So is the VLE dead or not?

A lot of people out there are talking about how dead the VLE is that you would actually think it was dead. However take a step back, there are lots of people using their VLE, learners are using them to learn, practitioners are using them to enhance and enrich the learning experience.

The VLE is not dead, you could say that the VLE is undead. Now not undead as in zombies or vampires, but undead as in not dead, very much alive and kicking.

Now don’t get me wrong, the wealth of Web 2.0 tools or services out there are fantastic and can be utilised by learners to enhance and enrich their experience. But this needn’t be in exclusion to the institutional VLE, the institutional VLE can be the glue which holds this altogether.

When people often talk about how the VLE is dead, should be dead, or is undead and should be  sorted; they expect learners to utilise the tools of their choice to create their own personal learning environment (PLE). We need to stop confusing the debate over the VLE by implying it is a PLE versus a VLE debate. It isn’t and hasn’t ever been that.

A PLE in my opinion is allowing a learner to choose their own learning environment by utilising tools that are available to the learner. Now where does it say that this specifically excludes institutional tools and services? Why can’t learners decide to use an institutional VLE, an institutional e-mail address, institutional storage?

The key is choice.

We do need to give learners choice about which tools they want to use. We also need to help them make an informed choice.

If all you let learners use is the institutional VLE then you are restricting choice and stopping learners from creating their own personalised learning environment. Services such as XML and RSS allow learners, practitioners and institutions to feed content and communication into whichever environment they choose.

The problem I have with removing the institutional VLE from the equation is that it removes choice and for some learners adds barriers learning.

We know that the so called Google generation and digital natives don’t exist. Some learners are very familiar with Web 2.0 and technology, but many others are not. How do we provide an enhanced and enriched online learning environment to learners that are not confident about entering that environment. The VLE can be that first step, the first port of call for these learners.

The VLE is not dead, that’s what we mean by undead, the VLE can be a tool to enhance and enrich learning and be a portal to a world of Web 2.0 tools and services.

Join the debate in Wolverhampton on the 16th December 2009.

6 thoughts on “So is the VLE dead or not?”

  1. Great post, couldn’t agree more. We should stop arguing about how dead the VLE is and the PLE vs VLE debate. Tools are tools. The VLE could be integrated into the PLE, or a portal to it (as in access to other tools, Web 2.0 or not), or not in the picture at all. Learners and teachers should be able to try different options and choose what’s best for them. Some might do it on their own, some might need help with it. It depends on so many things, that generalising about it can not do any good. Let’s leave the VLE be, and let’s focus instead on helping those who need help, finding new ways to motivate students, figuring out how to change the assessment to match the learning objectives, and how to use the tools we have to create innovative environments for our students.

  2. As an educator and Ed Tech IT Manager I have some sympathies with the points you are making.
    I certainly agree with that we need a choice. I am familiar with institutions that have mandated the use of the VLE which has resulted in the early adopters and innovators being disillusioned as well as the laggards and reluctant adopters. A sort of lose/lose situation.

    I would also say that if we are going down the increased choice track (as we should) then we probably do not need the expensive, bloated and overly complex institutional VLEs that we currently have. There is a reason that Edmodo is so popular with teachers and that is its simplicity. Do we need anything more complex as a first step for beginner learners and educators using the web?

    Interestingly a quick look at our usage stats show that very few of our educators use the VLE for anything more than admin announcements and posting Word and PowerPoint docs.

    I am not averse to the idea of using the VLE as an organisational and administrative tool that links to (or mashs) richer interactive learning applications from other applications (“a portal to a world of Web 2.0 tools and services”). But then is it really a VLE at all just a portal?

    I am still not particularly happy about the course centeredness of the current VLEs. I would prefer them to be much more student centred. Maybe that will happen.

    So what we end up with is a VLE that looks a bit different to what we have now. Maybe it should be thought of as akin to a middleware layer in between the institution and the web?



  3. Recent student rep feedback sessions and some stats reports I’ve been pulling together for them upstairs would indicate that the institutional VLE is just reaching maturity from the perspective of the end users (after 10 years and three systems). Us EdTech types must remember where the bulge in the bell curve of the average user is- somewhere far behind the where we are looking and dreaming.
    See you in wolves

    Colouring in the grey bits on the cutting edge of mediocrity.

  4. Hi

    I very much agree that the VLE is not dead. Here in hampshire we will have 420 schools using our VLE by January 2010. Yes some are doing etter things than others, but we are able to collaborate across infant and juniors, or whole groups of schools. They are doing things that they hadn;t done before and this is all because of the VLE. Yes there are other fab tools out there (google docs, wallwisher, etc) but the VLE is definitely the starting point for many.

    Ian Addison
    Learning platform consultant


Leave a Reply