other content into them, such as RSS feeds, slides from a service such as SlideShare, pages from other services.

Wikis can contain links, internally and externally to sources and other relevant content.

One nice feature of collaborative tools is the history that is recorded, it outlines not only the changes to the document, but who did what when. This feature can make it much easier to assess the final outcome. Of course when using the wiki within the VLE the assessor will have access to that history, when using other collaborative tools, access may needed to be given to assessor.

At the end of the day, wikis are a powerful tool that allow learners to collaborate together to complete a joint outcome. Whether they use the wiki on the VLE, one that offers familiarity within the interface, or merely use the VLE as a jump off point using an external tool, they provide many learning possibilities and opportunities of working together.

100 ways to use a VLE – #83 In a workshop

Many vocational courses will have practical sessions in workshops, kitchens or salons. In these sessions learners will observe, try and practice real world skills. Learners will often be assessed in these sessions too.

The VLE, often thought of as a tool for remote learning, can be useful in a workshop situation. It can be a source of advice, guidance and support, and as a place to record evidence and assessment. If

Most workshops probably won’t have PCs in them, but as more and more learners have mobile devices to hand and VLEs become more accessible via the mobile browser, it is now easier for learners to access and interact with the V!E than it was a few years ago.

An instructor could demonstrate a skill, record it on video and then upload it to the VLE. Learners could then watch the embedded video, click a link to the video, or download the video; to watch it on their laptop, tablet or phone. So if they need reinforcement of or a replay of a demonstration then they can just get it from the VLE. Uploading to the VLE also means they can get it a later date, in another session, at home or in the workplace.

There may be handouts available for a session, by placing these on the VLE it removes the need to have paper copies, learners can download and print if they prefer paper, likewise they could just read from their device. These could cover the practical aspects of the session or health and safe guidance.

Using cameras or camera phones, learners can record themselves or their peers undertaking practical activities, these can then be uploaded to an e-portfolio linked to the VLE or up to the VLE as an assignment.

There are of course some serious considerations to think about, how would the use of PCs or mobile devices in the workshop impact on safe practice in the workshop? Is there sufficient wireless capacity in the workshop? What about workshops that have an environment that isn’t suitable for standard laptops or mobile devices? There are rugged computing devices available for not nice environments which could be used instead.

A practical or workshop session is an opportunity for learners to gain and practice skills, the VLE can be a core part of the session in providing additional resources, a place for assessment and recording.

100 ways to use a VLE – #40 Field Trip Notes

For many courses, the field trip is a core element. Whether it be Public Service students going to the Lake District, or Archaeology undergraduates going on a dig, or Business learners going to a retail centre.

In the past learners would have made notes in notebooks. These would unlikely to be shared easily. Today the very devices that learners carry normally can be used to capture photographs, video, audio and notes. One aspect of field trips is collating this media so that all the learners on the field trip can see what others captured.

The VLE is an idea place for learners to post their thoughts, images, audio, video and other resources and notes from the trip.

But what if learners want to use pencil and notebooks?

Well I could talk about Tablet PCs, pen computers, however a simple option is for learners to use their notebooks and then to use a digital camera (or mobile phone) to capture those notes and diagrams, the images can then be easily uploaded to the VLE. These handwritten notes can then be shared much more easily with the rest of the group.

We often think of replacing existing processes and methods when talking about using technology, however often technology works best when it is used to enhance and enrich and learners have a choice about the most appropriate technology (traditional or modern) to use. By using technology to enrich an existing process, uploading handwritten notes to the VLE for example, we enable learners to have choices of how they undertake a learning activity, whilst enabling wider access where needed.